hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Monday, August 26, 2013

missing corporate life

"people don't have to like you for you to be successful".  these are the words of wisdom from my husband.  he's trying to talk me out of my funk.

a large part of my happiness comes from validation from my peers and meaningful relationships.  i'm sure it's true for a lot of people but i can count in one (maybe two hands) the number of meaningful relationships i have outside of my family.  and validation right now is highly elusive.

when i left corporate life five years ago it was out of exhaustion.  i worked my way up the corporate ladder.  i put in my dues.  whatever job i stepped into i rolled up my sleeves and got my hands dirty.  i powered through whatever it was and i did it fast and i did it hard.  i was a workaholic.  i was happy.  the goal was not money, fame or fortune; it wasn't a title or a pat on the back.  i really and truly enjoyed what i did.  i was good at it so i enjoyed it and so success followed. (that's normal right?  enjoying something coz you're good at it?)  the problem was that i  lived, ate and breathed work and then i looked up.  that little break, that pause, it was just enough time to realize that i was actually running on fumes and quite burnt out.  so i took a break.  a break... that's kind of a joke.  i went from corporate to running a photography business when i didn't know how to run a business OR do photography.  i had to go from zero to sixty in a blink because i was impatient and crazy.

i miss the corporate life.  i've never worked so hard in my life as i have these last few years.  talk about run down and exhausted.  the artist's life is tough.  running an art business is even tougher.  so much of my identity and self confidence in the past was built on the foundations of my career and the achievements associated with it.  success was measured so easily in a the structured environment where milestones could be documented by the completion of projects and rewarded with titles and monetary returns.  when mistakes were made corrective action could be taken with guidance.  teams struggling through the ebb and flow of challenges built camaraderie and meaningful relationships.  but my current world is subjective and lonely.  i am my harshest critic and my worst enemy.  the clients that i had when i started enjoyed my images but had no clue that my photography was beyond mediocre plus i was affordable.  my husband was my biggest supporter but he knew as much as i did and only when i grew did his taste get more refined.  we learned together.  as i progressed i got better clients but they are still not the ultimate say on how well i'm doing.  it's totally a chicken and egg situation.

i have two ways to go about measuring my success in this field.  i can look at my bookings which only defines how many people are willing to pay me to shoot their weddings.  so then i wonder if i'm good or i'm cheap.  or i can rely on my peers (that is to say, fellow photographers) as mirrors.  if THEY say i'm good i first have to measure the weight of their opinion and then figure out if they really mean it or they're just being nice and then i can maybe draw some solid conclusions that i can build confidence on.  that's a lot of measuring and a lot of exposure all for the sake of validation.  that's me putting myself out there and being vulnerable for longer than i'm comfortable with and opening myself up to so much rejection with no clear direction either on how i could improve.  i'm exhausted and emotionally drained.  the newbies want to be me and i want to be the photog elite.  it's a love triangle.

seriously!  is this just the girl in me?  yes, i want people to like me but i also want to be respected for my work.  at the same time... if it's crap, then tell me it's crap and tell me what's crap about it so i can work on that.  will i cry about it?  yep.  you better believe i will.  sometimes i have to hurt to improve.  but all this guessing, this loneliness, this feeling of being in limbo, the psychology of acceptance or lack thereof.  this photography business is more high school than high school ever was for me.  i really wish i didn't care.  i wish i didn't need the validation.  but i do and i'm having a tough time filling that need.  i'm wobbly at best building myself up on a house of cards.  i miss corporate life.  i miss things being black and white.  clock in, clock out, collect paycheck, have beer with friends.