I heard the venerable Sam Abell (30-year veteran of National Geographic) speak over the weekend at the Midwest Photo Expo, for which I signed up at the last minute after a few days/weeks of super-sneaky hate spiral about my current career non-situation. Being a photojournalist, his mantra has always been, “Compose, and wait.” When it comes to my work (and my life), I’m far better at the composing part than I am at the waiting, but now I see that both are rather necessary.
Before I even went to Puerto Rico to dream-chase, I set into motion the current composition of my life as I thought it would look best: subbing to pay the bills while working to build my business. When the picture didn’t look the way I thought it would right away, I panicked and tried to change everything helter-skelter. Abell listed three elements of a good photo: Setting, Gesture, and Expression, and for about a month I was tossing all three around and feeling supremely unbalanced as a result. Move to Texas. Move to Virginia. Move to DC. Go back to teaching full-time. Go back to school full-time. Become a desperate housewife. Many, many expressions of griefangerdepressioncrazy. A few rude and moderately destructive gestures. Overall, running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Even as I scrambled to recompose, I was forced to wait. On job applications, license applications, relational confirmation and failure to falsify. Then came the unexpected and unasked for blessing of my job at the real estate office. Suddenly I was making enough to live on without dipping into savings, and I still had time and energy left for the physical exercise and creative work vital to my well-being. It didn’t look like what I had originally composed, though, way back in high school and college, and for a while it was confusing. But when I finally relaxed into it about a week ago, I realized how much I enjoyed being able to put my moneymaker down at the end of the day and come home to myself instead of dragging home a burnt-out husk and trying to get even more out of her. Subbing has been fun, but I realized that I don’t miss the responsibility anymore, or the need to control and organize. (cf. a dream I had last week) And critically, I don’t need to be needed as much as I used to. (TA-DA!)
I had already been thinking that it would be supremely difficult to balance a full-time teaching job with the level of creative work to which I aspire, or even the level I am working at now. Teaching takes so much out of me, and if I am honest, doesn’t give back enough for me to live by on many levels. I could if I wanted to, for awhile, if it were necessary; say I need to relocate in the future and need work right away. But at least in central Ohio, my current job working 25-30 hours a week doesn’t pay proportionally less than full-time teaching, which I find quite sad knowing as I do the value teachers provide and the sacrifices they make.
I’m going in to sub again in a few minutes, actually, for a teacher whose position I applied for last month. (She’s leaving to stay home with her kids, so no awkwardness there.) I looked at her sub plans to find that 4th period will be taught by a candidate for the very same position…which is not me. (Slight awkward, yes.) My pride whimpered in protest until I gently reminded her, “Are you sure that’s what you really want?” At which point, she quieted, and we continue on our wait.
A month ago I was really confused by what I thought I wanted, but I suppose I’ve reached a point in my life where the truth will out in time whether I am ready for it or not ,and that is supremely comforting (from the 20/20 of hindsight, at least!). I compose with all the elements available, usually putting too much in the frame at first (both in my photos and my life), and–here is the critical part–wait for the universe to settle into its natural way. Usually at this point in a blog post, I march off in to the sunset with a Plan in the hand…but now I (mostly) know better.
P.S. I really want to be Sam Abell when I grow up.