Last weekend I turned thirty, I'm only a few days into my thirtieth year on this small bit of space rock but it's already got me thinking about who and what I am... Again.
The same process happens every year, a birthday can be looming or passing and I turn inward to take a good hard look at the person I've become. Last year I travelled out west flipping coins, this year I've been holed up in my office and not wanted to go outside. It's a time of year I push myself into a deep dark hole and resurface with some form of inspiration or drive.
We both know I've written countless blogs talking about my mental state in the past, but this time I'm going to try and be really honest, not only with you, but with myself. Usually I skate round the subject in various forms of flowery analogies. This time, I think I owe it to you (and myself) to be as open as unapologetically possible.
This year has been a vast improvement in comparison to last year work wise. Emails have been coming in and the phone has been ringing. It feels incredible to finally feel like I'm moving more towards what I want from this whole venture. Though more often than not, I feel myself becoming more and more insecure towards my position in life. I fell into a really dark hole in the run up to Christmas last year. After Iceland I finally put my hands up and admitted defeat. I took a month off to rest and figure out why I felt so low. What I thought was just a negative, self fulfilling prophecy towards work, was actually a shit storm pretending to be under control all these years.
Working with a camera and trying to create something meaningful is something I'm really passionate about, like insanely passionate about. I feel incredibly honoured to step into peoples lives, for what feels like the tiniest amount of time, and share a moment. Even if it's from an observational position. That's what will always remain important to me, for those looking at my work to be able to feel what I was feeling at that time. For something to feel really raw and special.
Though the more I think of this, the more I'm starting to think I've been secretly self sabotaging with my passion. Recently I feel like I'm unraveling myself and finding a lot of answers.
Since I was a kid I've always looked to my peers for approval, I've always wanted to be the best and remain a good, honest person. To be that person that every body likes. To be that guy who does "that thing" and is really fuckin good at it. Though somewhere along the line I developed a serious disliking for who I am and anything I put my mind to. I think in my determination to succeed, I also focus too hard on my faults and previous short comings.
I feel embarrassed even typing anything to do with this side of me. Which I think is part of the problem. I keep all of this deep down inside of me. Like a teen who hides porn under their bed, only to look at when theres nobody around... To then make joking analogies towards, when the fact its there is confronted. Classic diversion tactics. Hide behind humour, hide behind humour.
Truth be told, I feel embarrassed due to not knowing what thoughts to give any weight or acceptance toward. Constantly trying to figure out if what I'm feeling is real or a result of overthinking. Always playing devils advocate with my inner self. I do this with everything. Usually it helps me feel grounded and secure. Though on the flip side, it wreaks fuckin havoc. It's like my self value is a top heavy rock, balancing on a pin head and leaning towards a void.
Sometimes it sways towards a safe place where I'm confident and happy. Though more often than not, it will topple into the void and I'll spend weeks and weeks trying to delicately balance it on the pin again. When I'm doing this, days come and go like a flash and everything I've been focused on just seems futile.
This really affects my approach to work. More often than not, I'll focus on the task at hand and do my very best. But to do this, I have to push the feeling of being unbalanced deep down into my stomach and ignore it. This is where it loves to be. It's an addict and I'm the enabler. Down in my stomach, it's miles away from my minds restrictions. In turn it can make the acid boil and send signals to my brain that feel like two people are screaming directly into my ears. Constantly trying to psych me out and make me lose the game we're playing. I've grown quite strong at ignoring it when in front of others, but behind closed doors I'm calling bullshit on it's tactics in a plate smashing row.
Common sense says to keep it up top where I can keep an eye on it. But doing so is equally as hard. Trying to concentrate on work when I feel like this is nigh on impossible. It feels like I have a self righteous idiot sat next to me, constantly asking me stupid questions. "Yeah I get it... But whats the point?", "Why are you doing that?", "Wanna know how I think you should have done it?", "My friend does this, they're amazing at it, have you seen it? It's much better isn't it?".
It's so tiring. Even thinking about it while typing has given me the all too familiar ache between the eyes.
Sometimes I find great strength in being able to listen to all the negative dialogue. It's like the fowl smell of rotting veg. A good warning sign to get rid of it and have a good clean out. But doing so feels like I'm forever skating on thin ice. I do it because it's an exercise that feels like it will benefit me in the long run. Though when I look back at all the long term battles for such fleeting moments of strength, I cant help but wonder whether it's sustainable anymore.
