Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Eternal Master of Red Light, Green Light Is Hoping To Stutter Step

No this has nothing to do with the awesome kids game that we all remember along with Red Rover, Duck-Duck-Goose and TV Tag, I wish it was though.  It has more to do with my innate ability to start and never finish things.  And I mean everything.  My gut says "green light" and I run like hell.  My gut says "red light" and I stop on a dime.  I think my guts been effing with me for 33 years now.  From menial tasks around the house to career changes, I start them and never finish least not that minute...or hour...or week...well, you get the idea.

I'm not sure when exactly this started.  I don't recall a ton of these happenings as a child but I do remember a few, like when I wanted to learn to play an instrument.  I was in 5th grade and a lot of my friends were getting into band (no band camp stories here...sorry) and I thought it would be cool too.  My father was actually happy about the idea, aside from the fact that he would have to pay a monthly rental fee for whatever instrument I chose, which turned out to be the sax.  My father is nothing if not frugal, it's cliche but his favorite four letter word is "f-r-e-e".  And I don't mean as in "Free Nelson Mandela", no just anything for free or an amazing (often too good to be true) bargain - like the VHS camcorder he bought for $50 on a corner in Manhattan that turned out to be a box full of saw dust and newspapers.  So needless to say I got the instrument version of the dog speech.  You know the one:

"If I get you this dog (or instrument), then I expect you to walk (practice) and feed the dog (learn your instrument) everyday.  I am not going to walk the dog (practice) for you, and if you start to get lazy then we'll just give the dog away (return the instrument to the store and pray for some pro-rated refund)...blah blah blah".

Of course I agreed to the rules and had no intention on breaking them.  But I was 12 years old.  I was trying to do something cool with my friends.  And for what it's worth, I hung tight, practiced, studied and performed (may be overstating the truth just a smudge there).  But by the end of 6th grade I wasn't really into it anymore and wanted to quit.  My father was predictably furious as by this point he could have simply bought the sax a year and half earlier and at least would have had something to sell.  Instead we just went back to the store and returned the instrument, and to his further disappointment there was no pro-rated refund.

Fast forward to 2006.  My wife (then girlfriend) and I were living in Pacific Beach, a neighborhood of San Diego.  I was really into music, at least listening to it and lots of it.  I was working as a salesman for a CD and DVD manufacturer (not exactly my dream job) and was reaching that point we all do where I was ready to go do something else.  But what?  I was decent at sales, but I had no real love for it.  I wanted to be passionate about whatever my next venture was, that's all I knew.

While chatting with a friend from Manhattan, we got into talking about music production - specifically beats or the making of.  And that financially and practically ignorant bulb went off in my head.  Why not become a music producer?  The new equipment was all computer based.  I knew how to use a computer.  I could drop $5K and be set near professional level.  Although I sucked at playing an instrument, I thought this could work.  I knew what I liked to hear, I just needed to find a way to recreate it.  In my pea sized head, it was going to be that easy.  Jon Krakauer sums up my mentality beautifully in an excerpt from his book Into The Wild (1996):

"It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough , it is your God-given right to have it...I was a raw youth who mistook passion for insight and acted according to an obscure, gap-ridden logic". 

The problem is that I was 27, not 17.  Most people I knew were well on their way to a real grown-up careers in law, medicine, education etc.  Yeah sure, some folks I knew were still waiters at the same place since college or rolling around in the same cul-de-sac of employment that I was in.  So I dropped the $5k and swore I was going to figure this out and make my passion my profession.  

Since I am writing a blog as a stay-at-home Dad, you can guess that I am not the multi-platinum album producer that I was sure that I was going to be.  But I still love to listen to music.  And I still have the production slide board and midi keyboard in storage.  For what? I don't know.  Probably because, giving it away or selling it truly means I failed.  Which I undoubtedly did.  I guess it's just the finality of it all and the symbolism.  I have the turntable I was going to pull samples from dusty old records too.  I argue with my wife roughly three times a year over keeping it and the few records I have left (I got rid of a few crates about 6 months ago).  And every time we argue, I start playing some records again and she rolls her eyes.  The problem is that now it won't play on my stereo for some reason and I think my wife sees a light at the end of that tunnel.  We'll see.

Enter current day.  I just got accepted into a course called "Photographer in Training" (or PIT).  20 or so people apply and 5 are chosen based on a number of things, but it appears that passion for the art as well as a desire to make it a real business is what gets you in - plus a darling personality, which I have in bushels as you have no doubt noticed if you have read my previous posts.  After taking a few classes with this company and relearning my DSLR, I was hooked.  I already take pictures of everything my kids do, I just wanted to take them better.  Then that old light bulb went off again and I'm standing next to the deep end of the pool with no arm floaties, the lifeguard is busy sexting his girlfriend and I'm ready to jump in.     

I have the passion.  I've been into photography since my senior year in high school.  An old friend got me into it and gave me a crash course on how to use a camera, he even let me borrow his old Pentax and some film to get started.  It was love at first click.  I know a lot of people out there don't get photography as an art.  Like my wife for example thinks that some pictures are nice, but photography as art escapes her.  Not me.  I love the idea of capturing an image that while may be standard, when shot in a different light, angle or a subject interacting with it tells a story.  Great photographs tell a complete story without words.  I want to tell those stories. 

I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't scared.  Not about my photography.  I think I take decent pictures now as a hobbyist.  I know if I work at it and put in the time that my pictures will get better.  Will I be in the MOPA?  Probably not soon, or even ever.  That's not really a goal of mine.  I want to take pictures that my clients will be wowed by.  Pictures that they want to hang in their homes that other people will see and be wowed by as well (and then hopefully call me to set up a shoot).  What scares me is where will my head be in 12, 18, 24 months?  I've never been this sure of anything in my life - except for when I wanted to play the sax or become a producer.  The fear of failure, or worse, the loss of passion is the only difference this time and I think that fear is a good thing.  If my brain starts saying "red light, red light"!  This time I want to see what it's like to keep going.          

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