Sunday, December 18, 2016
The year of change: 2016.
I never wanted to be one of those people who said “the year has gone by so fast!”, because well, of course it does, and it will do so every year. But the more time passes, the more I become startled by how much I seem to do within a year (which becomes all the more apparent every time I look back).
This year was the year of transition. That was always clear to me. I just had no idea how much change I was actually in for. There was even change within the change.
Let's recap. In November last year, I was travelling through Tasmania with Martin. In December, we flew to Canada, celebrating the New Year amongst the snow and helping my little brother get settled into Montréal. After falling in love with Canada, and feeling the need for a change for many months last year, we decided: 2017 would be the year we would move overseas together.
In February, I switched to working part-time at my design job, giving my photography the chance to flourish for the first time in years. It did the trick—I returned to exploring, to bringing the camera wherever I went, seeing things anew, planning new work. I started teaching workshops monthly, sharing my passion for photography with others. It returned to me a spark that had long been missing. I had avoided pursuing photography deeper over the years because I was afraid I wasn't good enough for the thing I loved most, but the more I gave photography to myself and myself to photography, the more I peeled away the impostor syndrome. Slowly emerged a new clarity.
In April, me & Martin's working holiday visa applications to Canada were accepted. We set an aim to move in the New Year, so we could spend Christmas with our families. We were slow to begin the process of packing up our lives, because we knew we had the time.
July came, and another change with it. I left my design job and began life as a full-time freelancer. It was not at all in my plans to leave a steady job right before Canada, but things have a way of happening whether we're ready for them or not. I had been feeling the wrong kind of uncomfortable for so long, all the while burying it deeper and trying harder to squeeze myself into something that didn't feel quite right, and in the end, I wasn't able to perform to the best of my ability because I was so unhappy. So with this change I rolled, diving into full-time photography 100%, making opportunities for myself.
Outside of my career, I'd been teaching yoga since the start of the year. My desire to lead my students well, and the responsibility and care I always feel towards others would often overwhelm me with nervousness, but after class, I'd feel so calm; so content that I'd been able to help others in some small way for just an hour of their day.
I picked up new skills like AcroYoga (partner yoga, like a combination of acrobatics + yoga), and bouldering (similar to rock-climbing, but more creative, and without the rope). When I had started losing that spark in my job, I threw myself into other activities that fulfilled me and helped me feel stronger. That lent itself back into my creativity, my photography and my overall wellbeing. Last year I wrote that I wanted 2016 to be about slowness, play & experimentation—this year may not have had a whole lot of “slow”, but my new physical hobbies were certainly a return to fun and making room to work on me, physically & mentally.
All was going well. October became my busiest month, with yoga teaching, moving out of our house, 9 shoots, 2 workshops, 1 weekend away and 1 interstate trip to shoot a wedding. I also tried to run a yoga workshop in that same month with a good friend of mine. Sadly it didn't take off, and it got cancelled. It was probably for the better—the timing seemed off, and I ended up spending that weekend moving out and attending a wedding.
The day before Martin and I were going on our weekend away to celebrate our 5 year anniversary, I tore a ligament in my ankle at bouldering, leading to the dislocation of two tendons in the process. To say that it threw a spanner in the works would be an understatement, and I was distraught. I rode the rollercoaster of being accepting of my injury to being depressed and frustrated about it over and over.
It prevented me from doing the things that I loved—yoga, bouldering, shooting, and even just going for a walk. The things I associated with my self-esteem, and my happiness; my anxiety and depression management tools. Again, things have a way of happening whether you're ready for them or not. I knew my lesson: I was being forced to slow down at a time where I was speeding up. I have never known how to be slow. I find pauses, sure. But I've never made myself stop, and now, I had to. I was being asked to be patient during a time where a lot of emotional dirt would be kicked up. A lot of stuff brought to the surface. I was being asked to remember that this too shall pass, to remain detached and accepting; to know that I can be happy outside the things I relied on to make me happy. I was also asked to rely on people—recovery meant that I would spend weeks without being able to get up on my own, shower on my own, drive anywhere, or even stand up to cook for myself. I will never take for granted the ability to walk to the kitchen to grab a glass of water again.
I had surgery to repair my ankle injury in November—5 days before my 26th birthday. A year ago on my birthday Martin and I were waking up before dawn to hike around Cradle Mountain. I needn't have stopped to think about my ankles then. I'm thankful I stopped taking on new work from November onwards to make way for Canada, because that time ended up being spent recovering from surgery—but at the same time it meant I had no income. I celebrated my birthday in a cast, with my family and friends coming over and meals made at home. The recovery process is long—at the time of writing, I am still in my moon-boot, and have had to walk in it and sleep with it for the last 5 weeks. The total recovery time is 12 months, but after 3 I will be able to ease myself back into physical activity.
So, you see, it's been turbulent. 2016 has asked a lot of me. I have asked a lot of me. I am not unfamiliar with challenges; I often make challenges for myself (juggling all that I do is the single best example of that), but that's different—I think I make those because deep down, I know it can be done. Despite all the anxiety, I never say yes to anything unless I feel, with some confidence I may not even realise I have, that I can do it. That was Canada. That was full-time freelancing. For good measure, I was thrown an extra challenge in the form of an ankle injury to see how I'd stand up to that. Perhaps I haven't admitted it before, but I need these challenges. I need to feel pushed, because if I don't feel like I'm on that heart-wrenching, gut-curdling tightrope between failing and succeeding, I feel as if I'm not growing, or progressing. That is how my spark became lost. I wasn't being used to my full potential, and that's not a feeling I'm willing to let sit well. I've been a passionate person all my life, and as much as it is my weakness (for being this way leads to a lot of anxiety, and I can rarely relax in the traditional sense of the word), it is also my strength (for having drive means I achieve what I set my mind to).
The next two or so years will be a new challenge: to see if I can move overseas with zero plans (we will have no home, and I will have no job when we arrive) and still appreciate that half the fun is in the uncertainty. We are, after all, moving with the aim to have an experience—not to achieve anything in particular, other than gaining new memories and getting to know each other on a different level.
2017 is going to be the year of renewal. The time is right, and this is very much the reset button we need. I can't wait to breathe in the fresh alpine air; to be challenged by life in a new country; to relentlessly explore; to walk out of my door and feel snowflakes on my nose. Beyond that, I look forward to the clarity that comes when one is separated from everything and everyone they know—if I can look past my own insecurities to see the message I'm being given.
Thank you for all your support and encouragement over the years. I hope that you not only make new memories to capture during this festive season, but that you go into the new year wanting to create moments worth remembering, and you get into the habit of capturing those moments. Season's greetings to you and yours—I can't wait to share 2017 with you.
Below, photos from 2016 and everything I'll be saying goodbye to, in chronological order.