Ain’t it Funny

First of all, I have to say thank you! People from all over the place have come up to me to tell me they read this blog and have thanked me for being so honest. It was kind of weird at first. When I started this I imagined that only my close friends and family might read it or the occasional Facebook friend might pop in for a peek. But after a recent trip where some people out of state mentioned it, I went and looked at my stats page and was floored. Over 2,600 people, from over 13 countries read this thing. I certainly never expected that.  It’s a very complex and strange feeling to know that so many people, some you know, many you don’t are reading your secrets.

I got some comments recently from some people who thought that I had quit writing it because I haven’t posted one in few weeks, but I haven’t quit. Not even close. I just needed to step away for a second. There is something extremely cathartic about writing this blog, but at the same time ripping yourself wide open for the whole world to see can sort of wipe you out emotionally.

I tell you the truth in this blog when I say that I am working on myself and while it’s clearly a metaphor, I honestly have been opening closets to face the demons that have been hiding in there for years. After all, that is the fucking point, but let me just say that there were some closets that I wasn’t fully prepared to open. Some of them I wanted to slam right back shut. Facing some of the things I have over the last month or so kind of sent me into tailspin for a couple of weeks, but I am back and I feel stronger than ever.

Life is funny. What is it they say? “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I am finding that to be so very true and I am finding it in the most unexpected of places. I feel like lately everywhere I look I find inspiration, knowledge and understanding of some kind. There are so many people in my life right now that I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to for teaching me things about life and myself. One of those people is me.

It’s so damn easy to get locked into our “story”. We create these little vignettes that we live inside which we let define us. We get comfortable thinking of ourselves in a certain way. I know that I felt sorry for myself for a long time. I thought of myself as poor girl who just couldn’t catch a break. Life was unfair and people were mean and because of it, I was weak and guarded. What I am learning though is that yes, people can be mean, life can be unfair, but at the end of the day, when I look around my life in this specific moment, I realize that I am not weak and I have created a pretty amazing life for myself in spite of the assholes and the shit that got thrown at me out of left field.

It is easy to look back and think of all the ways I wish I would have handled my pain in a healthier way. It would be easy to have a ton of regrets. But I handled it in the only way I could in that moment. And as crazy as it sounds, I am glad I did it just exactly how I did. Without those years I wouldn’t be able to look at where I am today with the same eyes. I wouldn’t be able to say, “Holy shit! Look what I did. Look where I am”. ~ I lived through some shit, but I lived through it.

Guess what? You did too. I am not the only person in the world who has had their fair share of bad times. I bet if you look at your life right now, no matter who you are, where you are or what state of mind you are in at this very moment, you can find something about yourself that you can be proud of. And that right there is the secret to learning how to love yourself. I swear to you. I fucking swear it to be true. As corny as it sounds, the key to happiness is gratitude and the key to loving yourself is pride.

Pride… Now there is a word that makes people uncomfortable. At least it makes me uncomfortable. I tend to associate pride with egoism, arrogance and conceit and all those words bring up negative connotations for me. But the reality is that a little pride can go a long way. How can you truly find self-respect and self-love if you don’t have a little pride for yourself?

I’m learning to take pride in a lot of things in my life. My appearance, my home, my friends and my work are all things I am proud of today. I work hard for my craft and my art. Most days I put in anywhere from 14 – 16 hours, even days I don’t shoot. Besides getting work out for clients, I spend several hours a day on maintenance of some kind; gear related or computer related or filing & archiving. Not to mention the day-to-day tasks of going through emails, delivering final projects, and soliciting new jobs.

I also spend several hours a day on my personal projects, which I also consider work, maybe even more so than my actual clients because those are my art and will hopefully be my legacy. I spend a few hours each day studying and reading; trying to learn new skills or finding inspiring new ideas for shoots. My friend Rod Picott says of his own career “Nobody knows hows hard you are willing to work” and he is right. I think some people, even those closest to me, would be shocked to see how many hours I work every day and how hard I work when I do. It is exceptionally rare for me to take a day to just blow off and hang out or to spend a night just sitting on the couch watching TV.

That used to not be the case. There was a long time where I did what I needed to in order to get the work out and then ate mashed potatoes and watched Real Housewives. These days, I couldn’t tell you what the fuck Nene Leakes was up to. I have no idea and even better, I don’t give a shit. The Real Housewives were never as entertaining, dramatic or funny as living my real life is to me now. Did you read the last two blogs? That shit blows the Bravo TV network out of the water.

