Bad Days

I’m not having a good day today. Not that it’s anything unusual for me, but these last few weeks my moods may have started to lift a little. Either that or I’ve subconsciously learned how to allow things other than anxiety and intense sadness in.

It kind of feels like it’s crunch time at the moment. Things can’t stay in this state of suspension forever, they need to start moving forward again, but the truth is, I just don’t know how. I need to be working, that much is obvious, but the endless stream of spending hours on applications only to be followed by rejection letters is getting more than a little draining now.

Failing finding employment, I could be working on myself. Taking care of my health, planning business ventures or just generally taking care of my wellbeing – but I’m not doing that either. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve completely forgotten how to live.

The last two days I have woken up with the very best of intentions, but the universe has had other plans, so as such I’m now just as unproductive as if I hadn’t even bothered trying. Feels great.

On top of that, I know what a drain I’m being on those around me. I have two modes at the moment, honest or the act. The act being to pretend everything is fine, or at least not as bad as they think it is. It’s exhausting, un-motivating and boring.

I just feel like I want to scream out; ‘I’m here! Please give me a chance!’

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It’s not in your head.

Hello, and welcome to 2018.

Not a great deal has happened so far because I’ve been struck down with the flu for the past two weeks, but that’s okay, I can deal with that.

After writing and re-reading my end of year blog, it made me realise that I have been bottling up an awful lot, which is probably doing little to help my low moods. As I’ve been so much less social over the last year, not only do you not get the chance to talk things through with people, but it doesn’t really allow space in your mind for anything other than the gloom. Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple of friends who are always happy to listen, but it gets to a stage where you just don’t want to burden them anymore.

I’ve been making more of an effort to talk to Joe about things. I’ve been completely honest each time we’ve spoken, because I need at least one person to understand the frustration I feel. This has proven to be very helpful, and I’m sad I didn’t open up to him in this way sooner. Not only has the weight eased slightly, but it’s also helped me gain some perspective by allowing him to have his say on the situation.

One of the biggest issues I’ve had over the past few years has been to do with employment (or lack thereof.) My past few jobs haven’t resulted in very good things happening. Either I haven’t been suited to the job, I haven’t enjoyed the job, or the employers have just made things difficult in one way or another. I’ve always considered myself to be a person with a good work ethic. I’m working class to the core, I know the drill and I’ve never felt hard done by because I have to go to work. However, while sitting at home alone wit my musings, it dawned on me one day that the one common denominator in all of these situations has been me. I need to accept responsibility and accountability for that, whether or not any of it has been directly my fault, I have been there and need to accept my share of the blame.

For the last few months I have been beating myself up about not being able to make any of my last few jobs work, so I made this the subject of conversation with one of my talks with Joe, and while I still have to accept there may be things I could have done differently, he has shifted my perspective on the matter quite drastically. And my god, did I need to hear what he said.

‘You’ve been worn down. It’s not all in your head, you’ve fallen victim to some horrible people over the years, it’s no wonder you feel the way you do.’

And suddenly, I felt a little better. Less paranoid, less angry at myself. Because it’s true. I didn’t choose to be bullied out of my job at the beauty company, someone made me their target and thrived on belittling me. I didn’t choose to be fired from the home accessories company, they’d misunderstood me at interview and expected too much in too short space a time. I didn’t choose to be born female meaning management at the big supermarket head office didn’t feel as comfortable without their preferred male counterpart.

Add to this the redundancies and the subsequent court cases and that makes for some colourful work history. It’s all happened, I’m pretty sure most people go their whole lives without encountering half the shit I have. (Apart from sexism.)

It’s not all in my head, and it isn’t ALL me. If someone else told me the stories I have, I wouldn’t blame them for feeling so lost, I’d commend them for keeping at it for so long, but you know, it’s conceited to be too self-celebratory so we repackage it with doubt and self-loathing – and self blame.

I really hope that I can go back to work this year, but I’m not going to take any old thing that comes along. I’m tired of being the one who has to prove herself constantly, I know what I can and can’t do, now it’s up to them to prove why they deserve to have me work for them. Work is tough, it’s inevitable, and something we’re all likely to be doing until we drop, so I’m no longer willing to compromise or put up with other people’s shitty behaviour. You reap what you sow, so if you bully. belittle or try to undermine me in any way, I’ll walk.

