The last few years have been a challenge for me on many levels. I have spent some time waffling around, feeling lost, alone and somewhat purposeless. Some of this was left over from the past years of an absolute undoing of my life: the loss of both of my parents within a year of each other, the sudden death of my sister, a massive turning point with my son, a relationship that crumbled around me, and the daily stress of living my life as a self-employed single mom. (I recommend doing zero of these things.) With each trauma, I couldn’t seem to get my footing underneath me anymore. This led to me feeling defeated and depressed and lost. These feelings only escalated at the suggestion of the (perceived) successes and achievements of business peers, friends and family members all around me. In a word, I felt alone.
Last year, as I stood in the midst of another new crisis of epic proportions, I heard an inner voice come through as clear as day. It said this: “You either sink or swim. There is no more floating. Nobody is coming to save you. This is up to you now.”
This was a wake up call like no other.
It was time. Time to get out of my own way. Time to stop worrying about who I was offending or what people would think of me. It was time to value myself, my work, my life, my body, and my soul. In a word – It was time for me to swim.
And swimming is just what I did. I dove in head first. I started fresh projects – like my food blog, Plate South. I picked up the phone and called in favors from friends and colleagues. I worked. I hustled. I listened. I read. I went inward. I went the wrong way and dodged obstacles. I struggled through some choppy waters. But the point is, I was moving. I didn’t really know where I was going, but I was moving which is far better than staying where I was.
Mostly, what I came to learn in this process was trust. I trusted I would get to where I ultimately wanted to be…or at least on the right path. I was headed somewhere – getting photographs published in magazines, collaborating with some of my heroes, and pushing boundaries for myself that I didn’t think I was capable of doing.
None of this came easily for me. Growing up, I never knew what trust or faith looked like. However, I had mastered the arts of fear, doubt, self-loathing and perfectionism. I just wasn’t under the impression that this process was messy for everyone. I only knew it felt awful and messy for me. Everyone else seemed to be floating effortlessly in magical unison – like those tiny silvery fish that dart around together in the sea – while I struggled and slapped at the water like a dog swimming for the first time. I struggled, swimming against currents and getting caught up in obstacles only I had put there. I wrestled on the surface of life instead of just trusting the current of the water like those little fish.
The thing is though, nobody said that our journey would be easy. Nobody told me I could just float to my destination painlessly and effortlessly. It was going to be work. Full on, head down, gut wrenching, exhausting work. But there is no stopping to think about it. You have no choice. You have to keep swimming to make progress. I had to make the choice then and there to keep my head above water, and just keep moving forward. I had to keep trying different things until it felt right, until I floated a little more and got through.
In all this, had I not thrown myself into everything I was doing headfirst – be it my food blog, my work as a photographer, parenting, friendships or love – I don’t know that I would be where I am today. These past years have been trying…but that’s life, right? You will always get a curveball. The most important thing I learned after sinking into tragedy and floating around in it for a while is that you have to just give it everything you’ve got if you are going to survive. Otherwise, you drown.
You have to be all in.
It’s time to swim.