A common human trait, whether it is learned or somehow part of our genetic makeup, I have no idea, is to look for the positive in a negative situation.
While I consider myself an optimistic person for the most part, I have also learned that there are times when we may need to face a situation for what it is – completely broken and beyond repair. I’m not saying that acknowledging the brokenness of something is a way of throwing our hands up in despair. In fact, I want you to look at it as an opportunity for a new start.
Some of you might remember when I was a regular contributor here at Viewfinders. I was in a constant state of self-loathing with my photography because I was in graduate school for art. Long story short, grad school broke – completely shattered to a billion pieces – my photography, in the worst possible way. After graduation, I tried to pretend that it wasn’t broken, but the more I tried to patch and repair my love of photography, the more it splintered. It was a gradual process, but at some point, I completely stopped making photographs. That is what graduate school can do to you. It can lead you to feel stressed out constantly and exhausted. This makes it difficult to focus on anything positively. In addition to these feelings of stress, there was also the financial burden that comes with grad school. It costs a lot, meaning that I would probably be in debt for a while. That was a horrible thought, however, websites like GoFundMe were constantly recommended to me. Apparently, students can crowdfund on there, helping them to pay off some of their debts. That’s definitely something to look into, the stress of debt is overwhelming. All of this lead to me falling out of love with photography.
My cameras collected dust, and I forgot how to develop film. I wanted to keep making, but I just couldn’t. I spent about a year in a cranky state of ambivalence in regards to photography, but finally, I bounced back one hundred percent. I was once again filled with the wonder and excitement that I experienced when I first picked up a camera years ago.
Once again, I am looking at things, I am asking questions about the world I live in, and I am creating. I feel a hope that I have never felt before, but it is also tinged with the sadness that comes from experiencing loss and grief. More than anything, though, my heart and mind are engaged on a deeper level than they were before this downward spiral that ensued after grad school.
I wish I could point to one thing that got me back on track, because I know I’m far from the only creative person who has experienced this. I wish I had a concrete answer to pass along to those of you who are going through something similar.
What I can tell you is this: entertain the thought of walking away from whatever it is that keeps breaking. If you have tried and tried to fix that one “thing” – whatever it may be – perhaps the solution is to start over from scratch. By trying to fix your creativity, or your passion, or motivation, or whatever it is that you’re struggling with, you might be doing more harm than good to the foundation of what holds you together as a creative individual.
Rest. Breathe. Focus on something else for a while.
During my time off, I took up gardening and cooking, which gave me the mental space I needed to reevaluate, all the while giving me a creative outlet where I could actually see positive results.
Keep an open mind.
I was also lucky enough to find a position as the university photographer for a school here in Georgia, which gave me the chance to approach photography in a completely new way, and interact with students, faculty and staff who constantly show me new ways of looking at the world. This was a career path that I had not foreseen, but it has turned out to be exactly what I needed.
Be patient. There is no time stamp on this.
It’s so good to read that your finding your way again! Your work is beautiful.
So glad you found your way back and thank you for this evocative write-up. I’ve been through something of the same with academia and writing, and it certainly was and is painful.
I’m so glad you’re finding your way back. It’s hard working through those moments but worth it. I’d love to know where you are in Georgia. I’m looking for someone to wander the back roads with.
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