 

It’s Been A While

Well, Hello World.

I’ve taken a deliberate hiatus from blogging as I promised myself the next post I wrote would be about how Neko returned home and life went on as before. But he never came home, and now 9 months down the line I don’t think he ever will. My heart is completely shattered and it still hurts every day. The hardest part is just not knowing what happened to him, even if it was bad news, at least I’d know and be able to grieve properly, but that’s just not going to happen.

We actively searched for the first few month and received several suspected sightings, but nothing ever came to anything. We leafleted our local area, put up posters and shared in endless Facebook groups, but no joy.

Life has effectively stopped since he left. This year has been terrible, and while I can’t wait for it to be over, I am dreading next year being just as bad and nothing changing.

Ive been out of work for the last 6 months. This time through choice. I was bullied out of my job at the beauty company, then let go from the place I went after that. I’m done with shitty jobs. I’m done with being treated like shit. Done with putting so much effort in, only for people to tear me down anyway. I need a break. Whatever I do next needs to be a good calculated career move and not just taking another shitty job for the sake of it, I’ve learned the hard way that it just isn’t worth it.

So right now, I’m at a crossroads. I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, but I need to fix myself before I do anything else. I’ve been suffering from the worst anxiety of my life throughout this year. It’s gotten so bad that it’s now my default setting to be on edge and completely wired all the time, I can’t switch off and I can’t calm down. My brain is a foggy mess, and because of this, I didn’t notice the depression creeping up on me either. I’m a mental and emotional wreck.

I’m sorry this isn’t a very cheerful blog post. I will update again very shortly and update you all on my camera related adventures, which have been sort of ok this year and I’d quite like to share some stuff with you all.

Thanks for reading guys, I hope you’re all well and doing awesome.

The White Rose

This morning it was light when I left home to catch my bus at 6.30am. The day then grew into a beautiful spring day, and as it did so, the words of Sophie Scholl echoed in my head for some reason.

Unbeknown to me, today marks 73 years since her brutal execution by the Nazis.

If you’re unfamiliar with her, then please check out this article. It really is an excellent read, especially if you’re into your War time history.

They were guillotined 72 years ago today. And they deserve remembering.

If you’ve never heard of The White Rose movement, this is as good a place as any to start.

Enjoy.

Year in Review – 2016

It barely feels like a matter of weeks since I last wrote one of these posts, yet somehow, another year has passed and we’re here again.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. We spent it in Devon with my family this year and it was fantastic. Tonight though, we are at home and celebrating the departure of 2016 quietly  with the kitties.

For many of us, I think it’s safe to say 2016 was a difficult year. I’m yet to meet anyone who has described it as being their best year ever, but for those of you who have had a great year, I’m so glad for you. I truly am. It’s been tough so I am happy for anyone who made it out still smiling.

Last year, I wrote a huge, illustrated, month by month account of my year and initially, this was also going to be my plan for this year, however, I just can’t bring myself to relive a lot of what has happened, so this is the best I can manage.

2016 began on a grey Friday morning in Leicester. We saw the new year in in style with my brother’s house party, so very different to this year!

Like every year, it began with feelings of melancholy, anxiety and quiet optimism. I knew what needed be done in order to correct the mistakes of the past year and wasted no time in setting about searching for the solutions. And that was where my luck ran out really.

I took a gamble by leaving my job at Sainsbury’s for a Freelance position. After all, it had worked out once before so why wouldn’t it happen again, right? Well, I was very wrong, and what seemed like a promising new position at Packshot soon turned out to be my very undoing.

Six months of unemployment ensued, and when I did finally manage to get some work again over the summer, I ended up spending more time chasing my wages than I did actually working. This prompted the rapid decline in my love of Photography this year. The industry I once loved had betrayed me for the last time, and as it stands, I am now still in limbo over what will happen next. I really have no idea. I’ve never been this confused before.

