I knew a guy who just couldn’t seem to catch a break. He had a lot of great qualities and was well liked by people who knew him and worked with him. But for whatever reason, he just seemed to be stuck. It didn’t matter what he tried, any form of “2 steps forward” never seemed to last very long, before that progress was negated by 2 steps back in a different area. Net zero progress. The sad part was this went on for years. People really believed in him. They thought he was capable of far more than his current career path, but they – like me – couldn’t figure out what kept pulling him back the same rut he was in. I think he – and they, including me – saw moments of greatness shine forth occasionally. It always seemed to throw him off his stride a bit – like somehow, he didn’t think it was his doing, but merely luck or coincidence. He certainly talked like that. He’d downplay any “wins” or substantial progress, and he’d be quick to give others credit, or he’d downplay any praise or compliments that came his way. The rest of us hoped that he’d be able to see that greatness for what it really was: his skill, his personality, his gifts, all coming together in a way that let all his excellent traits shine like the morning sun.
I think we all hoped it would stick. We all hoped he’d start seeing that those moments were something he made happen. I think we all got tired of seeing him stuck. No doubt he felt that even more that the rest of us did. I mean… we’re human. No matter who you are, it gets hard to keep cheering on the underdog when the underdog just seems lost and adrift. It gets hard to keep rooting for the underdog when the poor dog just keeps getting the short end of the stick. None of us would admit to that of course. And it’s not that we wanted him to give up. Of course not. But it’s hard to keep pouring energy into that empty vessel, and hardly seeing any form of progress. I think we started to lose hope in him. It’s not an excuse. But we’re human. Humans have a hard time dealing with so much disappointment, even with all the best of intentions.
But then, recently, he seemed to change. It was a spark here and there that caught my attention. He started to really push himself in an area where he seem to struggle the most. He started to see himself – and his abilities – as something not merely appreciated within his own close circle of friends and family, but as something valued in a much larger perspective. He seemed to be coming to life after years of laying dormant. He confided that sometimes he scared himself silly by pushing his own limits and finding the wall he thought was there was just paper and not brick. He even started not just advertising some of his skills but actually reaching out and offering them to people, and charging a premium for them. To be honest, actively promoting himself and his skillset was something I wasn’t expecting from him. I hoped I’df be able to see it someday, but honestly I didn’t know if he’d ever get that far. So often his past seemed to weigh him down that I didn’t think he’d be able to do it.
But within the last few months, something seems to have ignited a fire within him. Not just the sunny, hopeful persona he tried to show to the outside world. No, there’s something deeper. There’s hope, yes. Hope that often deserts him during the short, cold months of winter – the very time when he needs it most. But it’s more than that. There seem to be this confidence that’s slowly but surely growing within him. Not just about his skills and abilities. There’s definitely a growing confidence in that area, without a doubt. No, it seems that the confidence is growing in who he is. He’s becoming more comfortable in his own skin, and he’s recognizing that some of the skills he possesses are actually pretty amazing. And that comfort in who he is, and what he can do – and that a lot of the limits he thought he was constrained by are actually no more than bricks painted on canvas.
I like this “new guy” that’s growing within someone I’ve known for years. Don’t get me wrong, he still has times where he falls back into those old thought patterns, where he gets easily worn down, easily distracted, easily consumed by his own negative thought patterns. But I’m rooting for him. I hope as this confidence grows within him, that those old thought patterns will weaken and fade away like dust.
I think what makes this more special is that he’s always loved watching other people’s personal growth. He’s loved cheering for the underdog, he’s loved encouraging others, he’s enjoyed watching people he knows overcoming hurdles and growing in the same way I can see him growing now. To see this happening within him, when he’s spoken about seeing it occur in others around him, is nothing short of incredible.
Unfortunately, this growth will come with the inevitable bumps and detours that happen to all of us. I hate to say it, but I know there will be setbacks and hurdles that may try to throw him off course. While I can’t say with 100% confidence that he’ll persevere now when he couldn’t before, what I can say is based off what I’ve seen… he’s got more guts, more strength, more courage, and more light than I’ve seen in him in a long time. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him. And I hope I never stop cheering for him and encouraging him along the way, because he hasn’t given up on me.
*** end ***
Welcome to the New… The new what? The new me. Well, kind of. This may or may not come as a surprise, but I wrote the above about me. I tried to step outside of my own internal monologue that is often incredibly negative, and far too often leaning in the hopeless direction rather than a hopeful one. I tried to see myself without that negative feedback loop, and see myself more as I might see me, from the outside looking in.
I wrote this partly as mental exercise, partly as therapy, and partly just to try to get my writing brain working again. Skills are like muscles after all, if you use them, they stay flexible and strong. And if you don’t they atrophy.
The image for this post comes from an opportunity I didn’t see coming. It was taken at a viewing party for the premiere of a TV series shot in nearby Winnipeg. What makes it special is that it was the first series shot in Winnipeg featuring an all-black cast. Some of the actors and actresses were there, and what made it special is that they could have asked another photographer, maybe even someone BIPOC. But they didn’t – they asked me. And maybe my pricing had something to do with that decision, or maybe not. All I know is that at that event, I was treated and spoken to like I was a seasoned professional. Not that I’m treated with disrespect or anything like that, but it was different. And different in positive and encouraging way.
That gave me a confidence boost. The feedback I’ve gotten from a music festival I shot at just over a week ago was the same – treated as a professional, with very positive and encouraging feedback. That confidence has helped me take some risks and start personally reaching out for opportunities instead of waiting and just advertising via social media. And I’ve generated a shoot because of it – and that shoot may open more doors for me into the event photography world. More on that story in a few weeks – if I remember to write about it!
I’m a little surprised at myself… but in a very good way.