This year has blazed by, I can't believe how quickly we are approaching 2019. It’s really true what they say about time speeding up as you get older, I think partly due to our ever increasing to-do list, plans, goals, etc. I found a white hair the other day. I can't talk about this year without talking about my trip to China at the end of 2017. Just around this time last year, I was spending my last weeks in Xi'an. It had been almost three months of me being there and I was just starting to feel a sense of normalcy and settledness. I was beginning to really get an idea of what it may be like if I had stayed a bit longer. What would it be like if I stayed 6 months, or a year. I was starting to deeply reconnect with my Chinese roots. But nevertheless, I did miss Canada immensely, and I was still looking forward to coming home.
As soon as I returned to Canada, the Holiday season was in full swing, and I was dropped back into my life again. There was a frenzy of catch ups with friends and family gatherings. Many conversations where I recited my answer to the question "How was your trip?" and fumbled to give a rundown of my time in China that did it justice. There’s always a great sense of comfort in going home at this time of year. It’s a chance to take a break, to reflect, and to see people who you haven’t seen in a while. For me, it was also a time for starting over again, after being away for so long, leaving my job and my apartment. I was gearing up to decide what I should do next.
I must say it was a slow start to the year for me. I was trying to get my footing again. I knew I needed to find a job, but also wanted to dedicate more of my time to freelancing and working on personal projects. I was living at my parent’s in Richmond Hill, which seemed so far away from everything. The days were longer there, meandering. Sometimes the motivation to do anything was hard to come by. I was still able to make pictures if not for work, but for the fun of it, and tried to spend a lot of time showing people what I’ve done in China, editing down all the images. Looking back now it was important to keep creating through those slow and uncertain winter months.
It wasn’t until summer that things kicked off for me, and I was able to find more work and gain a little more confidence in my abilities. In May I moved in with my old roommate Madeline, for a two month sublet in midtown Toronto. Being back in the city and on my own lit a spark in me, and form there I started a number of career milestones and firsts. I shot my first festival (Inside Out - Toronto LGBTQ Film Festival), my first wedding on my own, and my first editorial assignment for Maclean’s Magazine. I also shot a lot for fun in an attempt improve my portraiture skills, especially in the studio.
AUTUMN & WINTER
In September I had enough confidence in my business and income to finally move to my own apartment in Toronto. For the first time in almost a year, I felt settled and like I had a home base. Being independent is a huge factor in me feeling motivated, and I was proud of myself for being able to do what I love and support myself. The fall went by in the blink of an eye and just like that, it had been a whole year since I left for China. Throughout the year, I had been working on the images I collected there, and trying to find a place for them. There’s still so much I haven’t shared, because I wanted them to be more than just a post on social media. Through editing and showing this project, I’m happy to see it grow, evolve, and take form in ways I hadn’t expected. I knew I wanted to show it in an exhibition, but I definitely didn’t expect writing over 2000 words to accompany my images in an upcoming publication. I’m extremely excited for the project to come into fruition, out in the world, in 2019.
This year I continued to learn more and more about what it means to pursue a career in photography, as well as what it means to work for yourself. I think the key is to find balance - the balance between working for income and working on things you are passionate about, balance between pushing yourself and allowing yourself time for leisure and relationships, balance between being accommodating and being assertive. I continue to be humbled by how much I still don’t know, and how many mistakes I’ve made.
As the winter rolled around and the days became short and dark, I found myself falling back into a lull, a lack of motivation, and those same awful stories you tell yourself about everything you are doing wrong. Sometimes when you’re in the midst of it all, in those late nights turning around a project you are just not invested in, in the moments when you said yes to others and no to yourself, when you scroll across another’s success story on social media, it can be easy to lose sight of what you have accomplished. In reflection, I can finally admit that I’m happy with all the successes and growth I’ve had this year, despite the slow start. I’m very very excited for all the things to come in the next year, and I hope to approach it with more courage and trust in myself. I also must keep in mind that it isn’t all about plans and schedules and accomplishments, but the beautiful moments in between, the real connections between friends and strangers. Those have always been what drew me to making pictures in the first place.