Entering the year still in mourning for Sam has probably set the tone for a lot of the fact this year has been so difficult. No sooner had I began coming to turns with losing her, Leica had entered my life and departed again in such a short space of time that I don’t think grief has even left me yet. Then there was the sad tale of the Floofs. More loss. In fact, I’d say the word of the year would be loss.

Still, there have been fleeting moments of joy.

Yumi2

This little girl is still with us, and as she sits curled up on my lap, purring her little head off, I’m reminded that there will always been small moments of light to keep us going. I miss Leica so much, but really feel I’ve said all I can about that. She was so special and I will never forget her, but Yumi is such a great little character, she has saved me from some very dark moments since she arrived.

Other memorable moments include my birthday back in January. Natalie did a great job of organising it, and it was so lovely to see everyone. I spent a weekend in London in July with my Mum and Auntie which was amazing, and I have now acquired a new appreciation for The Rolling Stones! There was an occasion where I came face to face and even help an enormous yellow snake, a night at the London Transport Museum in November, where I got to have an enormous geek out over my passion for all things London Underground, and countless Pokemon walks. Yeah, I like Pokemon now, it’s really fun and keeps me sane! I also got into exercise, and was really good at it for a while, then I kind of dropped the ball a bit. However, everything is in place to get it all back up and running again very soon.

Now we’re at the end of the year I am back in regular work, if only part-time, but it’s all good. It’s allowing me to study and giving me the time to figure out what I’m doing next. It’s also been quite good having time to spend with friends that I otherwise wouldn’t see anywhere near enough, so, swings and roundabouts.

As the year draws to a close, i am still met with those feelings of melancholy and anxiety, yet I am really struggling with the quiet optimism of past years. Previously, Hope was the only thing which got me through, but I think I may have run out of that, and as we enter January, I must begin my year with a number of very unpleasant tasks in order to move forward. I won’t go into that now, but hopefully, if I manage to get some resolution I can fill you in.

My health is hanging on by a thread at the moment too. Everything feels uncertain and scary, and I just want it all to be over with. I need answers, and the solutions I need to get life back on track.

So to end the year, we are about to go out for a nice long Pokemon walk followed my snuggles with the kitties. This year will not be going out with a bang, just a mere blip on the radar.

To all my wonderful family, my friends , new and old, my followers and lurkers, I wish you all a very Happy New Year. Love and light to you all, I shall see you again in 2017.

Laura.

PS – I may have sucked at it, but I kept the blog going for the whole year!

 

It’s Over

An awful lot has happened this year, and not all of it has been good. I’ve been feeling very low recently. Not because of any one thing in particular but because of many things. Given that until this point, I have kept most of it bottled up I figured maybe writing about some of this stuff might help.

The first thing is just how difficult it has been making the transition from doing nothing to doing everything. I was out of work for the better part of 6 months, and now all of a sudden I am juggling a job and a degree. I feel tired a lot of the time and doing things for myself has become virtually none existent since the end of September. Of course, I understand that in every situation we’re in sacrifices need to be made, but right now I’m trying to find ways of re-integrating things that I enjoy back into my weekly routine. Exercise for example. I feel shit without exercise and the sooner I get back on that the better.

Secondly, little things are setting me off down the downward spiral again. I’m really struggling to keep my mind in a good place, and as always, as life does, it is just throwing a constant stream of challenging situations at me and I just don’t have the energy to handle them at the moment. This isn’t meant to be a pity party, just an opportunity to blow off some steam in the hopes that my permanently foggy brain may start to clear a little. I never know what to do anymore and I feel like I’m just aimlessly meandering down a path that isn’t taking me anywhere.

Finally, I recently had a major revelation. Since starting my course I haven’t quite been able to decide what direction I want to take my photography down. Torn between my want to be creative and the need to become more employable, a lightbulb suddenly went off in my head. I no longer love photography. In fact, I fucking hate it. There, I said it.

This has been a long time coming as it’s been a very long time since I picked up my camera with genuine joy and excitement about what I’m about to do, but now it has all become clear.

The Photography world is a mass of egos and mediocrity. I’d place myself in the mediocre category. I’m a tiny fish in an enormous, over saturated pond and quite frankly, does the world need another mediocre photographer? No. It really doesn’t.