I've applied the same process to everything I've done in life, but food & music stand out the most when I question my methods. In food, nothing makes me happier than "dirty hangover" dishes. I like the dirtiness and how it breaks all of the rules. Same as music, I love getting lost in the feel of music instead of following a metronome. Yet, I always falter when I'm told I shouldn't be doing it, despite knowing in my gut, I'm doing something I love. It's as if other peoples words help tip my internal balance back towards the void. As if the negative internal dialogue has gained a supporter. Thus causing me to look within myself and try find the reason I originally started with. The process is exhausting, but sometimes it helps me solidify what I think and put it into action.
When it comes to my own well being, I can't help but hide from the subject. I hate the idea of worrying people or being seen as an attention seeker. My shit is my shit. I'm of the ignorant mindset of "if you ask for help, you're failing". I rarely talk to my wife or closest friends. Though usually I'll give up as soon as my words feel air. Be it with a "it is what it is" or a self mocking impression of how pathetic I seem. I find what helps me the most is helping those closest to me solve their own problems. It's a really self indulgent thing to do, but I feel like I can relate to a lot of peoples problems and insecurities. Which selfishly, makes me feel a little more grounded as helping other people takes my mind away from my own battles.
Photography seems to have really helped me explore my inner workings. I spend a lot of time on my own, whether it's travelling to shoot or sat editing. So there's enough time for the insecurities to show. Where as in previous jobs, there would always be a pressing matter, that needed my immediate attention, every single second... Now I have no choice but to confront them and deal with them.
I look forward to the days ahead where I can approach something with complete confidence. Where I can be present and not have to worry about what lies ahead or past criticisms. To still have that self critical voice keeping me on my toes, but not to the point of crippling me.
I'm okay with where I currently stand. I think I'm doing as well as I can despite rummaging through a lot of the old boxes in the attic of my head, in my search for answers. Currently I just feel really uncomfortable, which is usually a sign of growth.
"In order for the lobster to grow, it must first feel the discomfort of outgrowing its shell. Despite knowing it is surrounded by predators, it must make it's self vulnerable in order to shed it's current shell"
I love that quote. I've heard it used in numerous circumstances. Despite it's cheesiness, I always think of it when thinking of my own situation.
This year I can feel the pressure of my work hanging over me. Though as drastic as that sounds, I think it's evolved. I've grown really tired of approaching everything with a tainted view. Believing that I'm not good enough to reach where I want to be. It's really old now. Frankly, it's fuckin dumb. I've reset the standard in my mind.
When I started out, I kinda took an attitude of, "that'll do, it's better than most", which is fuckin arrogant. Not to mention, really lazy. Now though, I'll still focus on the things I don't like about my work, but only to learn, improve and grow. I like an easy life and tend to only stick to things I know I'm good at... Like home cooking and avoiding DIY. Whilst I'm being honest, when I first started all of this, I thought it would be a case of naturally developing over time. Though now I realise it takes a lot more than just practice to reach the standard of my peers. I know now it takes a lot of self discipline to confront your weaknesses and snot spiral out of control.
All of this takes me back to the days behind the bar in a previous job. We used to crack jokes and judge each other on how well we poured a pint or served a drink. The standard of what we did was really high, but it went by seemingly unnoticed by our customers. I remember my good friend telling me "The fact that we concentrate on how well we do things despite them lot (the customers) not caring or really giving a shit, is what makes us better than all the other bars".
This and the lobster quote currently speak louder than the crowd.
Despite being a little down on myself lately, I know it's all worth while in the long run. I know it's what will set me apart from the crowd. I really care about those I work for and even yourself, the fact that you have taken time out of your day to read my inner ramblings really means a lot. I know at times I can be fiercely frustrating to those around me. But I'm working on it...
There is a huge uphill slog ahead of me. A few weeks ago I would have buried my head in the sand and avoided confronting it. Now I am running full pelt towards it. I'm sure the route towards the top will be rocky and I will no doubt lose my footing at times. But that won't stop me from reaching where I want to be.
The past few months have been a real struggle and as much as I want to deny it, I've hidden myself away. Avoided blogging. Avoided social media. Avoided showing face. All for fear of showing weakness. But here I am, sincerely grateful for discovering more whilst walking through the darkness.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, it truly means the world to me.
See you soon