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.

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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!

 

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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.

What are you doing?

Well, the simple answer is I’m doing a Masters Degree! So there’s your answer if you don’t feel like reading any further.

This is a question I find I ask myself an awful lot. This is usually closely followed by ‘Why am I doing this?’

On this occasion, I have actually been asked to think about what I am doing and make a few notes for class this week. Being the Queen of over-thinking that I am, not only am I asking myself what am I actually doing, I’m also going to throw the ‘Why?’ and the ‘How?’ in there too. I could just write a few notes, but I’m kind of feeling inspired enough to write today, so we’ll go with this instead.

There is no simple, clear cut answer for as to what I am actually hoping to achieve by doing this, so I shall bullet point my answers for ease of reading.

  • Firstly, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I am riddled with self-doubt and suffer with an inferiority complex the size of a small country. I regularly write about how I want to improve as a Photographer and contemplate ways of doing this, so for me, applying to return to study was one way of getting out of that rut and actually doing something about it. This is going to be hard. I’m not naive and I am fully aware that I am probably going to feel a whole lot worse before I start to feel better, but here I am. There’s no going back now.
  • I want to be able to produce work, that I’m proud of, and if I can’t manage that, I at least want to be able to produce work that I don’t hate. I want to learn as much about lighting and creating beautiful, glossy images as I can. I don’t want to constantly compare myself to other artists and tell myself I’ll never be able to do that, I want to at least give it a bloody good try.
  • In addition to this, I don’t want to spend my entire life being a one trick pony. It’s hard enough to stand out in the ocean of Photographers that exist in the world today, and while Photography is my first love, I want to be able to do more with post processing, moving image and even create art without the use of a camera.
  • By the end of the first semester, I want to feel as though I am moving forwards. i want to be able to post blogs showing you that I have moved forward, and that my work is developing the way I want it to. I don’t want to hide things from the world any more, I don’t want to feel uncomfortable wearing the label of ‘Photographer’ forever. I don’t want to hide from the world anymore, and while I know I will never have the confidence to put myself out there as much as a lot of artists do, I would at least like to get to the point where I can maybe post an image or two and say ‘Hey, I’m Laura. I’m not the best Photographer in the world, but I made this and I’m pretty pleased with it.’
  • I want to be able to walk away from this course in a years time being able to say that I gave it my all and it paid off.

So, there is a very brief overview of what I want to achieve, now for the ‘Why?’

  • I’ve always toyed with the idea of taking a Masters program, but for whatever reason, life would never quite allow it for one reason or another. The main one of course being work. Making a living has to come first, so returning to study never felt like a viable option.
  • Having spent the best part of this year out of work, I decided that it was now or never. If I wasn’t back in work by September, I knew I wanted to be doing something constructive with my time, so I finally applied. Got accepted, then got offered a job. Sod’s law.
  • University wasn’t a great experience for me first time around. I really struggled on my Bachelors program for a number of reasons. The main one being my health being in a terrible place at the time, causing me to find things a lot harder than everybody else. Despite the fact I somehow managed to make it through, I know that under more positive circumstances I could have done so much better. Now I want to prove that.
  • I now have an incredible support network around me. While I am largely keeping this a secret, the people who do know have said they are all behind me 100% and this is really spurring me on.
  • When I look back at my time at University the first time around, it brings back a lot of bad memories. I want to be able to attach a much better experience to study this time, and when I look back in another 8 years time (yup, it’s really been that long since graduation!) I want there to be fond memories to reflect upon, such as ‘Yes! I remember the day I finally mastered that.’

Finally, How am I going to do this while holding down a job? Well, lets keep this one really simple. If I could complete a Bachelors while losing my eye sight, I’m pretty sure completing a Masters while holding down a job will be pretty easy! Well, perhaps not easy, but I’ll make it work somehow.

If I can finish this having spent most of my time on campus and not in a hospital, that’s good enough for me. If I can finish this and be able to wear the label ‘Photographer’ without feeling inadequate or ashamed, then I’ll know I can do anything.

Where have you been?

I’ve been absent again. This time, it’s been deliberate though.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, it’s just that I wanted to wait until I had some firm and proper news in place to tell you.

As you well know, I’ve been struggling for work and not really been doing very much for the last few months. Well, as these things usually happen, after months of nothing, everything began happening all at once and with all my balls floating high above me in the air, I decided to wait for them to land before updating.

So, what’s been happening? Well, firstly, I know have a job. I am now Photographer at allbeauty.com. I first applied for this job back in March but didn’t get it. Then back in August, the ad reappeared and I was offered the position without even having to interview for it again. They also offered a little more money than the rate advertised which was a bonus!