I even closed my PurplePort account. I don’t use it anymore and more often than not I’d browse the pages asking myself what exactly the point most of it is all about. Did half of these images need to be made? Do they have an audience outside the model, photographer demographic? No, they don’t. For many it’s just a hobby they want to take further, for some it’s an opportunity to get your ego stroked, and for some it’s a genuine passion. But those are in the smaller numbers.

Yeah, I’m fully aware of how negative this sounds, and quite frankly at this moment in time, I really do not care. In fact, I truly believe that more people should be taking a long hard look at what they’re doing and asking themselves ‘Why?’ How many people go to University and study Photography because they hope to be a Wedding Photographer, or a Family Portrait Photographer? Not very many. This is meant with no disrespect to the people who do these things as a career, they’re challenging jobs which can be vastly rewarding and I know people who are hugely passionate in both of those areas, but if we’re being honest, these are usually fields we fall into because it’s a chance to use our skills to pay the bills.

It was never my dream to become a product photographer. It was a job I fell into because it would allow me to use Photography to make money, then incidentally, I grew to enjoy the E-Commerce industry which is where I decided to stay. So, what now?

I’ve decided to use the next few months to try as many new things as possible and see where I fit. Perhaps, I’ll fall in love with Photography again and I’ll pick my camera back up with feelings of joy rather than resentment once again. Maybe I’ll discover something completely new all together, which in my heart of hearts I’m hoping to do. Either way, I’m not a total quitter, if you throw enough mud against a wall some of it will stick, and then I can start climbing out of this hole.

The truth can really hurt, and it’s taken a long time to finally admit this to myself but I no longer want to drift along in an industry which is undervalued, underpaid and destined to keep the majority of people who fall into its jaws at the bottom of the career ladder all their lives. I don’t want to be in minimum wage jobs all my life. I don’t want to be working in studios which pay through the floor day rates then spend months chasing for my wages. It’s time to move on and realise, that while I had an absolute blast for the best part of the last eight years, this is where that journey ends.

I really don’t know what the future holds for me, and yes, of course I am scared. Fear is a large part of my nature, but there are many things out there I am yet to explore, that in itself is pretty exciting. Photography grinds you down, like many things in life, but it is an industry that can swallow you whole if you let it, and I am not about to let that happen.

Thinking about Learning

It’s safe to say that I am loving my course already. After months of writing about how I want to learn and improve, I have spent the last few days in seminars listening to talks about learning. I love that I am being challenged to really think about things like this and hopefully it will be really helpful in moving forward.

One of the things we have been asked to think about was a time where we tried to learn about something, but were unsuccessful in doing so. For anyone who has read this blog before, you will know exactly what I am going to say as it is something I have written about before!

I am talking of course about GCSE Maths. Maths was the bane of my life for the last few years of school. I’m not naturally academically gifted, but usually, with a little hard work I can grasp most things if I apply myself properly. However, with Maths, it just wasn’t meant to be.

From Primary School it was always my weakest subject and my understanding of a lot of it was very hit and miss. That’s not to say I am mathematically illiterate, I can count, subtract, multiply, add and divide. I can tell time and calculate probabilities. I can also draw you up a very pretty pie chart if data is your thing, but anything involving algebra and formulae is where my understanding ends. My brain dries out and my eyes just won’t co-operate when you throw letters and numbers together.

I remember being in about Year 8 or 9 and my Mum getting into an argument with my maths teacher at the time about how unsupportive she had been when I’d asked for help. Her response was amazing. She said because I do well in all my other subjects she thought I was just playing up to get attention and genuinely didn’t believe I actually needed help.

Come GCSE years, I actually got a pretty good teacher. He was very patient with me and actually did help me out a lot. I even stayed behind after class for extra help. Then my parents enlisted the help of an external tutor, a lovely lady named Steph who broke everything down into the simplest terms possible. I still couldn’t grasp it and I walked away from school with a D grade. I was ashamed.

A few months later, I actually ran into my maths teacher and I sheepishly told him I hadn’t got the C grade he had so much faith I could get. I apologised for being so ‘thick’ and all he said was; ‘47% of people in your year didn’t get a C grade either, does that make all of them thick?’ I’d never thought of it like that before, and no, of course it didn’t make them all thick. There were some super intelligent people included in that statistic, people who were creative, sporty or academic in other areas – and definitely not thick.

