So, here's the good/happy/easy-to-read news: I'm almost to my six-month mark of working at The Gazette. Summer minor league baseball came and went and high school sports are in full swing. I've seen and experienced some wonderful and intriguing things in my time here. I'm happy to be here in Billings. My coworkers are supportive and hilarious and my bosses are engaging and always looking for exciting and new things for me to shoot. They care. Which is wonderful. I am in a good place professionally, which is something I'm really happy about.
But, there's more. Allow me to explain. Bear with me.
One of my best friends, another KSU photojournalism grad and amazing photographer herself, was here in Montana visiting this past week. We were catching up, enjoying our reunion, when she very bluntly and almost angrily pointed out that she hadn't seen any new work from me in months. Not one website update, blog post, nothing. I was taken aback by this... and instantly frustrated with myself. And why? Because I had not even considered updating my website or blog in months. The thought had never even occurred to me. Here's why.
It's safe to say that the past three months or so have been extremely difficult. A few months ago I lost a very good friend unexpectedly. He committed suicide. I'd never lost someone like that. I dealt with the normal emotions: guilt, blame, confusion. But it was more than that... He was the last person (or at least I saw it this way) to really push and encourage me to move forward in my career. To do something daring. To create work that meant something. He pushed me every day to become better and to find happiness and balance. He was one of the very few anchors I had during a very tumultuous, confusing and lonely time in my life. He meant the world to me. His sudden and tragic loss hit me like a freight train and I shut down for a very long time. I went through the motions of life, I went to work and tried to do my best every day, I went out with coworkers, I did my best to pretend that everything was normal. But really, nothing was normal.
If you know me at all, you know that I am driven. I have spent the past 5 years of my life working toward one singular goal: success in this crazy, difficult, weird field of photojournalism. 3 internships, 2 full-time jobs, 2 degrees in 4 years. I worked hard. I sacrificed a lot, especially connections to my close friends and family, to go to places where my social life might suffer but my professional life would flourish. Everyone in this field knows what I'm talking about... we sacrifice bits and pieces of ourselves to become someone better... to do meaningful work. Because that work is what keeps us thriving and growing.
When my friend died (among a few other tragic events that aren't worth discussing), I lost that drive. It dissipated. Evaporated. Vanished into thin air. And I had no idea. I stopped searching high and low for meaningful stories. I shut down. My ambition disappeared and I was simply drifting day to day, camera in hand, but no soul behind it. And that's what makes my work mean something... the heart and soul backing it. It's funny how a huge part of you can disappear and you never even see it go.
But... my best friend Brooke made me see again. Made me see that I've let so much slide that was once so very important to me. Finding long term projects and making connections with my subjects has saved me multiple times in the past. I learn and heal by watching and helping others learn and heal through my work. Brooke made me remember that the best way I can work past my friends death (and everything else) is to return to what I know and really love. I spent so long focused on the fact that I would never see Jim again, never talk to him again, never hear him laugh again... So blinded by his absence in my life that I forgot about what parts of him still remained with me. Like his advice... to do something meaningful. To work hard and move forward and never stop growing.
So that's what I'm gonna do. Starting now. Because that's what Jim would want.
In the meantime, here are some photos from my many months of silence. I hope you enjoy them.
|Trig Clark of Meadow, SD, flies off his horse "Dragon" on Thursday October 16, 2014 during the bareback riding competition at The NILE Rodeo at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.|
|Sam Shaules attempts to wrestle a pig into a barrel during the greased pig wrestling contest Saturday July 12, 2014 at Homesteader Days in Huntley.|
|Kienna Gillespie, 8, soaks up the sun and enjoys Independence Day festivities at the "Celebrate Freedom" event put on by Harvest Church on Friday July 4, 2014 at Castlerock Park.|
|Collin Johnson of Browning, MT, attempts to take down a steer in the wteer wrestling competition during the final night of the Yellowstone River Roundup on Saturday August 16, 2014 at MontanaFair.|
|Swimmers exit the water as the sun rises for the cycling leg of the Big Sky State Games Triathlon on Sunday July 20, 2014 at Lake Elmo State Park.|
|Blood pours from a wound on pick-up man Scott McClain's forehead Friday October 17, 2014 after a saddle bronc kicked McNeal in the face as he tried to remove its flank strap during the NILE Rodeo at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.|
|Grand Champion Goat/Grand Junior Goat Showman Kolby Dietz of FFA Shepherd bids a tearful farewell to her goat "LL" after it was sold for resale Saturday August 15, 2014 at the MontanaFair Junior Livestock Sale at the Expo Center at MetraPark.|
|A runner jogs down Buffalo Trail Road near Molt, MT, at sunrise on Sunday September 21, 2014 during the Montana Marathon.|
|Keyan Hernandez, 8, top, flips on top of his opponent Trace Steinmetz, 7, during the wrestling tournament of the Big Sky State Games on Saturday July 19, 2014 at Billings West High School.|
|Thousands enjoy Independence Day fireworks Friday July 4, 2014 at Castle Rock Park.|
|Mustangs pitcher Justin Remer, right, successfully tags out Great Falls player Hunter Jones at home plate Friday September 5, 2014 during the Mustangs first playoff game against the Great Falls Voyagers at Dehler Park.|
|Nick and Aspen Zugg walk hand in hand past their muddy pick-up truck after exchanging vows of marriage and taking a race around the mud bog track to celebrate at a Mud Drag at Montana Off Road Extreme (MORE) Racing on Saturday June 28, 2014.|
|Firefighters respond to a grass fire at 1801 Bench Blvd. in the Heights on Friday July 11, 2014.|