We’ve all heard about Work Life Balance. It’s a simple enough concept broadly about keeping things in check, ensuring that one focus doesn’t overtake another. The truth is that life is a lot more complicated than keeping a couple of things in check, a couple of hundred might be more accurate. When you really take a moment to analyse those things, are we really in balance and control? Is control merely an illusion?
I announced a project at the start of the year called “Project Me”. It wasn’t a photography project, it was a re-focussing on myself – quite difficult when you’re married, have two kids (one disabled) and a day job that’s just about as challenging and stressful as they come. A substantial part of that job is managing a very large team of people and the older I get the more I realise how important they all are, how their own lives intertwine and inevitably directly affect mine. I’m not like other managers I’ve known, I can’t switch off those relationships when I get in my car at the end of the day, those experiences shape who I am. The more people you feel like you’re responsible for, the further you place yourself down the pecking order and I had de-prioritised myself for far too long.
At the start of the year I was 47 years old, weighed 19st and was dreading my 48th birthday. That dread had been with me for a long time in truth – it wasn’t really centred on my birthday but was more of a continuous depression, well hidden at times, less so at other times. I hadn’t been happy with myself or in myself for a long time. That manifests itself in ways that create self-defeating ever decreasing circles. Example: if I’m not feeling strong mentally, I might approach my photography somewhat distracted, almost expecting to fail. I feel uninspired and then I fail to deliver. This leads to further dissatisfaction and pointlessness because the output is poor, leaving me questioning the one thing that gets me away from all of the other pressures of life in the first place, the thing that’s meant to be the escape has become the enemy. Again. Thus, ever-decreasing circles and the balance has gone.
I started the year like any other with zero expectations and no particular ambition. I hate the idea of New Year resolutions because if you’re going to do something, then do it, you don’t need a date to pin things to. I’ve always been like this – my belief is tomorrow can be like today, or it can be different to yesterday – the decision is completely in your hands. One week into the New Year I unexpectedly read an article in The Independent about a HGV driver called Adam Moffat who had lost an incredible 12st in weight. Suddenly it didn’t seem to matter how, it’s just that it was possible for someone who performed the job that you’d think this feat would be almost impossible for; a HGV driver who literally sat down all day where there was limited to zero opportunity to do anything but that. It grabbed my attention and I decided it was time to do something for myself, Adam was the living incarnation of self belief and “Project Me” was born. By the way, I’m writing this not out of some self triumph (besides I’m not finished yet by some way) but in case you feel the same, it’s all in your hands – hopefully this might inspire someone just as Adam’s story did for me.
For too long, I’ve worked against myself and I’ve created so many problems for myself. My addictive personality and more than moderate OCD makes me approach things a certain way and that combination can be incredibly destructive or a force for good like you wouldn’t believe. When I’ve turned these characteristics on myself in the past (and it’s not as simple as they way I’ve just made that sound) I was able to stop smoking on a whim (some 18 years ago now) and lately stop drinking alcohol too which has been somewhere over a couple of years. Those same characteristics also drove my photography to improve and has got me to a certain level in my career that doesn’t leave me feeling unfulfilled at least. I decided that a change of lifestyle was the way forward and somehow I’ve channelled that deeply competitive side of me once again. At the time of writing I’ve lost just under 4st in weight since the start of the year and the less than unexpected effects are remarkable. I’m turning my own fitness on its head and its a revelation; I bought a water rower and already have genuine aerobic ability. I also bought a set of free weights and I’m now building power I can’t remember having thanks to an excellent coach I found on YouTube. I used to wake up in pain, I couldn’t climb stairs properly, my joints were knackered but worst of all I didn’t care. Inevitably this was limiting my ability more and more…
Today I bought a North Face fleece that was a size ‘L’, and it fits. I don’t remember buying anything without an ‘X’ or an ‘XX’ on its label for close on 20 years I reckon. Shopping has been as miserable and depressing as anything else, but not today. Today made me feel normal. Today represented genuine progress and that is shaping my mental reality. Once you feel like you’re capable of anything, you’re released from everything holding you back. I now weigh 15st instead of 19 but I want to get to 12 – I’ll let you know once that has happened but it will be months and months yet even from here. So what difference has it made to my photography? ‘Liberating’ I think would be the most accurate word. ‘Confident’ is another. Culminating in some images this week where I was happy with what I’d produced, that I’m seeing things again that are close to somewhere I want to be with an artistic view of the land.
The balance is being restored and it’s a force to be reckoned with. If you’re in a similar position to where I was I highly recommend that you re-think your future. Like Adam, I’m managing to make changes that are only positive but the first thing you have to do is to stop lying to yourself, then stop beating yourself up and after that focus on improving yourself. Drop me a line if you want to hear any of the specifics.