Secondly, I am now officially a student. Yes, you did read that correctly. I have returned to University after being accepted onto a Masters degree, so hopefully in one years time, I shall be a graduate once again.

Now, all of a sudden I have gone from having little to do, to having to juggle work, a course and all my other commitments, though in all honesty, it’s really not a bad problem to have.

I don’t have any shoots lined up or any kitty related stories for you today. I literally just wanted to post a quick update to show I am still here, and will hopefully have a lot more to share with you all very soon.

Have a wonderful weekend everybody!

Radio Silence

Hi everyone.

It’s 1.37 am on a Sunday morning and my late night procrastination has led me here. My eyes feel heavy but my brain won’t switch off, it’s just nagging me about all the things I need to do, should be doing or should already have done but haven’t. I was going to save something for the morning, but figured I may as well get it out of my system in the hopes I may actually get some sleep.

Firstly, I’d like to apologise for the Radio Silence. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, it’s not that I no longer want to do this, I’ve literally just had nothing to say. I’ve been in a state of static the last few weeks. Life just seems to be standing still and I’m trying to push it forward, but it isn’t really happening. I felt my voice and my thoughts haven’t really been very relevant so have kept them to myself.

Then I realised, it has been exactly one month since I shot anything and almost a month since I last wrote anything, so these things combined have kind of shocked me into action a little bit. I should be doing something, no matter how little or insignificant. Periods of unemployment can be painfully demotivating, so it’s so important to keep yourself busy or you begin to crash out of life. While I currently have no shoots planned, I think I am slowly coming back to life.

I’ve been feeling really hollow and insignificant recently, I’m constantly running myself down and I need to snap out of it. I just need my fortunes to change, even if it is only ever so slightly, just so I can get on again.

So, what has been happening? Well, I’ve been spending most of my time looking for work. This is taking up most of my days at the moment, and I’ve just been on another run of unsuccessful job interviews, which is really starting to take it’s toll. I’m starting to lose the joy in doing things which I’ve always been so passionate about, and just generally feeling pretty ‘meh’ about everything. I hate it.

The past few days have started to pick up a little. I decided I needed to be doing something more useful with my time, so as of this Wednesday, I will be volunteering at my local Cats Protection charity shop, which I am really looking forward to. I’m so excited to be doing something worthwhile and actually gaining some useful skills in the process.

Joe has been working on a new design for my website. It’s looking really good so far, I just need to sift through thousands of files now in order to find some nice, strong content to put on it. I will write another update on that once it’s launched.

I have a few small ideas which I am researching in a last ditch attempt to save my failing Photography career, I just need to research my market a little more and see if it’s worth taking the time to pursue. If it isn’t, no harm done, but I am seriously low on ideas and fast running out of luck.

This could in turn lead to me having to make a very serious decision about whether I even want to stay in this industry. There is no specific reason for my recent pessimism towards it, but I will write a more detailed post about that another time, as a good rant often helps clear the air, and the way to carry on. If I do decide to leave though, I need to have a long hard think about what I’m going to do instead. I have no transferable skills, so that still doesn’t make me very employable.

It’s safe to say that I am in a state of flux at the moment. Hence the long silence, for which I apologise. Hopefully, things will start to work themselves out and business can continue as normal, but as much as I am trying, I am not feeling particularly optimistic about this happening any time soon.

Hopefully, I will be able to look back on this post in a few months time and realise it has all just been a critical case of creative block.

Floof Overload

Today is the two month anniversary of Leica’s early passing. When I woke up this morning, I instantly filled with sadness. Sadness, not just for Leica, but also for The Floofs that we lost. I think about Leica every day, sometimes it fills my eyes with tears and sometimes it brings a smile to my face. I love remembering all her little quirks, like how she could never meow properly so she’d just squeak instead. How excited she’d get at watching me spray deodorant on because she thought it was a can of squirty cream. The time she dive bombed Joe’s plate and ended up up to her ears in spaghetti. The adorable way in which she would follow Neko absolutely everywhere he went and how sad she looked when he went outside.

I’m glad I have happy memories of Leica. I just wish I’d managed to get a few more of the beautiful Floofs. The three remaining baby Floofs are doing really well now, they are growing and getting stronger, thanks to the amazing Lisa from Fur and Feathers. So, in that spirit, I decided that I didn’t want my last post about The Floofs to be a sad one. During the time they were were, they too put a smile on my face, and while I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t regret what happened to Sakura and Finn, I also want to remember them for the beautiful souls that they were.

