A year prior, my heart was broken, my head was all over the place (still is, but getting better), and I didn't know where my soul had retreated to. I vowed to turn things around for 2014, to make changes in my personal and professional life in a big way. This year felt like the year, I felt good about the upcoming months. I became more honest with the people around me, I in turn, became more honest with myself. I realized a lot of shocking and painful truths I had been hiding away.
With this pain came self-realization. Though I experienced some of the darkest days of my life this year, I also was able to push past and overcome them. Creating a weekly portrait of the over-abundance of erratic and strange emotions I had been living became a release. The rush in feeling a fog has been lifted and looking back at the last few months wondering who that person was, there are no words to describe that. Though I have taken a short break from these portraits, I plan to continue until I reach the full 52 weeks.
Professionally, I had one of the most life-changing phone calls this year. We talked for about an hour and within that time, he single-handedly was able to see right through any exterior I built up and right into my very core. Things I had been so sure I had been nailing with my images, he pointed out the flaws in the argument I was having with myself. Photography has always been an incredibly personal journey for me, as it should be for anything you truly love doing. I found as I took a physical step back to frame up my subjects, I had also taken a mental step back from the character of a person I was trying to draw out from them.
Though it stung to finally recognize, I took it in stride because I knew it was something I could fix and translate over into 2015. With this, I also came up with some realizations that this year had brought in. So here it goes.
Top 14 Realizations from 2014:
1. I pissed off a lot of people.
Okay maybe not A LOT, but more than I would of liked in my book. As I grew up and out of certain parts of myself, I inadvertently crumbled friendships that were based around immaturity and negativity. Once the honesty train started, I lost a few passengers along the way. Looking back now, I do not miss the extra baggage.
2. I re-discovered the idea of eye-contact.
We live in a world where people walk around with their heads down and do not seem to know what to do when we're met with others that don't mimic our behavior. I made it a goal for this past year to personally thank each and every waitress, cashier, door-holder, taxi driver, and regular human being I came in contact with- all while looking them straight in the eye. The result? I saw a lot more of beautiful faces with expressions of surprise accompanied by a slight smile when I took the time to acknowledge their presence.
3. There's a (slight) routine to my otherwise frantic life.
The daunting and elusive idea of a set schedule came early for me when a friend pointed out the error of my ways. "Cass, this is why you always feel busy but never get anything done. You answer emails at 2 am and don't get up around the same time each day. You gotta set a routine for yourself." (Thanks Bill, I owe you a beer, or two, for this mental smack on the forehead). As I attempted a variety of time management options, I found I was the most productive when created a to-do list the night before and set a timer for any certain length of time, during which I couldn't check any social media or roam around the house looking for excuses not to do something. Though it's still a work in progress, I feel a lot more organized.
4. People are just that, people.
We hold a lot of typically ordinary people on these weird platforms based on how in-love/jealous we are of their lives that they seem to portray via social media. It can be hard to ignore how fabulous Karen's (ficticuous person, I don't actually know a Karen) life is on Instagram when she posts her images from locations we've always dreamed of going or surrounded by an amazingly attractive group of friends. I was getting down on myself late one night when again, another good friend brought it to my attention that, "at the end of the day, that person is just one being going about their life that ultimately does not and will not affect yours in any way." S/O to Zach for that one, though I'm pretty sure you had a more eloquent way of putting it.
5. "Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you."
Mark Cuban definitely knows what's up when it comes to this idea, being a billionaire and all. I found this quote later on in the year, but have heard it resonate in my head on the days I can't seem to get up with my alarm or have been avoiding drafting out follow-up emails. I'm lucky to have such a supportive family as well as group of people that would absolutely help out if something was to go terribly wrong, but as far as pushing the envelope, only I can do that.
6. People will pay for your work.
It can be easy, especially when you're just starting out, to come across those individuals that want everything for cheap and don't really appreciate you as person, let alone as a wonderfully talented artist. I've started to say no to projects or people I find attempting this, in the end it just isn't worth the time. And since I have turned down these "opportunities", I've been able to spend more time reaching for ones that are worth it. Twice this year, I have had people tell me they've cried when they saw their images and countless that were blown away by the effort I put into crafting the idea they initially had in their head. Those people make it worth the gripe and struggle that comes with the job.
7. Who you surround yourself with speaks volumes about your character as well as personal happiness.
If you're constantly around people that have nothing nice to say, it can be easy to mimic their behavior. Same with those who have no motivation or desire to reach further. It can be stifling and downright depressing because you won't notice how you've changed until you're in the presence of happy, driven individuals. Surround yourself with positive people that won't drag you down with them.
8. Reading inspires, fills your heart with joy, and can destroy you all in one chapter.
Because everyone should experience the pain of losing your favorite character at 3 in the morning at least once. Also, no uncertainty about your life and everything in it is greater than the moments after you close a book for the final time.
9. Dating is scary & weird, but that's okay.
I put off trying to connect with another person for a while and when I finally did allow myself to enter back into the world of dating, I found it to be absolutely terrifying. To have another person that you're interested in see you boppin' along (okay, jamming the HELL out) to one of your favorite bands live, witnessing the extra goodness from a chili dog slide between your fingers (I don't do cute when I eat, ever), or saying everything way too fast and it coming out as one big jumble they can only respond with a, "..What?" is awful and embarassing and completely OKAY. Refer to #4, we're all human and you know they know you saw them trip over their own feet out of the corner of your eye.
10. While dating is cool, spending time alone is even cooler.
I set a personal record for the amount of solo lunches, single-person $5 movies on Tuesdays, dinners alone consisting of cheese platters with red wine at resturaunt surrounded by couples, and grabbing a beer by myself at the bar (just to have some kid spit in it, but that's a story for another day entirely) after a particularly stressful day of shooting a wedding. You learn a lot about yourself in those times and walk away happy you did it in the first place. Because really, who would of seen half the movies with me I went to by myself and loved them just as much?
11. Pay attention to what you're saying, because other people do.
More than ever this year I've been told by people, far and wide, what I have said has impacted their lives. I stand by the idea that even if the truth hurts someone, I still think it's right to say because of how they may learn from it in the long-run. I try not to say things that are untrue in the heat of the moment because I personally know how damaging a few wrong words from the right mouth can be.
12. Say yes to the out-of-the-blue invite, make the drive up (even if it turns onto a dirt road with no street lights), and walk right in.
You may just find an incredible array of people, a pet peacock, and that one person that now knows you possibly better than you know yourself. Although I was nervous as hell and wondering if what I was doing was insane, I don't regret this rare moment of spontaneity. Even though the road did say "No Facilities Ahead."
13. It can be easy to make up excuses when you're afraid.
It can be hard to "get up and go" when we set our minds to doing the opposite, giving ourselves a million excuses as to why we shouldn't. We are so afraid of that one, little "NO" to the point where every step to achieve what we aspire to seems to become a mountain we must climb. My advice? Just go for it, make the phone call, stop them before they get on the elevator, and hit send on that email you've been checking & re-checking all morning.
14. Some of the best realizations come from small, quiet moments of reflecting inwards.
This year, I found my voice once more, remembered how to "just say no" and embraced opportunities for the unknown with a firm yes. I became honest, really honest. Wore my heart on my sleeve more times than I can count. Most importantly, I took time to appreciate standing in the sunshine while figuring out how to dance when the rain came.
Here's to 2015 being bigger and better than the last. Hopefully you're all surrounded by people you love, making resolutions that will ultimately change your life for the better, and remembering to love yourself the entire way.