break the spell of the typical

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Hold on… Hoooooooold on here…. what the FUCK am I doing??”

I’m very reticent to post this.  I hate “boo hoo” blog posts. My friend Jory has been urging me to get more real, to be more vulnerable. I thought I was being vulnerable over the last several years of blogging, but apparently only 85%…  85% of the truth still isn’t the truth.  Here we go.

My desk... where all the "magic" happens, or so I hope.

Today has been pretty mundane. I’ve been editing all day long. I skipped going to Metro tonight, I had to pass up on Heather’s invitation to hit The Hotel. Work must be done today.  I wrapped up editing on a boudoir shoot for a wonderful lady that came in 2 weeks ago. Honestly, editing was an arduous process. Toward the end, I got really excited about the results. I believe I created some truly exceptional images of this woman. I composed an email to notify her of her finished images. Once again, I felt proud to click the “send” button.  Now, I’m editing photos of my dear friend Jack and his newborn baby, John. On my left screen, I have Adobe Lightroom.  This program contains all of the work I’ve done for the last several years. Untold amounts of expended energy reside in those pixels. On the right screen, I’m watching episodes of The Voice. Yeah, you can say what you want about cheesy singer reality shows, but I like this one. I love watching people who are so heavily invested in making their dreams come true take their chances at making them a reality. Watching people succeed and fail – it’s a very raw human experience.  Both of my screens have a lot of energy going on in them.  Perhaps it’s watching these people take a shot at the big time, that has me feeling so pensive tonight…

self portrait, fall 2005, when the conversation with Steve took place. I still believed in things like God, Jesus, and true love when I took this photo.

I was born and raised In po-dunk Logan, Utah. During my time as a partner with Master Photographer Steve Mackley, he sat down and had a heart to heart conversation with me after we had closed up shop one night.  I don’t say this to brag, but just to set a context.  It’s not much, but it went like this:

“Paul, I’ve loved working with you here, but I’m just curious… What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?”

“Umm… just doing this! Shooting weddings and families and growing the studio”.

“I don’t know, Paul. I’m not sure if you are going to be happy just doing this  for the long term. You are probably the brightest natural talent that has ever walked through these doors. You are the kind of guy that, if you were to move to a big city, you’d make a big name for yourself in the photography world. It’s just something I think you need to think about.”

….and it left a mark inside me. I’ve always felt a faint whisper that bigger things beckoned, but it was easy to ignore over the roaring mediocrity of Cache Valley. Not long after that conversation, I made my exit from the studio, and ventured out on my own as a photographer in Salt Lake City. My first attempt brought huge failure. I’ll spare you the details for now.  I moved back to Logan for a while to work on another business. That failed too, and at a very high price. I made my way back to Salt Lake City and started working for the Post Office to get back on my feet, doing photography part time. Almost full time, really – I never slept for more than 4 hours / night during the 4 years I worked for USPS.  I burned untold barrels of midnight oil working on my craft.

I’m finally back to photography full time again – a few years older and hopefully much wiser.

Cow poo. Can you relate?

I’ve learned a lot about myself. Photography is one of my gifts, for sure. I have a few others that I’ve been discovering and developing. I’ve realized that my gift to the world, my full potential, will be multi faceted, photography being one important side of it. Some I wouldn’t call “gifts” yet – like the comedy thing. That’s just a big pile of cow poo that hopefully will let a seed grow, hopefully into a big tree, hopefully that tree will die, hopefully that dead tree will get burned into charcoal, hopefully that charcoal will get buried and put under millions of pounds of pressure and heat, and hopefully that cow poo will have eventually set the stage for a diamond.  Hopefully.

There are times – like now – that I feel like I am living on the very verge of failure.  I am paying prices that scare me to my core when I really take stock of them.  I am taking chances that are truly do or die.  I’m paying prices that cannot be recouped.

self portrait, April 2012. Not sure about the last 7 years...

In moments like this, I am sorely tempted to give up. I feel like striking camp, and returning back to Logan to live a “normal” life. To be like every other 35 year old guy.  To be around my kids and my family more. To sit and think about the dreams I chased for a while and eventually mothballed…. like most 35 year old guys.

It’s not that Salt Lake City is the field of dreams – but one thing is for sure: the things I’ve been able to achieve and develop so far would simply *never* have happened in Logan.

The yields feel too small sometimes. Sometimes, like right now, it feels like the dues I’m paying are far too high for the returns I’m getting right now.

In my heart of hearts, I know that I am on this planet to do big things. Bigger than Salt Lake City will facilitate. SLC is not my last stop. This is just a training ground for a larger market. I see myself in New York or Los Angeles. Or both.  But even now, those next steps feel so out of reach. I can barely afford to travel to Logan to see my kids every other weekend.  How in the world will I ever grow my boundaries to make spending time working and playing in LA or NYC a reality?

I pour my heart out in my studio and at my desk. I don’t dial in a single shoot. My heart won’t let me. I give it everything I have on that day.  When I’m not working, I play hard, I try to meet people, I try to stay open to the possibilities out there. I believe in the dictum: Go big or go home.  And I really try not to hold back. I try to give every situation the best I have. Day in and day out.  Day after day. Week after week.

Something’s gotta give. But I don’t feel like the universe is supposed to “give” me anything. I have to work for this stuff. I have to earn it. I just hope and pray that my efforts will plant seeds that will bear a good harvest that will allow me to grow beyond “the typical”.

“Typical”

Come on, can’t I dream for one day
There’s nothing that can’t be done
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone

Cause I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical, the typical

I’ve lived through my share of misfortune
And I’ve worked in the blazing sun
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone

Cause I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical, the typical, the typical

I’m the typical – I’m the typical
Can I break the spell of the typical

Because it’s dragging me down
I’d like to know about when
When does it all turn around

I’m just the typical – I’m just the typical

Yeah I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical

- Mutemath

Let me be clear: This is not a veiled pity party. I’m grateful for my life; I just get scared sometimes. I’m going to keep going. I put this out there because I know some of the rest of you feel called to do something higher, too.  I know some of you feel a stirring to rise to a higher version of yourself. The only thing that keeps any of us from greatness, is fear.  If it makes you feel any better to hear me say, “I’m fucking scared and I think I’m crazy, and I want to quit, but I just fucking can’t”…  if it helps you take even so much as one step toward your own greatness, I think that the time and energy I burned in putting this entry together will have been well spent.

Even that is a chance.

There’s a good chance nobody will ever read this.

Here we go again with paying inflated dues for uncertain returns.

Godspeed.

 

 

 

 

Paul Duane

Paul Duane is a photographer, writer, and talk show host based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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