Image via Wikipedia “Today is life-the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.” ~ Dale Carnegie
I personally have had photography as a hobby for about 20 years (yes, since I was 10 years old). I would wake up with images and ideas in my head that I would want to shoot as soon as my schoolwork was finished for the day. Having a hobby gave me something fun to do after the “work” parts of my day and week were completed. It was the form of creative expression I chose to use in my life. Creative expression has always been an important aspect of my life.
When people, especially adults, would ask the all-important question, “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?” I would answer with absolute certainty and conviction that I was going to be a world-famous photographer. I absolutely believed it then and completed many of the steps to make it happen. My entire life, choices, and decisions were based on the fact that I was going to be a professional photographer.
In junior high and high school, I took photography classes, just for the opportunity to actively work on my hobby and passion during the day and get school credit for it (a win-win situation). Even though my skills were way beyond what the teachers were teaching in these classes, I took them just to be able to use the darkroom during lunch time. I and everyone who knew me knew what I was going to do after high school and what college I was going to attend because I told them every chance I had; Brooks Institute of Photography. In fact, I had chosen this school because it was pretty prestigious in the photography world and it would teach me the skill set I was lacking. In fact, I paid for the SAT’s but ended up not taking them because I knew they were not needed to get into Brooks; it wasn’t necessary for my vision.
I did get accepted to and attended Brooks and loved it. However, a very interesting thing happened six months before graduation — burnout and questioning had started creeping into my world. After 3 years of year round, complete and total focus on photography, it was no longer a hobby. Photography had become a job (or even work). Even my part-time job was working in the studios at the school. I loved the environment, the other photographers, and my job, but what I had lost was my outlet. My way of blowing off stress and steam from life. I had no other ‘hobby’ to replace what photography once had represented in my life. I was burnt out with photography and couldn’t even stomach the idea of making a business out of it, which had seemed like the next realistic step at the time.
When I finally graduated from Brooks it was met with a mess of emotions. My mother had suddenly passed away 9 days before graduation, I had no money, I was depressed beyond measure, and I had no direction for my life/career. All I knew was that I no longer wanted to be a photographer. Photography was no longer fun. Close friends and family thought I was making a major mistake, they saw me as talented, and throwing that talent away. They kept asking “When are you going to do something with your photography degree?” This question drove me insane more than any other and I continued hearing it for 5-7 years after graduation. They were making the common assumption that just because my mother had spent a lot of money on school, and just because I was exceptionally good at it, I needed to pursue photography as my career for the rest of my life. Just because I had earned a piece of paper that said I could take pictures. (I continue to challenge this misconception today with clients).
For seven years I didn’t want to touch a camera. When people would want to hire me and pay me for photography jobs, I would happily decline. When people would ask me to take pictures (because I was a photographer or because I had a degree), I would try my damnedest to tell them I didn’t know how to use their camera. I was conducting a much-needed photography detox. At one point I had forgotten how to use my camera and felt that I lost my eye for photography. I thought I had lost my creative vision, something that had always come very natural to me.
For the past 8 months, I have been actively working on my Professional Coaching Certification, which I know now is my life’s calling. My life has been very busy with a lot of hard work and a lot of stressful things on my plate. I have been working and building my coaching practice (Life by My Design) all at the same time. It has been really fun but recently the stress of working so much had started taking its toll on my health and sanity. I was telling my support team, (everyone needs a support team) that I was feeling burnt out and that I really needed a release, downtime, and fun in my life. That got me thinking that I really needed a hobby. Naturally I have turned back to what was and is the perfect hobby for me, my photography.
Everyone needs something they do for fun, to blow off steam and stress from their day-to-day life and career. Something they do for fun, pleasure, or relaxation. We can not work all the time, we become stressed and boring when we do this. Photography was no longer a passion when I was in school — it was work. When choosing a hobby as your career, really do some soul-searching and decide if that really is a good fit for you. Do you have another hobby you can do for down time when your current hobby becomes work? Does your hobby serve a more important purpose than just income?
Having my hobby as a career was not a good fit for me. What photography provided for me was far more important than a paycheck, it provided sanity and relaxation. I am so thankful that after my much-needed and long photography detox, it has now taken back it’s important and rightful place in my life. Just don’t ask me to take your photos, I will refer you to one of my highly qualified friends…