I gazed over my daughter's golden head to see the little seedlings just starting to stretch their arms out in our little city yard.
"I feel like that," I thought.
I'm fairly new to photography. At 38 years old, I am firmly set in mid-life where most photographers have already established their careers by now. It has been about two years since I began calling myself a photographer (I still remember the first time). What started as an interest, a fleck of color in an otherwise monotone existence, unfolded into a business venture and a newfound passion of creativity and beauty.
I am not sorry for this pursuit. I'm not even sorry it's taken me a while to find it. Heck, if all my experience as a mother doesn't count for something when working with families then I don't know what does. I know how to pique curiosity in a child, how to make a kid laugh and what it means to breathe in your child.
But sometimes... there are days when I look around and feel like I'm still tying up my shoelaces after everyone else has been running laps around me.
I take my work seriously. I not only want to provide families with a good experience, it is extremely important to me that I am giving people images that will be high quality treasured keepsakes that they will enjoy for decades. To me it is part and parcel with valuing life. I don't know what precious image will be the one that a son or daughter will gaze upon to enjoy their mother's face that they don't remember anymore. Which one will be the one that a mother will show her child and say, "That was your Grandpa. He really loved you." I realize that what I am doing has a purpose far beyond me, and I feel very honored to be allowed into families lives in this way.
So for that reason, I have been working hard to acquire all the training that I need and to develop my skills. It feels overwhelming at times and challenging, but in all the best ways possible. Until it doesn't. Until you arrive at the photo shoot and the lighting is off, and the kids are uncooperative, and you realize that all the training in the world isn't going to elevator you to the top of this profession. It's one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.
I came home last night feeling blue and couldn't seem to shake it today. Am I in the wrong field? Am I going to improve enough to be worth it in the long run? Is this a dead end?
My oldest daughter, always the intuitive one, kept asking what was on my mind. I explained that I was disappointed that I wasn't as good at photography as I wanted to be already. In an effort to further explain I said, "You know how The Very Hungry Caterpillar starts out 'In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf' and then a caterpillar pops out? Well he started out as an egg and he has to be a caterpillar before he can be a beautiful butterfly. It's like that," I continued, "I want to be the butterfly right now, but I'm actually the hungry caterpillar eating everything in sight and sometimes getting a stomachache."
After we had laughed about the line from A Bug's Life--"I'M A BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY!!!"--and we continued talking, I realized that, when I put it into kid language, the words were familiar. I was giving myself the same speech I had given to each one of my kids about reading, riding a bike, playing basketball, basically anything that required skill, dedication and perseverance. These things are not made in one day, but eventually THEY ARE MADE (not without a few frustrated tears from all parties).
Hard work is not really a feel-good concept, but I will say there is peace in knowing that "what you sow you will reap" is a truth that can be depended upon.
This evening I looked out at the golden light, picked up my camera, and went outside. "Hello self," I said, as I snapped a shot of the little seedling glowing in the evening light. That little guy is pretty fragile; he got knocked over simply by the act of me watering him.
After I had propped him back up with the soil, I touched his tender little shoots and gave him permission to be small and blessing to grow and flourish. Someday you will blossom, but for now, soak in the light and be a seedling.