As a year unlike any other slowly rolls into the history books, we near that magic time when we sweep out the old and bring in the new.
Fitness is very important to me. Not only because my photography business is largely driven by fitness and activewear brands, but because exercise, both physical and mental, is one of the driving forces in my life even when there is no camera involved at all. Don’t get me wrong. The idea of being crowned Mr. Universe has never been a goal of mine. Rather, it is the discipline and hard work that transforming one’s body requires that has leaked over into my photography career and continues to act as a metaphor for life beyond the gym.
Early in my workout resurgence, I used to drag along my best friend when going to work out — "drag” being the operative word. Whereas I was in full roidless roid-rage mode and pushing my body to its limit, he was more or less there to hang out, laugh a bit, and acquire as much muscle as possible with as little sweat as possible. Largely, our sessions together would consist of me devising some new torture experiment masquerading as an exercise, him refusing to do it, me making him do it through a combination of well-placed verbal jabs, and him ultimately giving in and performing exactly one rep before loudly declaring, “it hurts!”
He was never specific about what exactly hurt. It was rather just his generic way of getting out of pretty much any exercise. To this complaint, I would somewhat reflexively respond with my own generic response: "life hurts.”
Ostensibly, this dialogue was just part of our usual banter. He probably thought this common refrain was simply further evidence of a sadistic nature. But, to me, those two words always carried a deeper meaning.
Life, like the last set at the squat rack, doesn’t always feel good. There are times, like much of this past year, where it seems like the weight is simply too much. You are just carrying too much on your shoulders, and the only option you have is to give up on your ambition and accept defeat. You fill up your mind with notions that to do anything but give up would be to only risk further disaster. To cut and run so soon might be injurious to your pride, but at least the pain would stop. For now.
But when I said, “life hurts,” I was providing myself with a subtle reminder that to expect to go through life without bumps and bruises was a fool’s errand. No matter the precautions you take, you can’t hide from pain. When it is your time to carry your share of the burden, it will find you. There’s just no getting around it.
But what you can do, and I might argue you must do, is to push through that pain and not let it deter you from your path. This is not to say pain doesn’t exist. This is not to say that the obstacles are not legitimate. But if you have your eyes on the mountaintop, you can’t afford to waste time trying to avoid the climb. You have to face it. You have to conquer it.
As a photographic community, we were all hit with a boulder in this last year. The careful among us would have planned for occasional lapses in business. But very few would have had a plan for a scenario where the entire industry shutdown overnight. And while, depending on where you live and which type of photography you provide, there were glimmers of hope throughout the year, there was still enough pain to go around that it affected every one of us to some degree or another.
But, here’s the thing. If you are reading this essay, it means that you are still here. If you are still here, then you are still alive. And as long as you are still alive, you still have a chance to thrive.
The thing that everyone loves about the coming of a New Year is that it can signal a new beginning. The ills of the previous 12 months seem to magically wash away and be replaced by a new wave of hope and optimism. No matter what the previous year had entailed, the new year gives us an opportunity to make something better.
Sure, this past year hurt. But, life hurts. So ,as the clock strikes midnight and the ball begins to drop, remember to look forward to the brightness ahead. Steeled by the shared experience of our collective tragedy, continue to push forward. The weight may be heavy on your shoulders. But, you can carry it. And, if you do, the next 12 months might just be the very best of your life.
Happy New Year.