Ever heard of a mid-life crisis? This is exactly what that is all about. Being a marketer for 10+ years, my career has not exactly been made of all the many “ups” that I had imagined when I was a student: looking forward to conquering the world.
Being resilient against the insignificance of work
Many of us have already been wondering what happens when your professional life becomes more and more insignificant. In my case, I had been watching myself drifting away for a very long time before I took action.
To what extent can you stay true to yourself when you are asked to act against your values and your work ethics?
Many of us have lived through those kinds of odd situations where you are asked to:
- fill in meaningless spreadsheets and briefing notes nobody reads anyway
- complete critical tasks “asap”, which often turn out to be deadlines of variable geometry
- do tasks in which you feel you are the least competent and efficient
- do activities with no obvious link with the overall strategy of your employer
More or less willingly, many people can find a way to tolerate this. I couldn’t. But, over time, I found out that photography, especially landscape photography, was a good way to espace these difficulties and remain positive.
If, like me, you are more of a creative person prone to self-doubt and anxiety (the infamous “impostor syndrome” in which you doubt your accomplishments and fear of being exposed as a “fraud”) and are attached to delivering the best work possible, these kinds of situations can make you crazy and, over time, feel pointless.
Year after year, job after job, I tried to fight this insignificance. At some point, my brain failed me – it had run out of creativity, was full of negativity – then my body. Burnt out. Game over. I quit.
From insignificance to meaningfulness
When you burn out, it often takes you months or years to recover. For me, it was a matter of months, thanks to the help of my loved ones and some good doctors. During this downtime I also realized I had actually started a new path towards a transition a few years earlier with the help of a very precious “coach”. The truth is I couldn’t bear any longer all of this nonsense.
All I wanted was to deliver a meaningful and excellent work. But how?
I was afraid to say so, but I had no other choice than to become a freelancer to make my professional life meaningful again.
Overcoming the impostor syndrome
The positive aspect of the impostor syndrome is you make every effort to feel like you deserve your job and are not that incompetent compared to your colleagues and peers.
Sadly, shiny appearances and “quick & dirty” actions are generally more valued than tedious background work. Being a (naive) marketer, I should have known that communication is rewarded more than action…
The more I turned away from shiny appearances and spreadsheets, the more I found relief in visual arts, especially photography. There came my first thoughts of moving on to something else.
But how can you switch from an area where you have an academic record and some concrete professional experience to another one where you have… well… nothing? Easy! You leverage your long-time Achilles heel, your impostor syndrome, to work your way up! This sounds easy to say, but looking back in time, when you burn out and reach the bottom, pieces start to come together in your mind. And soon after through a conversation with an old friend from university I discovered my true nature: I was/am also one of those behind the now infamous buzz word: “Asperger”. Like Greta Thunberg, obsessed with climate change, like my friend, obsessed with social and economic questions, I was obsessed too: with photography. And I had something very few people have that Greta beautifully summarized in a word: a “superpower”.
In our modern societies where everything is expected to be uniform, I do think it’s a true gift to be able to observe the world through a different mindset, in a simplistic approach, with simple and clear words. Especially when you know these people have been relentlessly working towards excelling in one area of expertise. Last but not least, being different as an artist is not only an asset, it should be a prerequisite.
Don’t worry, be happy!
Suddenly, I realized the biggest handicap that had damaged my professional life for 10+ years would become my biggest asset. You might say: “But hey Cédric, making photos is only creating shiny appearances you seem to dislike”. True and false.
Even though it doesn’t look so to the vast majority of people, a good photograph(er) is actually the result of hundreds, if not thousands of hours of patient background work. Little by little, step by step, I’ve worked my way up for a long time towards one direction. Until I realized that, even though I’m still far from my personal goals, I’ve built something bigger than I thought was possible. I didn’t know it yet, I didn’t want to see it yet, but I had become my true self.
That’s when I stopped worrying and embraced my passion as my new career.
I can now aim at excellence with no strings attached and on top of that I’ve found a way to express my sensitivity which – you may not know – is not the first of Asperger’s human qualities… But trust me, we have some too!
I am now convinced and thrilled to enjoy a new life, as an artist, as a photographer.
Photo credit: Pixabay