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Sunday, January 5, 2014 | Personal
Hello 2014 :)
It's way past midnight, and I'm trying my best to avoid looking at the pile of work awaiting us when we re-open JSP for 2014 next weekend. Instead, I'm sitting on my bed, gathering thoughts. It's my favourite kind of place to be in to allow my writing to come to fruition. I know I haven't written much this year on a personal front, not because I didn't have much to say, but rather because 2013 has just been this never ending constant state of buzzing, and myself like most other writers need quiet, in complete solitude to allow the words to slowly come out of hiding, and start playing with the pages in front of us. I guess I've just not had a lot of that. Perhaps you will understand more why, by the end of this post.
So, as you can see my NYE post has become somewhat of a hello 2014 post already...And as you all know, if you have been a follower of my work and my writings for the past few years, you will know I do not follow the majority in the blogging of a billion frames in one post to show what I have done in terms of pictures over the last 12 months - you all would have seen more than your fair share via my facebook and my instagram feeds, so I'll save all the still unseen frames for this coming year of blogging :) Instead, you will all know that I am a writer first and foremost (more so than a photographer, even) and that I usually will recap the year with a reflective post, so you can all truly understand what my life has been like the past year. Because, while I believe that photos are absolutely beautiful (it's why I have been doing this full time for the past 7 years), they are often only just a window into the heart of what something truly is or really means. I find that words, when expressed perfectly, fill in all those gaps. And that is where I hope to take all of you in this post :)
So... 2013. I can't believe the past year flew by SO FAST. You know a year went by way too quickly when you don't remember any specific milestones bookmarking it, until you force yourself to really think. That was me... on reflection, I realized I celebrated my 5 year marriage anniversary, we travelled to unexplored territory in the USA and made new memories together, I gained a new niece, I learned to make red velvet cupcakes (something I need to work on haha), I lost 8kg and returned to my wedding day weight, I got very sick for a long period of time but then realized my body needed a new lifestyle and not medication to get well and when I did that my long term health improved for the better, and on the work front I learned to say no more frequently AND more firmly.
I know that doesn't sound like much, but if I ever gave you a magnifying glass to look at the past 365 days at JSP behind the scenes, you will then see why I had no time to exercise, to blog, to sleep more, to just live more - it wasn't that the number of our shoots increased, as we stayed strict to our work/life balance quota for the year, but I learned to see and realize that it was that the demands from clients increased what felt almost like 50 fold. That, and I couldn't help but say yes to everything they wanted. By October of 2013, it nearly killed me emotionally and mentally. And that made me extremely unhappy turning up to shoots, resentful looking at my inbox, and hating it every time my phone rang. It was at that point that my team had to step in, and sit me down and give me the whole hard truth, that I needed to set boundaries (something I'm very bad at doing), and not just say no, but to mean it and do it consistently every time where those boundaries are crossed (another thing I am terrible at, because by nature, I just want to keep everyone happy). You know it gets bad when you end up having to switch off your phone because you are just inundated with the same "I want", "I need", and "now now now" messages, when you end up doing more than the photography side of a wedding, and when brides blame you or point the finger at you for having time to instagram, facebook, or even blog on your WORK blog when you should be editing their photos. It broke my heart, as it meant that living my life felt like a chain of guilt for just doing things that I believe everyone is entitled to (be it dinner with their family, a day off because you had a fight with your spouse, getting to turn your computer or phone off after hours, even blogging WORK!!)...I felt handcuffed and scared....like a girl trapped alone in a glass room and not knowing who was looking from the outside in.
So, what happened after that was that we sat down and drafted a whole list of boundaries for not just the sake of my sanity, but also for the sake of preserving the high quality of JSP that I know most of you have come to expect (a burden and a joy that I live with every day)... these would be things I would be more strict about in terms of how we ran the business, the things I'd be willing to do for our clients, and the things I wasn't, and learning to prioritize all the things that were important to me and THEN putting my work around that. This included being able to blog even when I was up to my neck in deadlines - to us at JSP, blogging is JUST AS IMPORTANT as shooting, and editing as it is our entire window into what you have come to love about us... when the blog gets dead and quiet, JSP becomes a rather sad and hollow place, and I know from the people I talk to and messages I get from you, that you all have missed it in my absence - you see, somewhere along the dotted line of 2013, that need somehow died in between all the extra work and emailing that we shouldn't have needed to do, but was asked to do. That need, along with a lot of others, suffered. Which in turn killed me little bit by little bit til I myself felt empty. To some reading this, I know you will scoff and think - OMG, that's terrible customer service. But trust me, saying no and setting boundaries so you don't burn out, so you don't turn up to shoots exhausted, so you don't work on autopilot mode when it comes to your own creativity, so we are not working for you with resentment but rather JOY, is SO needed - we photographers are NO GOOD to anyone when we are tired, stressed, and anxious. Our natural instinct is really, wanting to do our very best for you, but you'll hardly get anywhere near our very best if our tanks have been drained and emptied to bleed dry. You really get the best of us when we are at our most happy as it means we are 100% invested, and we just photograph better as a result (and seriously, who doesn't want even more awesome photos? :D).
