A couple weeks ago our family was hit with the flu. It wasn’t great. There was lots of clean up and just lots of all around yuck. In the middle of one night my daughter came into my room and called for me. She said, “Mom, my bed is too warm”. Before I reached her, the smell of throw up was unmistakable and when I reached out to touch her, I realized that she was covered in sick. The poor little thing hadn’t realized she’d thrown up and just thought she was sweaty. As a sweet little girl of 5 who loves her dolls and stuffed animals, all 6 that she sleeps with had the same condition of a “too warm bed” and I spent the next hour between 2:30 and 3:30 in the morning washing girl hair, doll hair, unicorn mane and cleaning sheets. About 35 minutes into this mess where Scarlett was already back asleep and I was trying to get chunks out of her brand new giant Princess Celestia’s mane, I glanced up at the bathroom mirror and saw that I had a huge smile on my face…like the kind that can only come when you are genuinely happy and content. I stopped and considered where I was and realized that I was indeed happy in that moment. I was absolutely gagging the whole time and was somewhat dreading the days and nights ahead, but I was also just full of happiness. What I was doing was simple. I was doing my job as a mother. Many parts of this job aren’t incredibly fun or stimulating, but I was doing that job to my fullest in that moment of vomit scrubbing. I was doing my best at caring for those I love. That simple truth that came from those simple actions filled me with intense joy.
As I reflected more on this small event, my thoughts, as they often do, drifted towards my creative and artistic journey. Like in any aspect of life, there are highs and lows on the journey. There are parts of the process that we hate. There are times where it seems like everything you do fails. Whether it’s not being able to create work you like, or not being successful in any of the times you put your work out there…whatever the case, there are those times. Still, when those failures come, what do they do to you as a person? How do they make you feel? I’m guessing that “not great” is somewhere in there, just as my body felt not great the whole time I was cleaning up after my sick child, but is there also satisfaction? Do you take the time to remember that you are creating something and regardless of its merit or success, that’s pretty damn great? Do you remind yourself of the joy that you felt the moment you clicked the shutter and you just knew you had your shot? Do you let yourself feel the yuck, but also let your inner fire burn even brighter because you are continuing to live your creative life?
My answer is totally not yes to these all the time. Often times, failure just feels like failure, hundreds of crappy photos don’t feel like anything other than hundreds of crappy photos and a failure to be recognized just feels like a repeat of high school. Sometimes, though, sometimes I remember. Sometimes I get those rejection letters, I don’t get those workshop signups, or I just flat out don’t get noticed, and I smile. I smile because I am living a creative life. I LOVE my creative life and these little pitfalls don’t even dent that because they don’t change who I am or what I am doing. These are all just parts of this big beautiful whole that make this journey so beautiful and so meaningful. So the next time you hit a roadblock, a pitfall or even a full on fail, see if you can, at least for a moment, find yourself smiling and content. See if you can let all the light that emanates from your journey be in that moment with you. When you’re up late wading through stinky and sweaty failure, take a moment, look in the mirror and remember how beautiful this whole journey is.
Amanda Voelker is a fine art and lifestyle photographer. With her children and light as her inspiration, Amanda finds beauty in the everyday. She strives to capture the subtleties of human emotion and connection in a beautiful way that showcases both the moment and a piece of her self. Amanda is also the Co Creator and Editor in Chief of “The Long Way Home” Magazine and instructor at "The Bloom Forum"