Open Letter / Level Ground
In March of 2016, I wrote an open letter about why I love photography, which you can read here.
Well, a year and some change has passed, and I have learned something new about myself and photography. So strap in your seat belts, because you're going to get some juicy details of my past.
Growing up, I'd always been a very shy kid, and I still am. I have dealt with social anxiety ever since my teenage years, and probably when I was a little kid, looking back on it. The mere idea of meeting strangers and making new friends was so scary, especially when I was thrust into social situations without having a specific reason for my presence. I got so caught up in what I should do, what I shouldn't do, and everything in between, that I couldn't fully enjoy the process until after I had gotten comfortable and they had gained my trust. What made it scary was when I started to have physical symptoms, like shaking, dry mouth, dizziness, and even panic attacks.
I started working with my dad, who owns a window cleaning business, when I was 16 or 17. I was seeing way more of the outside world and seeing how people acted in the business world. I dealt with business owners or managers who were so busy, they only had time for a quick hello and a signature. And others who had all the time in the world to talk to my dad, my brother, and I. I think this helped with my social anxiety a lot, because I was forced to talk to people, approach people, and make small talk with people.
In summer of 2016, I started working at a thrift store. I was able to hone in on my customer service skills, and I definitely met some very interesting people. I made some good friends, but everything wasn't easy. I still dealt with social anxiety, and just anxiety in general. Everyone knew about my photography, and every time I got asked about it, they were interested in hearing what I was going to say, but I always felt nervous about my answers. My mind always seemed to go blank, and I was hurrying to grab the information and drag it back to the front of my mind.
In addition to being shy, I am also a very empathetic person. Most of the time, it's a blessing, sometimes it feels like it's a curse. This past year has been rough. Friends and family of mine have gone through so much, and my heart ached for them. I cried with them, I got angry with them, I sat in confusion with them. But, there were times where it felt like I was short-circuiting, and I couldn't empathize with anyone. I couldn't feel happy with people, or sad with them. I don't know why that would happen, but it scared me. I had always prided myself on my empathy and emotional sensitivity, but without any notice, poof, it was gone. These emotional blackouts didn't last for very long, and didn't happen every day, but the uneasiness that they brought lingered in my thoughts for a while.
Fast forward to the first of February, the first day of my self employment. The endeavor was intimidating, but I was ready to tackle it. This meant I had to meet strangers who hadn't seen my work, and I had to prove to them that I was actually worth a shit. I had to make relationships and connections almost all on my own. It's July now, and I have met some really great business colleagues.
All of what I just explained is a preface to one simple fact; photography has been the one thing (besides God, of course) that was constant, and still is, amongst all of the inconsistency in my life.
It has helped me connect with people when I didn't think I could. It helps me know my subjects on a different level, a level which I am comfortable. It gives me even ground, a level head, a boost of confidence. It is the mediator between myself and the people around me. It's kind of funny though, how a photographer with social anxiety would choose a person over an animal or a landscape as a subject any day. But, the irony aside, I am so thankful to God for giving me this wonderful gift that can have so many different effects on people, and the world around them. It changes the way I see things, and I can use it as a tool to provide for myself, save moments that I want to keep forever, make sense of the world, and bring me fulfillment and peace.
It can also bring joy, fulfillment, peace, and comfort to other people. Especially when I can't bring those things on my own.