2013 also saw the return of self doubt - for the first time in years, I dared to look around me. Something I said I would never do again (since 2009) for the sake of being able to just better concentrate on bettering myself and my work, instead of feeling sorry for myself because I felt like the grass was greener on the other side. This is still a work in progress as I've opened up pandora's box this year, and it will take time to clean up the mess, but this is another boundary I have realigned for myself in 2014, as I have been reminded that social media while it has been one of my greatest allies to share my work, it is a double edged sword and the other side is that I see everyone else's stuff with little or no filter. My heart is a little sensitive in this area (something I wish it wasn't, but it appears to just be a side effect of being a perfectionist), so while I am in the process of reconnecting more with all of you over facebook, and the blog, I've gone back to turning off certain feeds as well...sadly this has also meant some friends too, but it's nothing personal. I'd rather see you all face to face to encourage each other and chat about life (which we all know is the more important thing for our souls) over work, in person anyway :) Theodore Roosevelt said "Comparison is the thief of joy" and that is the why behind my rule, because let's be honest, we all compare ourselves to others, even our closest.... Plus, I just want to preserve that corner within me that continues to allow me to put out work with delight, excitement, and passion without the dampen of another's shadow over me :)
To all my beautiful brides, the ones who have made me smile the past 12 months, you will all know that we always reward patience and the relationships that have been a joy and not a burden to us - for you have allowed us to just do our job, do it in peace, and you have trusted us the whole way from beginning to end. You have no idea how much I have needed that for my art, and my personal sanity this past year. Thank you thank you thank you. Words can never express how much gratitude I have for how much you have blessed our time together. I always pray there are more souls like you along my journey at JSP :)
To all the loyal readers and followers - thank you for sticking around. Your faithfulness is such a blessing, and something I don't think I deserve, but one I thank God for all the time. You truly are the best :)
To my husband, who continues to endeavour in understanding and loving me (I know it's not an easy task! Haha) in all your funny and challenging ways, I have loved doing life with you even more in 2013 than 2012, and that makes me happy, to know that despite hiccups here and there, we are always always moving forward. I am so thankful to God for His grace in this area of life we share together.
And since we are all looking forward, I want to end with where my mind is currently...I've been extremely restless of late. I'm not sure why - I can be alone doing my favourite things, or in a room full of people and having a good time being surrounded by friends or family and my mind has just been wandering. I smell the winds of change coming, and it feels like I am standing on the very edge of something - of which, I do not know what. My mind has been in this constant state of flux rapidly darting in all sorts of directions, places, dreams, ideas, and pretty much everywhere except where I am right now - it's a little scary because the dreams are huge, and I am a perfectionist. Meaning I hate even ADMITTING I want something for fear of disappointment or failure - the bigger the desire, the bigger the fall of discouragement. So, often, I shelve these dreams, in safe corners to collect dust so that I may continue floating on the continuum of what I call present living where it is comfortable, easy, and dare I say....free from let down. However, there's been a burning itch growing the past year or so.... Reaching an almost effervescent height in the past couple of months, whereby this restlessness and want for change is almost screaming for a release. I have only felt like this twice in my adult life - once when I decided to launch my photography career, and 4 years later when I decided to overhaul my entire brand from the ground up. To be honest, I don't know where this next wave will take me, but I am praying fear doesn't paralyze me from at least exploring it. Hopefully though, that along the way, you can see my growth, and my journey, in pretty frames as I take each step forward.
Pray for me friends... I am not one to love change. I ,99.9% of the time run from it like a plague, so this craving of the different is very strange, but Cheryl Jacobs Nicolai once said "Embrace frustration. It pushes you to learn and grow, broadens your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacency" - and that is where I stand at the cusp of 2014. Frustrated, but being propelled forward with a burning fire to hopefully broaden my horizons (while still capturing love and joy for some amazing couples in the year ahead hehe). Hopefully, in the next 12 months, while I may not have achieved this massively long list on my goals post-it in full, I will at least be further along and ahead of where I am right now. The perfectionist in me is freaking out at the non-finishing of something before its alotted time, but I hope to temper that with trust in God's sovereignty, wisdom and the training myself of looking at things with the glass being half full, not empty. And that is what they say right? It's not the destination, but the journey :)
So... here's to hoping your 2014 is filled with an abundance of love, joy, hope, new possibilities, and the moving forward in the chasing of your untried dreams.
Lastly, in my own personal tradition, I always end this post with a single photo of my favourite memory from the year that has gone. It is a snapshot of my last memory of Los Angeles. September 2013. Sunset. - while there were SO MANY beautiful memories created on this trip to the states, I love this one in particular, because it was calm, uninterrupted by stress or life, and represented the start of an amazing time together for Ju and I - these times are usually always my most treasured as they are just long undisturbed periods of getting to enjoy each other, and God's creation at the same time. What a wonderful combination. Happy 2014 everyone :)