When COVID-19 started, I stopped working. Boudoir isn't essential and having people in my home studio was too great of a risk to me and others. The majority of my days are filled with editing, emailing clients, and sharing their stories on my blog. In one day, that all stopped. I didn't know what to do.
As the weeks passed, I grew more and more restless and started questioning my purpose. I put so much of my life's value on the work I do. I feel accomplished after every shoot, and I believe I'm putting good into the world by helping people celebrate their bodies. All of a sudden, that was gone.
At first, I tried to stay busy. I built an online webinar. I started working on ebooks. I bought a tripod so I could take a bunch of self-portraits, but no matter how hard I tried to stay busy, I wasn't feeling any better. Then, I felt myself slipping into a heavy sadness. I didn't want to get up. I didn't want to take care of myself. I didn't feel like doing anything because what's the point? Why am I here? If I can't shoot, what am I supposed to do? My intrusive thoughts became much worse, and I struggled through several rough, rough weeks.
I was putting too much of my self-value onto my work, and for a while, this problem was invisible to me. I could not see that I served a purpose outside of my job. I existed for more than just work. I love my photography business, and I didn't know I had become so co-dependent on it until I was forced to stop. I needed to have a long inner talk with myself to figure out what was happening. These talks aren't super fun because I have to come up with the questions AND the answers, but they are necessary.
As I always do, my first step was asking "do these feelings benefit me?" No. I was getting nothing positive or helpful from this depression. Ok...so why then do I feel this way? Because not enough of my life and my value is separate from my work. What can we do to change that? The hard question. The question that required action. The question that meant I had to get out of bed.
I chose to take a break from work. I stopped writing my guides, shooting virtual sessions, and reduced my blogging hours. Instead, I engaged in hobbies I stopped doing, and I found other areas in my life that give me purpose. I made a list of them: Taking care of my plants, doing nice things for my husband, talking with my family, checking in on my friends, learning new dishes to cook.
A pandemic is not a good time, but I am learning from it, and it's forced me into a few uncomfortable places of self growth. Yeah, self growth is uncomfortable. It's also worth it. Without being forced to stay away from my job, I would not have realized the self-worth dependence I had on it. Do I miss it? Of course. Do I need it? No. My career as a boudoir photographer is now on my list of things that give me purpose,. It's not the only thing on that list. And should something in the future, God-forbid, stop me from shooting again, I know I'm going to be ok.
The images below were from a webcam session with Taylor Oakes. I felt very emotional while shooting this. Her movement plus the music playing felt like a physical representation of my emotions. Twisted. Defeated. Anonymous. Outcast. This session was a tipping point, and I wanted to share it now.