"WHY AM I HERE?" is the very question that saved my life. I thought I was alone on all of those lengthy bike rides as a teen. My frustrations turned to yelling at some invisible Force that I had yet to understand. "If you're really Omnipotent, then why can't you just reveal yourself to me?"
Harsh words from a 14 year old, directed at what I now recognize as my Creator, or better - Divine Choreographer. As if it was yesterday, I still feel the convictions that I felt as I expected to see an apparition of the real brown Jesus appear on behalf of God.
I just wanted to see behind the proverbial curtain. I knew that this crazy stuff I was manifesting in my life MUST have an Oz-like Wizard operating some over-the-top calculator to create an experience that was equally surreal to the others involved with my experience.
Stewing in my frustration over what felt like fruitless prayers to the "gray-haired man in the sky", as my Spiritual naivete would have illustrated It. Religions fight over "His name", but I knew that this Omnipotent one was not restricted to "my brand of Christianity".
People around me were suffering, and bringing their problems to me because I always seemed to say the right thing at the right time. I claim no human credit for tapping into exactly what they needed to hear or feel. I retreated to my pen and camera for escapism and understanding. I was equally bewildered by the insights that would escape my mouth, concluding that God's voice is our voice. That we pray on our feet, with our actions more effectively than on our knees in hope for things to fall from the sky.
I just wanted some Miraculous Illusion to appear to say "Yes, there is a Wizard behind the curtain of your world". Instead - NOTHING!
I spent my spare time venting on paper, going for long bike rides to yell at the sky, and using my camera to crop out anything man-made. I just wanted to understand why any of us were even here. What on Earth is this?.. What am I supposed to do while I am here? What will I be when I grow up?..
At 15 I received some really crappy advice. "Never turn your hobby into a career, because then you'll have to do it and hate it." While defiant in my Spiritual quests, I was too insecure to ward off this toxic mind virus.
It took me until I was 30 years old, pushed by enough pain to tap into my vision of becoming a photographer. My desire to obsess over human behavior observations was convenient in retail until I was promoted to manager. The money paid for my gear, as was originally intended, but it forced me to do things I never wanted to do. Budgets, scheduling, hiring, discipline, firing, P&L and other sales reports...
I hated my life enough to say F$%@ that advice. I am an entrepreneur. I've taken on countless "Opportunity stores" (the politically correct name for stores in red ink) and moved them to black, all for the annual "your next on my list for promotions". Money would have talked, but Brian walked... I cashed in my 401K to open Prints Charming Photography.
I poured my entire BEing into converting my retirement money to build my studio. Through career-building guides like "What Color is Your Parachute" and various workshops, I remembered my desires to be a psychologist, teacher, photographer, architect (like I'd somehow have a Brady Bunch life in doing so) and ultimately - a writer!
For years I had the vision, but I was too afraid of the risk it would take to leave a regular paycheck and benefits to "endeavor to live the life..." as stated by Thoreau.
After 20+ years as "Prints Charming", I added a new DBA to concentrate on commercial photography. About 65% of my income via Photo Media Productions has been derived from Headshots.
I share this to say that I broke a code that has been defined for centuries. Drawing knowledge from brilliant teachers (many since gone), my understandings have been validated.
1 - We are ALL here for an Ultimate Purpose. (UP)
2 - We are all afflicted by some form of fear or suffering.
3 - While we are generally our own worst enemies, the tools we came in with allow us to fulfill ANYTHING!
I have struggled financially as an entrepreneur, but only when I subscribed to the paradigm I embraced the very year I opened in 1996. An industry statistic that showed "Mom & Pop" portrait studios to be the 2nd highest failure rate business. To hear that I just cashed in my $23,000 savings (and every bit of plastic credit in my name) on a business that is destined to out-fail restaurants?..
What in the hell did I just do?..
As I look back on my financial roller-coaster, I discovered that it was ONLY when I spewed this script from my excuse generating mouth, that I had the experience to reflect such a horrid and stupid statistic.
Sure, you can't ignore facts, so let's break that down. Who considers themselves to be photographers? Today - pretty much everyone that pushes that little red/white button on a piece of glass used to text or tweet! Sure, some may by the same gear as a professional, and appease their dissatisfaction as a weekday cubicle occupant, but there it is... A statistic that includes dabblers is not a statistic that I can afford to consider.
I continue to consume and absorb personal development teachings, which led me to understand exactly why it is that I continued to reassess, rebuild and rebrand my dharma into my work. IT IS WHY I AM HERE!
Not to be a photographer. Anyone can "take pictures". My work with high school seniors often turned into career counseling sessions. "Do you know what you want to do yet?.." To hear - "...well, my parents what me to... but I'd really like to..." My work with self-deprecating adult clients - "I hate my nose. My hair is too thick. I don't like my puffy eyes. Extra chins. Puffy cheeks.
SHUT UP ALREADY!!! I seriously made this a fun part of my sales presentations. "Okay, before we review your headshots, I've got one rule. You can say anything you want about my photography, my lighting, my posing etc. But if you say one negative thing about yourself, the price is double!"