Life is full of lessons

If there’s one thing I’ve learned lately (and I’ve learned a bunch!) it’s that no one can do everything alone. You need to rely on others to help you improve, share your victories and give you courage during your struggles. Doing things on your own is hard, lonely and dangerous to your mental health. I should know. At the risk of being vulnerable, I’ve decided to start being more transparent in my content. From here on out, I’m going to share experiences and lessons from my professional and personal life. There will be plenty of tips, charming descriptions and opportunities to laugh because that’s who I am. I’m a sexy (it ain’t bragging if it’s true!), smart, witty woman who loves hearing, capturing, and telling a good story. I hope these posts are entertaining and inspiring. Aside from the tips I share, I hope you learn something meaningful about me, the artist behind all these dope AF photographs. If you’re not into personal stories, too bad, I’m sharing one anyway! (But low-key, you can scroll towards the bottom to check out my goals for 2022 if that’s what you came for; I won’t judge.)

I saw a lot of companies close their doors for good these past two years. 

In 2020, I overcompensated my fears of my own business failing by working three part time jobs at once. With most of the world on lock down, working allowed me to get out of my apartment. I wasn’t sleeping well most nights but since insomnia isn’t anything new, I didn’t think much about it. But a lack of sleep, three part time jobs and not being able to spend time with family was taking its toll on me. Clearly I was in over my head; that and too sleep deprived to see the damage I was doing to myself. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I lost a few family members to Covid-19 including a beloved great auntie just a few days after speaking with her on FaceTime. The pain of knowing that someone I love was alone in a hospital instead of surrounded by family because of this dangerous disease; knowing that she died that way…. An emotional breakdown was inevitable, and in my case, public. 

I was working a shift at my coffee shop gig when I was suddenly hit with overwhelming despair. I tried to walk it off, literally. I walked around the shop wiping down tables and restocking supplies as silent tears streamed down my cheeks but I couldn’t control it. My heart felt like a pipe that had accumulated too much pressure and was about to burst. Unable to stop myself, I broke down crying in front of my co-workers and manager before we could even turn on the neon ‘Open’ sign. Thankfully, I worked with a wonderful group of human beings who offered hugs and handkerchiefs instead of awkward glances and shade. My manager told me to take some time off so I can process my grief. I could only nod my head in response before taking my husband’s hand (he’d come to check on me) and make the short trek home. 

It’s taken me months of therapy (of which I am still partaking), self examination and a lot of action to get out from under the wave of depression. I withdrew from most of my commitments and walked my dogs for hours at a time, and took lots of deep breaths while my mind and body calmed the heck down. With guidance, I learned how to identify the sparks of anxiety and address them before they could become a raging inferno of overwhelm. In the past I tried following those ‘CEO’ work/life regimens you see plastered all over YouTube and crashed and burned… multiple times. Now I work with my body’s natural energy cycles by allowing myself to rest, exercise and work when I have the mental and physical capacity to do so. I still struggle with anxiety but it’s becoming more manageable with each passing day. 

Now that I’ve begun to get my mental ‘ish together…

I’m ready to start setting some initiative to help me thrive as a professional creator. Here’s how I’m planning on spending the next 12 months (during work hours. I’m not going to let myself slip back into burnout!)

I will partner with brands to create retainer monthly income.

Over the years, I’ve been advised to take whatever shoots I can get until I’ve secured enough clients that align with my specialty. While it sounds logical, it doesn’t make sense for me as a niche photographer. (Photographing couches isn’t going to convince potential clients to hire me to document their nuptials in Greece!) Now before you start calling me naive, I’ve already come up with a better option. I’ve started creating monthly income for myself by partnering with clients for design contracts (I’m a certified graphic designer FYI). These partnerships will allow me to exclusively book vacation, lifestyle and elopement photography; all of which align with my niche (and interests!). Eventually I’d like all of my partnerships to be with travel and lifestyle based brands but you know… patience and progress.

I will showcase my work in person three times this year.

One thing I haven’t put a lot of energy into is putting my work on display at events. I’d take one look at the show booth prices, faint from shock, regain consciousness and promptly move on to the next marketing idea. After thinking about it a bit more, I concluded that being one out of 20-50 photographers at a convention wasn’t going to get me the interaction I needed. I needed to be the only photographer! Instead of big conventions, I will be showcasing my work at smaller events and vendor fairs. While there will be less people in attendance, there is a bigger chance for my work to stay in the minds of the people who visit my booth. 

I’ve chosen ‘Create’ as my word for 2022.

While this website is dedicated to my lifestyle and vacation photography brand, I’m actually a multi-media artist. Previously I thought cutting off all of my other mediums would make me a better photographer but that only made me feel uninspired. So this year, I am going to launch a host of personal projects around illustration, writing and photography. By giving myself creative freedom, I hope to establish new ideas for my clients and produce something awesome.

Being able to start over is a blessing.

The fact that me and my business has survived two years in a global pandemic is nothing short of a miracle. I don’t want to take this opportunity for granted. I want to thrive. I want to meet people, travel the world, have adventures while I design the career of 7 year old Gernelle’s dreams (I decided to become an artist as a little girl. I even wrote a paper about it!). If self doubt tries to discourage me, I’ll remind myself that if a 10 year old can make millions by playing with toys on Youtube, then damn it, I can do anything I set my mind to!

That's all for now. Until next time, I wish you short shifts, long vacations and many a splendid experiences this year.