As Myself

exquisitrie by kelly sauer

My best hope is to not disgrace myself and…” He hesitates.

And what?” I say.

I don’t know how to say it exactly. Only… I want to die as myself. Does that make any sense?” he asks. I shake my head. How could he die as anyone but himself? “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.

I bite my lip feeling inferior. While I’ve been ruminating on the availability of trees, Peeta has been struggling with how to maintain his identity. His purity of self. “Do you mean you won’t kill anyone?” I ask.

No, when the time comes, I’m sure I’ll kill just like everybody else. I can’t go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to… to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games,” says Peeta.

But you’re not,” I say. “None of us are. That’s how the Games work.

Okay, but within that frame work, there’s still you, there’s still me,” he insists. “Don’t you see?”

A little, Only… no offense, but who cares, Peeta?” I say.

I do. I mean what else am I allowed to care about at this point?” he asks angrily. He’s locked those blue eyes on mine now, demanding an answer.

― Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

I got a call yesterday that has left me more determined than ever to let my life – especially my professional life – be shaped by grace. As an artist, my desire is to create and to share what I create, not because I believe it is worth so much to me financially, but because I believe it has value for my heart and for others’ hearts – both the creative process and the final product.

As a photographer in a highly competitive industry, however, I am told that I have to worry about things like copyright and contracts and marketing to keep the money rolling into my business. Every minute of time I spend on my work should make me money. Every interaction should have a purpose to that end, to move me up in the industry and to leave competitors far behind.

I can’t live like that, though. I still like people. I want to build relationships, because I have so much more fun with people than doing things on my own. I want my success to be something I earn through the beauty I produce rather than any cutthroat ladder-climbing or criticism that would damage others. And I want to enjoy any success I achieve with the people who have walked along with me, the ones who believe that my worth is more than the money I make and who have been delighted to pay me anyway.

Maybe I’m living in a dream world, trying to hold onto kindness and treat others with dignity, even if my time and energy is limited. All I know is that I want to be treated with kindness and dignity myself, even if “no” has to be “no,” or if I make a mistake, or if being in the photography industry pushes me through doors I haven’t imagined walking through. At the end (or even in the middle) of all this, I want to be me, still inviting you to be you, regardless of what I “should” be. Ultimately, this is my art, this is who I am and what I want to give, for you, for me, for us who believe there is a little more to the world than “getting it right.”

It’s worth hanging onto. It’s something worth fighting for, even if it means humbling myself, even if it means letting go of my right to demand everything I am due. “Over-delivery” comes in many forms, but it is always grace, and what would grace be if it required payment?

One thought on “As Myself