I learned a lot in 2018; about myself, about business, and about building relationships in general.
I was so confident in the beginning of the year about the success of my endeavor to go freelance; we had money in the bank and nothing to worry about. My wife was working full-time, I was going to become a fantastically successful photographer and personality, and we wouldn’t ever have to worry about money or work, or fulfillment ever again.
Clearly that was bullshit.
Looking back, I can see that I was so confident because I didn’t have the skills or experience to tell me that there were massive obstacles in front of me. I was blind to the reality that success takes not only hard work but an insane amount of luck, and that my small amount of skill was lying to me and giving me false confidence. In reality, I knew nothing about building a business, probably less about photography, and was so sure that I knew how to do it that I couldn’t be bothered to ask for help. This is why people and businesses fall apart; the only way forward that I see for the future is humility, and an eagerness to learn as much as I can. If I ever lose that drive to learn, I will fail again.
The beginning months of the year were euphoric; I was free from a dangerous and terrible former job, and I could wake up at 2pm with no consequences. I drank gallons of coffee every day and felt cool doing it. I was finally one of the elite, self-employed new gods that displayed their work in public; coffee shops were my office and I knew the employees by name! I didn’t have many friends growing up, and now it felt like I did. If I had a whim I would follow it, and no man could stop me.
Then came the whispers of doubt; clients were not flocking to me as I had expected (obviously they were missing the knowledge and capacity to appreciate my incredible work), and my wife’s work slowed, then eventually ground to a halt. March and April came and went. My birthday passed and I had little to show halfway through the year. Then, the depression came.
June and July were miserable. Motivation had long gone, and confidence turned into arrogant resentment. “Am I out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong.” I sat at my desk, eyes glazed, camera untouched. Energy gone, inspiration ignored. Sadness has been a thorn in my side for a long time, and I felt it deeply again for a while. Encouragements from people close to me were accepted, but ultimately cast aside. My hubris had finally collapsed and I was standing empty handed in the rubble. Perhaps it was always rubble, but I had convinced myself that it was a castle.
What I hadn’t realized was that my sadness was obvious to the people around me. Something was wrong, and miraculously there were people who cared enough to help me fix it, even as I tried to isolate myself as an individualistic, self-made stylite. All it took to shake me out of the rut I’d dug was a few friends checking in and reminding me that we’re not alone and we have to both help and be helped by each other.
By then it was August, and I had met some incredible people that have already been influential in my life just a few months later. A little bit of critique; some constructive, some not-so-much, some undeserved encouragement, and admonishment to move forward no matter what, and then things got a little better. And that is my goal for next year and the rest; every day get a little better. September, October, November. Good friends turned into great ones. Relationships were built and strengthened. There were victories and setbacks, but that was okay because victory ceased to be the motivation.
Now it is December. I am so excited about the possibilities of next year, but I have to keep telling myself (and asking my wife to remind me, and begging my friends) that no matter what; whether there is milk and honey or another year of wandering in the desert, it’s going to be okay.
Keep moving forward.