Fast forward to my first term at college, pretty much every tutor I had all asked the same question in my first week. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to retake?’ My answer was a firm ‘No.’ I had spent so much time, effort and energy trying to understand the things I needed to pass that exam, and I didn’t. My parents had paid good money to help me pass that exam and I didn’t. Not only am I just not confident with using numbers and formulae, by this point I decided I now wanted to spend that time and energy on things I did care about. I probably could have done better overall if I hadn’t concentrated so hard on passing that one exam, but the emphasis on passing English and Maths with a C was just so great, tunnel vision set in and I went into panic mode.

I can think of many reasons why I was unsuccessful on this occasion, but after a lot of thought, I just didn’t have the natural aptitude to deal with that particular task. I had the drive to succeed, the willingness to learn, and certainly the support of my parents, but I couldn’t make it happen. Had I tried again, could I have done it? Well, I’ll never know. I don’t need to know, because choosing to spend my time on things I did enjoy, led me to where I am now and I’m glad I didn’t let those things suffer for the sake of some information that I’ll never need to know again.

Although, I think the one thing that confused everyone the most was that I was good at Chemistry! My answer was always that Chemistry is a visual subject. I can see what is in front of me and deconstruct it, put it together and make sense of that. You can’t do that with a page full of numbers swarming around.

 

The next thing we have been asked to think about is when we were successful at learning something.

I had to think a lot harder about this, because the good things I’ve done leave me after I’ve done them and don’t still haunt my dreams 15 years later. After chatting with my Mum, I think I have found a pretty good example.

During my last year of University, I decided I wanted my final major project to help me as a commercial photographer rather than a fine art or documentary photographer. The course I was on didn’t really support that goal at the time and a lot was done to try and dissuade me from doing the project I planned in favour of something that would pass me with a higher classification. It was never about classification for me at this point, I just wanted to be able to apply for jobs in the relevant field after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I love fine art, conceptual work, documentaries et all, but I just wanted to practise skills which would make me employable.

I ended up teaching myself a lot that last year of the BA course. I read, I looked at what other photographers were doing, I looked at pictures in magazines to try and figure out how something had been lit and I practised, practised, practised. Occasionally, one of the technicians would come and help out too. I would block book one of the studios for days at a time and experiment with lighting using my friends, local models or whatever I could get my hands on. I wasn’t perfect. Far from it, but I knew I wanted to get good and the only way to improve was to keep doing what I was doing.

My final exhibition images weren’t the best. We were due to exhibit at the D&AD Fresh Blood awards once the end of year show had been taken down and there was no way I was going to let me substandard work let me down for that. Against all advice, I decided to exhibit some images from the portfolio I had inadvertently acquired during all the practise I’d done. Everyone was concerned that I wouldn’t be displaying something that wasn’t part of a larger body of work or part of a concept. I don’t know what it was, but intuition told me to go with what felt right on this occasion.

I didn’t win any awards. I wasn’t expecting to. There were some hugely deserving people exhibiting who rightly won. However, my gamble did pay off.

When I returned to take my work down, one of my tutors handed me a business card that had been left for me. I asked if they’d left them for everyone, but apparently not. They’d seen my images and asked if I was around. I’d left for the day so I’d missed them.

I sheepishly called the number on the back of the card and to my absolute amazement, I was invited to an interview the following week. That gamble paid off. Big time. Next thing I know I’m undertaking some work experience for a large, online, premium fashion retailer at their headquarters in London just two short weeks after completing the course.

There is a part of me that regrets being so headstrong about the whole experience. I probably should have exhibited my final major project along with everybody else. I lucked out. Intuitive learning is definitely not the way forward.

On the other hand, I had taught myself everything I needed to know in order to create those images in the first place, so perhaps that success was earned. It all depends on how you want to look at it.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to have a successful Photography career within the E-Commerce industry which has been amazing. However, in future, I definitely know that I need to put a lot more thought into my learning objectives. Intuition worked for me on this occasion, but that’s not to say it always will.

Look at that. I may just have learned something already.