For as long as I can remember the idea of a 9-5 day job sounded like a living hell to me. Waking up before dawn, sitting in an hour long commute to work, doing the same thing day in and day out for a boss that doesn't even know your name, and drinking three coffees a day because caffeine is the only thing that makes you feel alive these days. Working the white collar 9-5 grind was the last thing I wanted to do, but, at the advice of numerous academic advisors, mentors, and friends, I gave it a shot. And it sucked.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
Now for a little background, I'm a rising senior at Northeastern University where I came to originally study Graphic Design. A major reason I chose Northeastern was because of their co-op program, allowing students to participate in 2-3 six-month "co-ops" (A bullsh*t word made up because it sounds better than "internships") over the course of five years vs. a traditional four year education. The advantage being that you graduate with up to a year and a half of work experience thus making you a better prospect to potential employers and, as many Northeastern students will tell you, making your degree more valuable than one from Boston University (which is all that really matters.)
My first co-op was as a graphic designer for marketing firm in Boston's North End, right on the Harbor. Now for a 20 year old kid from a small town in Vermont, I was excited to get started. That excitement probably lasted a month or so before I was watching the ships float through the harbor waiting for my next break, which meant my next Starbucks trip. I was bored. Bored to death. I felt like a part of me was dying, like my soul was dying.
It was those days at work watching the boats go by on the harbor that I decided I needed to change the path I was on, and photography was my tool to do just that.
We the American working population
Hate the fact that eight hours a day
Is wasted on chasing the dream of someone that isn't us
And we may not hate our jobs
But we hate jobs in general
That don't have to do with fighting our own causes
We the American working population
Hate the nine to five day-in day-out
But we'd rather be supporting ourselves
By being paid to perfect the pasttimes
That we have harbored based solely on the fact
That it makes us smile if it sounds dope
9-5er's Anthem by Aesop Rock
For me, photography seemed to check all the right boxes. It was part of the visual language that I was always more effective at communicating through than written word. It got my out of the cubicle and out into the world, seeing new things, meeting new people. And it got me up on my feet and moving everyday. Put it all together and its as though photography was the missing link I didn't know I needed.
Since then I've been working my way into the starving-artist-generator that is a photography degree. Studying, shooting, editing, critiquing. Every week waiting to get feedback from professors just to go out and shoot more. Weekends are spent shooting personal projects and self assigned work to pour over and meticulously edit in Photoshop, just to push it out to social media to inch closer to the point where I can look back and say I've made it. It's become a grind of its own, but it pales in comparison to life in a cubicle.
I've never been one to dwell on the past, but the future terrifies me. Having gone through hell by way of a six month internship once before, I have no desire to return. To tell the truth, a lot of the projects I assign myself are because I'm scared I'll let myself down; that I won't become the photographer I want to be. I think it's something that a lot of creatives struggle with. You spend years in class studying the "greats," you look at the work people are putting out now, and you ask yourself how you're ever supposed to get there. You start to think that you just weren't born to do this.
I know I've been there, in fact there's weeks where my first thought every morning and my last one every night are some form of self doubt. But what I've taken away from this is: my self doubt is was drives me. It drives me to go out and find new projects, to go on shoots, to get better. If I never doubted myself I wouldn't be half as far as I've already come.
We could shine a light here inside the dark
And get a little closer, lonely spark
When there's nothing left to win and you could only lose
What's keeping you from doing what you always wanna do
Be who you are by The Kooks
So at the end of those days that you spend shooting, editing, and grinding; when you start to panic that you'll never be as good as your aspirations: grab yourself a beer, put your feet up, and know that having those doubts in the first place is what will drive you to succeed.