My Dad used to have this saying “Ain’t it funny how the harder you work, the luckier you get?”. He has been right about a lot of stuff, but that one is the big kahuna! I live a pretty fucking lucky life. I work with heroes and friends and legends, I get to do what I love, I meet new and interesting people all the time, there is always some adventure around the corner and I have been all over the country in the last two years. I would say that makes me pretty damn lucky. But I worked my ass off to get here.

I’m not saying that I didn’t have help, because I did. I had lots of people who helped me in a myriad of ways, emotionally, financially and just putting their faith in me. But I did the work. I shot everything for everyone. I did it for free or very little money. I did it for the chance, I did it to learn, I did it to get my work out there. I still do it.

There were years when I filed my taxes that I literally lost anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 because I was investing in gear, networking my brand, and working my ass off to build something for myself. Something I could be proud of. I will never be able to thank or show enough gratitude to all of the people who helped me get here, without them I couldn’t have done it, but I put in the work. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to say that I am proud of myself for that.

And honestly, I love what I do, so all of the work is a labor of love. But it is work and Rod’s and my father’s words ring true. The harder I work, the luckier I get. Here is a great example; A few days ago, I could have taken two days off. I only had one shoot and it was at night and I was pretty much caught up on all my paying clients. I thought about just scooting off and doing something fun, having a girls day. Instead, I decided to finish some projects for some friends that I am doing for free or for trade and get those done. I also decided that I needed to cull through the hours & hours of footage I have for a project of mine that I am working on and knock out as much of that as possible.

On Wednesday, I sat at my computer from 8:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the morning working on photos, videos & some press stuff for friends. It was an 18-hour day. On Thursday, I sat at my computer going tediously going through footage, synching multiple camera angles to external audio sources, marking time codes and transcribing verbiage. I did that from 8:00 in the morning until 6:00 PM, then I got in the shower, loaded up about 200 pounds of gear in six bags, drove to the Station Inn, loaded it all in, set it up and ran four cameras by myself for 3 hours, broke it all down, loaded it all back in the car, came home, unloaded it and went right back to work on the footage and worked on that till 3:00 in the morning. That was a 19-hour day. I put in three hours shy of a full workweek for most people in two days. Two days that I could have taken off.

Keep in mind, that with all those hours and with the exception of the live show, there wasn’t one penny I was going to make off of all that work. Not one red cent. The next morning I got up started capturing the footage from the night before and within four hours, the phone rang and I got booked to shoot Billy Joel. You can’t make that shit up and you can’t tell me that kind of luck just happens. That phone didn’t ring because I decided to take a girls day, that phone rang because I was willing to work. And the best part is, I am finally at a place in my life where I can feel proud of that. Proud and lucky!

Like I said, I am proud of a lot of things in my life right now and there also are many, many things I am grateful for. Pride and gratitude, you wouldn’t think those two things could live so comfortably together, but I think they do. In fact, I don’t think you can really have a healthy version of either one without a little bit of the other.

Now look, I’m not trying to get all braggy pants over here by saying, “Oh, hey, look at me and how great I am and how hard I work and how lucky I am”. But I am hoping that one of the 2,600 people that read this might be where I was a few years ago. Ready for the teacher but not sure where to start. I just want to let you know that it starts with you.

It starts with gratitude. Start finding things to be grateful for. You will be amazed at how quickly changing that one thought pattern will change your whole life. Once you have some gratitude, you will find some pride and then the pieces of the puzzle will truly start to fall into place. The more pride you have, the harder you will want to work, the harder you work, the luckier you will get and then it all comes full circle back to gratitude. You’ll be grateful that you are so lucky. You will be grateful to a lot of people, but you will be most grateful to yourself because you did the work. And when you find that pride and that gratitude for yourself; that is when you will start to truly love yourself.

I could be totally wrong. All of this might be total hocus pocus bullshit; I know that I still have a long way to go before I can say that I love every single thing about myself. I still have a long way to go before all the demons in my closets have been dealt with. I still have a long way to go in a lot of areas in my life. But I swear to you this. For the first time ever, I am grateful for so many things that I feel totally blessed. And for the first time ever, I can say that I am honestly proud of my life. There is no way that it is just simple coincidence that for the first time ever, I have those things in place and that also for the first time ever, I really fucking like myself.

What is it I always say? “I’m a blessed and lucky bitch!”