Being a Mad Cat Lady with a camera always meant that they would be captured in pixels while they were here, so now, please allow me to share some pictures of these beautiful babies with you all.

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If you have your own fur baby, please give them a big hug today and remind them how special they are.

 

 

 

Not so Happy News

Trigger Warning. Upsetting content ahead.

My journey as a Foster Cat Mummy has ended. I am devastated.

It all began last Wednesday when I noticed that Sakura, Mummy Floof, hadn’t touched very much of her food. I tried not to worry too much, and just tried to change her food. That didn’t seem to help things though. I decided to try her on some dreamies, Neko almost takes my hand off when he hears the bag rustling, but it did little to pique Sakura’s appetite, she took two then turned her nose up.

Gradually, over the course of the day, she seemed to become very insular which is when I became worried. She seemed to be spending most of her time sitting alone in a corner and only returning to their bed to feed the kittens. I was surprised to say the least, she was a very loving, sociable girl until that point. She was always pleased to see you and would come and greet you with a friendly meow and a leg rub when you went to check on them. I became very worried, so I called the lovely Lisa from the sanctuary who came bearing gifts of many different foods to try.

She checked over Sakura and realised she had become very dehydrated, so began syringe feeding her enough water to get her gums pinked up again. It had been very hot that day, and we had left the heating on but we turned it off immediately and kept the windows open as soon as we realised just how hot the room had gotten and how it had affected Sakura. It always felt quite cold in that room, so I didn’t know just how warm it would get at the first glimpse of Summer. Anyway, lesson learned and now to try her with the new foods.

We left several different varieties out for her to try hoping it would encourage her to eat something.

However, when I went in on Thursday morning, none of it had been touched and Sakura, was again sitting alone in the corner looking sad. tried to encourage her to drink something, but she wouldn’t. I managed to get her to take a few sips from the syringe but that was it.

She began being sick, by now, I am beyond worried and into panic mode. Lisa advised to try her on some chicken as the smell usually encourages them to eat when they’re feeling a bit down, and this had worked for another Foster Mummy in a similar situation. I went to the shop to buy a pack of chicken, but they only had spicy. I knew I couldn’t give her that so instead, decided to try our local butchers. I asked if they had any chicken scraps I could have for cheap. They gave me half a chicken which still had just enough meat on it to feed her, free of charge. I went home, cooked it up, but still nothing.

After calling Lisa from Fur and Feathers, we decided it might be best for her to go back for a few days to get her checked over and to see if she improved. I was heading to Devon for a few days for my Dad’s 60th birthday so Joe would have been caring for them while I was away, I decided to let them go back, that way, we could get them sorted and hopefully, we could continue.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Sakura and the babies were taken to the vets on Friday morning. She had a temperature of over 40C. I knew this was bad, Leica had had a temperature before too so I knew it was serious.

Questions kept flying around my head. Was it something I did? Was it something I didn’t do? Was there something I missed? Could she have fallen ill from being in my care? After losing Leica, the paranoia took hold and I haven’t stopped questioning myself since. I just can’t help but feel I could have prevented this. She was a beautiful, happy, friendly girl when she arrived and now she was sick. How could this happen?

I have nothing but complete trust for the ladies at Fur and Feathers, so I knew she would be taken care of.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the heartbreak began.

Baby Finn had passed away.

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The biggest and liveliest of the kittens. I was in complete shock and totally heartbroken. He had become cold and limp during the night, when he was due his 4am feed, he was found and passed away in Lisa’s hands.

Sakura was also in a touch and go situation. She had improved in some ways, her temperature was down, but she still wasn’t quite right.

Later that day, she deteriorated. the decision was made to let her cross the Rainbow Bridge.

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So now, I am sitting here devastated once more. I’m currently receiving daily updates about the remaining three babies. All I can do is hope, pray and send them all the love they need to make it. They seemed pretty good with this morning’s update, so this is encouraging.

What on Earth happened? I just wanted to do something good in Leica’s memory, but it all went horribly wrong and I can’t help but feel like it’s my fault some how. I loved my little family so very much, and sitting with them and talking to them while they were here brought me so much joy. Joy I hadn’t felt in so long, but once again death reared it’s ugly head and snatched it all away. I just hope it doesn’t snatch the remaining babies too.

I will miss them very, very much. I’m so sorry that this happened little ones. All I wanted was to look after you. I’m sorry I failed you. But please know, that you are loved.