I must have close to a dozen different versions of this blog post in varying stages of progress, but none of them felt quite right. I wanted to write about the balance required to pursue passion while avoiding burning out, but I couldn't seem to express those thoughts succinctly enough. It's been six months since I last published anything new - the longest hiatus from photography I've taken since burning out after college - and I could feel my ego putting pressure on myself to make this return to my personal pursuits impressive and worthwhile.
That was the point in which I realized I was no longer making work out of passion, but out of fear. Fear is one of the strongest motivators in my life; fear of not being good enough, fear of letting people down, fear of seeming unintelligent or fear of being weak are just a few of the main themes I struggle against. Fear can sometimes be a great motivator. It’s pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself for the better at times, but it's not necessarily a healthy way to approach life or one's mental well-being. Over the past year I've been working on letting some of that harmful ego go and being more kind to myself, but I still have a long way to go. It's not easy to reverse 25 years of learned behavior, especially when fear based motivation has helped me accomplish some pretty great things despite its toxic nature.
For as long as I can remember, photography has always been my greatest passion. Throughout the various other activities that have come and gone throughout my life photography has always remained a constant – it's a way for me to better enhance the experiences of my other passions like climbing and snowboarding. But at some point over these past few months something shifted, and what once used to drive me now felt draining.
At first I thought I was burning out due to the creative nature of my career. After all, who would want to spend their free hours processing images in Photoshop after already spending a full day working in Adobe's Creative Suite? I distracted myself with climbing training and yoga and told myself I was working on finding the proper work/life balance I needed to not burn out once again. I thought I was striving to find that healthy medium when in reality I was using these activities as a way to avoid the anxiety I felt about my future as a creative professional.
Over the past few months I had begun to feel that the path I laid out for myself was playing it too safe and that I wanted more for myself, but I was unsure of what that would mean and was too afraid to find out. I didn't want to ask if I had what it would take to follow that passion for fear that the answer would be, “No.” After a lot of reflection I finally had to admit to myself that what I wanted more than anything was to pursue a career in adventure media, but by naming that I had given myself a goal I wasn’t sure I could accomplish. Up until this point the risks I had taken in my life had always been carefully calculated so as not to face my biggest fear, that I was never enough and that I didn’t have what it would take.
Which brings me back to this particular blog post. It has taken me over a month to publish these photos from a great weekend of climbing with friends at Tramway. No matter how hard I tried to motivate myself I couldn't bring myself to finish editing these photos, and the longer it took the more anxious I became. Phrases like "these photos aren't good enough for how long you've had to work on them" and "how are these any different or better than your previous work? you're not improving" kept circling my head and crippling my creative process. Somewhere in the course of post processing I had linked publishing these photos with publishing my goal, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to admit that to anyone yet, including myself.
I don’t truly know if I have enough talent, strength, and everything else that it requires to achieve my ambitions, but I will always remain afraid if I don’t try and find out. Regardless if I succeed or fail, at least I will grow.