This week, I have been thinking a lot about the climate to which social media resides. If it were not for this technological advancement, we would not have the connections that we are able to have.
No, really. Think about it. Practically every day is a family or high school reunion. We have all the ability in the world to keep fully connected with those who are with us or away from us - leading to one big circle of common interests or just deep connection, as we choose.
Unfortunately, it has also led and fed to more insecurities for many people. I watch as many fall into the trap of promotion for ego sake. Okay, yes...there is an ego inside all of us. But, the people that I admire most in this world (i.e. Amy Malmkar) via social media are the ones that are genuinely there to open their hearts to the onlookers, whoever they maybe. Countless times, I watched Amy post videos and information for the public about knowledge that she has gained in her profession. Through this, slowly building the trust of clients that she may have and the bonus of gaining a few jobs that may come her way because of it.
Then there are bloggers like Ashley Collins with @asmashinggoodlife who, day after day, posts on her Instagram stories about daily highs and lows of a single woman in her 30’s, living in Las Vegas. I have watched her for over a year while she shares her tears through a break up or the tragedy at the Mandalay Bay shooting; as well as the joys that she experiences while she is traveling the world. Always, dedicated to bringing authenticity to a world that is filled with so many superficial undertones. She chooses to share her dirt, and that to me is one of the most beautiful and brave things you can give your community.
I have watched these women, as a by-standard, being so happy for their highs and sad with them for their lows. In each step they have made, I have sat back knowing that my own brand could grow as much as I want it to...if only I had the guts to let the world see who I truly was.
Many of you know that I was on a path with the theatre arts. I had every single plan to hit the stage, and it was reaffirmed (by professionals) that this would happen for me. However, I took myself out of that arena after the first audition.
Because, in that dark audition location in the middle of Seattle, I was surrounded by a room full of self-promoters.
These women knew how to work their craft. They were confident in what they had to offer the world, and even if they didn’t - they sure looked like they did. I felt like I was living “A Chorus Line”, watching them call names and give the boot. So, when my time came up - I choked. I mean, nothing was coming out of my mouth that I had trained so hard for. I left Seattle and never looked back at auditioning professionally.
In the years later, I have always wondered why my life would keep coming back to these creative moments where I am universally pushed to give myself to the public, first, and then show them my craft second. I have wished that I could find another outlet - even convincing myself that teaching high school history would be like the stage...only to realize soon that there is no substitute for that fire inside of myself. I need the creative arts.
Now, here I am years later and there is a camera in my hand. I sat back, like I am today, asking myself what I want for my craft...the answer was National Geographic. So, I made that decision and I told myself “one day.” That day to be published came three months later. Believe me, the timing stunned me too. I remember sobbing as I thought about all the things, creatively, leading me up to that moment. It wasn’t about the recognition. It was about the fact that I saw something through, and I made it happen by staying absolutely true to my heart - conveying that in my eyes and out of my camera. I told myself, ‘this is the perfect thing! I can convey a message without ever having to speak.’ God must have laughed, as I still watched Amy and Ashley combat their fears in front of a camera.
Next came my blog - in years of journaling, it was time for my thoughts to transcend past my tight grip and into the homes of others. I felt more alone when I didn’t share the posts, because I knew that #1 I need to get it all out and #2 there HAS to be someone out there that needs to hear this…. I cannot be alone in these thoughts about a hard international move/life in general.
After weeks of posts, I decided to post my writings through my business Instagram page. With almost 800 followers, the response was incredible - from people reaching out to let me know of their time moving with the military and general words of encouragement. Again, growing that sense of belonging and realizing that there is truly a big world out there of people, (some I know personally and some that I don’t) who are wonderful people - wanting to see me succeed and in return, I want to succeed for myself. Not doing so that I can have this pretty life all wrapped up to show - but when I write a piece online that my mom is a drug addict and I hear of others who are encouraged not to hit the crack pipe again because of something I shared - that heals me in return.
Then, I remembered Ashley and Amy, again. At this point, I knew I was ready to share more. I was so overwhelmed by Christmas depression, that I made a video and just put it out there to my followers saying, “I miss my mom, and I am sad”. Hearing myself say that, as I replayed that one-sided conversation, brought healing. It was me, putting all of my shit out there and saying “universe, take care of me”. Now, I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking ‘you only wanted your followers to fix you...not you too’.
No. I had two responses - one of which was from my best friend who responded that she loved me. But, that’s it. No one else wrote to me. Why? Because they had been following and had heard in the past that I don’t like pity parties - I can handle myself. But, it was that talking to a camera, saying it out loud, and releasing a heavy heart that I realized, social media CAN be healing.
So, now I am here...and I’ve mustered up ⅛ of the bad ass courage that my lady vloggers have, and I realized - after that depression post, it can only go up from here. I wake up every morning and think about the fact that I am incredibly lucky to live this life, and really...what do I want to choose to think about in this move? Do I want to get on camera and be a downer? Well, no...I will save that for the times that I want to share that I am TRULY down. But, if I’m not that far down, I am going to share the actual realness of my life - not the conjured up shit that I tell myself when I am in silence.
Last night, that realness extended to my viewers as I discussed how long I have run away from self-promotion. Yes, I even cried on my little string of vlogs because I realized that for me to be a successful business woman in this tech generation, I must be a self-promoter.
I spent hours angry at the fact that I knew that I had to do this in my business, and I vented to my husband for close to an hour about how every single person in my life is going to think that I am a big fake and phony.
He questioned me and asked if I was a fake. My answer, “NO! From the beginning of photography, I have wanted nothing more than to be myself and give everyone everything that I am - regardless if it’s too much. And for that, this life has worked. But, other areas are stagnant. So, I have to take this road and talk about myself...and I don’t want to.”
In the end, he helped me realize, I have to. That this is my job now - to tell anyone who will listen about my thoughts on my current situations, my future travels, my photography, and how I will incorporate all of that.
But that's just surface compared to my greatest duty - to convey to my followers that they are not their past.
All of the fluff is a byproduct of the life that I’ve been given, because I finally believed in that deep message. And that message always led back to the honoring in things that have happened to me.
I can’t always write it, I can’t always photograph it, but I can always speak it out loud.
And that scares me.
So, if you notice a change in the way that I am running my business - that is why. I have a story that I have been sitting on for 14 years, and I will be damned if another young woman thinks that her only worth is to fall into the arms of men who will tell her what she wants to hear for their physical gains.
You will see silly and deep moments. Shoot, some moments I might not get right and you may question if I should really be saying those things or posting those photos.
But, you know what? There is a big deep message behind all of it...and I am incredibly excited to figure out how to do it all, along the way.