For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A gravel path to finding my way.

It never dawned on me until recently. I just always beat myself up for not understanding or remembering  basic things. Directions. Board game rules. Material for an exam.

I will read about photography until my eyes descend into a weary sleep. When I awake or put it into practice, I can't remember what I've read. Michael will say to me, you've been doing this for a year, how can you not know this yet?

Before you go thinking you shouldn't hire me for your wedding, be aware that I always find a way to get to the finish line. It just seems that I take the long and hard route to get there.

It never entered my mind that I could have a learning disability. I've never really spoke about it to anyone, just sat in frustration when I couldn't understand something. I would lock myself in a corner at my University library reading the same bloody sentence, over and over again and not understanding what I was reading.  So, I would do whatever I could to survive those challenging years. I made up poems and rhymes to help me remember content for an upcoming test. I got my degree. Most of my high marks came from my writing assignments as I excelled in that department but when it came time to recite back what I had learned in the form of an exam, I froze. I remember after our exams, my friends chirping about how easy it was and I silently cried inside: I so failed that exam. I would smile back and agree about how simple it was! When I think back to those days, even school marks were a competition with women.

Michael says it's not so much that I don't understand. He says that my mind never stops and so instead of absorbing the present, I am thinking ahead to what will happen next. This bodes well for me on a wedding day, as I am always prepared for what events are about to unfold.

Photography is a lot of numbers. I'm not a math person at all, yet oddly enough when I was younger, I excelled. Until Grade 13 Finite math entered my world. That quickly ruined my love of numbers and I dropped the course. I find myself frustrated when I am not understanding why the camera does what it does. A friend of mine asked it necessary to know when you produce gorgeous photos, despite being unsure of the fill flash, ISO, shutter speed and aperture equation? It is necessary for me to know, to get it, to have an a-ha moment. I've had so many of those in my life. I will do something until I am blue in the face until one day it sinks in.

Sometimes it never sinks in. I always find myself directionally challenged, although living in Toronto certainly surprised me, I was rocking the north south east and west like I was born there. When you grow up in a small town, everything is left or right at landmarks. So I have come quite far. Until you put me in a new city and ask me which direction west is. I still don't know. But as my mom said, this is why God created GPS!

I once had a nasty relative tell me that it was discussed that it was a good thing I was cute, because I didn't have a brain in my head because I always got lost. And yet at the time, I lived on my own in Toronto, headed up an ISO 9001 2 year project for our company to become certified, landed a $60,000 a year job in the financial district, and still was the only one in my family to have a University degree.

My younger cousins are now graduating with degrees and I am so proud of them as I know the dedication and hard work it takes to obtain it. To this date, my degree is something I am most proud of (besides my marriage). I worked hard at it and it hangs on my wall. It gets me places I would have otherwise been turned away from and it's something that can't be taken away. I earned it, I worked hard, I had many sleepless nights fearing I would fail...and yet 15 years later, I have the same fears with my new business.

I remember a scene with Cameron Diaz in the movie In her shoes. She was working in retail and being yelled at because she couldn't understand the cash or the amount of change to give someone. She was so frustrated and sought a life working as a stylist with older people in a retirement community. That was something she was good at.

In a way, we all find ways to survive in life. Some of us are not social creatures yet find a way to survive at office parties, family events and social functions. Some of us are not creative and yet we find a way to help our children with a school project. Some don't do well at school and yet go on to run successful companies. Some of us are directionally challenged and yet we find our way.

I second shot a wedding in Owen Sound this past summer. My worst fear happened. I was left alone on a massive golf course, to find my way to the 15th hole where the 12 guys were. I literally wanted to cry as the main photographer drove off with her friend to photograph the girls. There I sat on the golf cart with my camera gear and a fast beating heart. I took a breath and told myself that I could do it. I was yelled at by someone for driving by when they were teeing off. Woops. I didn't know the rules. I've golfed once in my life.

I cursed every four letter word you can imagine when I found myself driving on a gravel road with dumpsters along the way. This can't be right, I thought to myself. Fuck. I was off the golf course and on the main road. I am chuckling about it now because somehow I found my way, but it felt like my world was caving in. The photographer reminded me that this was something I would have to do if I wanted to be a photographer. Anything can happen and you have to find your way. And I did.

When I was small, I was at a restaurant with my family. I went to the washroom and walked into the kitchen instead of the bathroom. The kitchen staff laughed and this is something silly I have always carried with me. To this date, in a restaurant, I need to find where the washroom is before I will go. We all have our idiosyncrasies and it strikes me as odd that I can stand up and be in charge of an entire wedding, yet a memory so tiny from my past haunts me. On my first date with Michael, when I left the washroom, he was waiting for me outside to walk me back to our table. I knew he was a keeper.

When I start to panic in a situation, I find ways to survive. One of the first weddings I second shot, I was having issues with my camera. It was not in my best interest to ask another photographer for help, as it made me appear that I didn't have a clue about what I was doing. He offered me a piece of advice that I held onto for dear life. The shutter speed must be at least the maximum length of the lens. I stored that information in the front of my brain and shot at 1/200th of a second for most of the ceremony without any camera shake. I survived my first ceremony and it was because I found a way. When I get lost, I quickly remember landmarks to find my way back. When I'm in a situation that I'm not familiar,
I find a way to blend into the crowd, whether it's making rude jokes with the groomsmen, or talking nails and fashion with the bridesmaids, or listening intently to a grandparent recount their story.

I may not be a traditionally smart person. I can't remember what I study. I suck at math. I don't understand rules to a board game until I've played a few times. And I certainly still get lost from time to time.

But one thing you can be assured of. I will always find my way. Even if I take the long and difficult gravel path to get there.

Believe in yourself.




Anonymous said...

You have found creative ways to get through the struggles in life. You have some amazing qualities that are hard to see in other people, and you have a knack for really connecting with people so that when things don't work out quite as planned, you come out on top :)


Rosemary said...

Excellent piece on your experience with the "unknown" thoroughly thought it was well written and very enlightening

Lil said...

Wow, wow, wow. I read and I cried. I can relate to you on so many levels. I'm certainly horrible with directions and to this day never turn the right way whether it be coming out of a store, a bathroom in a restaurant or any other place other then my own home. I feel so inadequate many times because I am so directionaly challenged. I have walked out of a mall and 'almost' into somones elses car many times as my husband sat 2 cars over waiting for me. He laughs and makes a joke of it. He understands and I guess that's all that is important.
I'm not stupid, I just always have a million things going on in my mind and don't pay close attention to the present. I have wondered myself whether I have a disability that I don't want to know about. We all have gifts. Yours definately is photography.
Thank you for writing that. It is very heartfelt and meaningful.