When I was growing up, most of my peers either avoided me, harassed me, or shut me out. I still haven’t figured out why; I suspect I may never understand. Perhaps it was that they couldn’t see what was going on in my heart, or perhaps it was that they didn’t think I saw them. (Point-of-reference people talk a lot about what THEY know in an attempt to relate to others.) Whatever it was, it taught me a lesson I’ve been unlearning under grace for years.
By the time I left for college, I had learned that it was better if I wasn’t me. When I began to open up again only to get my heart thrown back at me, I felt my only choice was to cut and run, to somehow find a way to justify my existence.
So I ran. Fast, and hard, and furious. I shut out everybody in the world who had ever shut me out – and used their betrayal as an excuse to shut others like them out.
It was photography that stopped me in my tracks. Photography and God and a deep desire to photograph people, to say to them without alienating them how beautiful I found them to be, how much I wanted to be like them. Suddenly, I could no longer push the whole world out of my life.
So I began to reach out to people and tell them with my camera how I cared. As Ryan Muirhead put it – with a shaking voice – in the latest [Framed] episode, “…You get this magic box, and it’s permission to talk to people…”
I have been having a lot of trouble writing lately. Something happened last year with my writing that hurt very much, but because I felt that I deserved it, I absorbed some criticism instead of dealing with it in a constructive manner to create something better. I felt about twelve years old and three inches tall, a feeling I’d never wanted to have again.
So I formed a new habit, a defining, “well, I shouldn’t do it if I’m not good enough. There are enough people doing it better than I do.” I ran as hard and fast and furious from my writing as I ever did from relationships.
And then I realized how “not good enough” I was at photography. And how many people were doing it better. But I couldn’t run. I had contracts. People were depending on me to deliver. And I simply. couldn’t. stop. taking. pictures.
I have thought almost every day about quitting. My heart hasn’t been in my client interactions. With every day, every shoot, I struggle to believe that not everything is falling apart.
But apparently, so does everyone else.
Everyone else is telling themselves that they’re “not professional enough” not “good enough” not “that photographer.” Everyone else gets jitters before they go to a shoot – even the really. good. photographers.
It’s not because we’re all doing something we shouldn’t be doing. It’s because we GET something that many people don’t get, that we’ve got nothing between us and utter failure except our hearts, our knowledge, and our own vulnerability to our subjects. It’s because when we take the lens cap off our cameras and begin shooting, we are doing more than simply taking pictures. We are speaking something that could last forever.
And none of us ever feels good enough for that, not when you wake up every morning knowing that you could do more than you’ve done, more than you’re doing. I could shoot fifty years and never run out of life to take home with me, and never reach a place where I will stop growing.
But photography is not all I am, I need to remember this every time I pick up a camera. Ryan had it right when he said that “photography is not the end – it’s a means to an end.”
For me, that end is engaging my real life through brain fog and discouragement and depression and finding it beautiful when I look back on what I would otherwise have missed.
Writing isn’t an end either. It’s a way of processing my life. Relationships don’t define me – they open me to love – both given and received.
Everything I do or live is a part of life, moments and choices and people and experiences piled up into an ongoing “conversation” of days and nights and so much love.
I don’t want any of it to stop, so I reach for eternity, and leave the running aside.