I have no idea how this will come across. All I know is that I have to write this. I have to express how I feel, how dramatically my thought process has changed in the last 12 months and by sharing this perhaps it might spark something in you too.
After working my butt off for four years solid, I burned out. I lost my passion. My soul. My heart. I wanted to throw away the camera, throw away all the things I’ve been working on. Turn away completely from photography and go and live in a tree somewhere. Probably not the best option, but it was all I could think about.
Let’s take a step back and see how I got to that point.
For six to nine months of the year, weeks would pass where I couldn’t remember the last time I slept in my own bed because I was traveling so much.
Emails. Weddings. Personal projects. Work. Business. Networking. Emails. Facebook. Instagram. Accounting. Exhibitions. Emails. It was completely insane. Some weeks involved three weddings in multiple states, multiple time zones and barely 12 hours between the end of one and the start of another. Months went by where I spent more time in a plane than in my own house. Life was really weird.
You’re probably thinking right now “seriously, you’re upset over living such a life, it sounds like a dream job!”
Well it is… and was amazing. The incredible experiences I had, places I was lucky enough to go to, the beautiful couples I photographed. It was like a ‘happy drug’ every weekend going to photograph a wedding. I guess this is why it was so hard to see that working so hard was a bad thing.
I had “made it” to where I wanted to be. I had ticked every single business goal I had set out to tick. Studio in Melbourne, weddings all over Australia, destination weddings overseas, won some awards, got featured on some blogs and was even paid to speak to other photographers.
The only problem? I wasn’t happy. My life didn’t feel any better than it did in the previous five years. How could this be possible? I thought… “I’m successful, I have wonderful friends, I’m making money, I’m traveling, why am I not the happiest person on earth?”.
Probably because I was so completely buggered from the 70 or 80 hour work week. Probably because I never actually “switched off”. Probably because I didn’t have time to hang out with my friends on the weekend. Probably because I didn’t have time for my family. Probably because I didn’t have time to stare at a tree. Probably because I didn’t have time to ask myself what I really wanted in life.
Then something crazy happened. I was in Fiji for a wedding and a series of coincidences led to me meeting the Evisisi family. I had spent less than an hour with them and just knew I had to come back and see them. I didn’t know how, when, why or what for… I just knew it had to happen.
So after many emails, Skype chats and phone calls with a friend in Fiji, I booked flights. I packed my bag. I was going to live with the Evisisi family for 18 days.
I’d do everything that they would do. Sleep where they slept, eat what they ate, do things on the farm, go to church, head to town for groceries. Most importantly, I would understand what “fiji time” meant. I’d understand what it meant to “let my mind freewheel”.
Which has been, single handedly, the most important change to my life. That is, however, part of a different post.
It gave me perspective. It gave me the breathing space.
Suddenly I felt completely liberated. It was like this heavy dark cloud was lifted off me and I could finally see! I could finally realise what I needed to be happy. To be content. And it involved nothing more than looking inside myself.
Almost 12 months on I still have this feeling. Almost everyday. My attitude towards life is completely different. Free. Liberated. Happy.
And I have the Evisisi family to thank for it. They brought me into their home, allowed me to live with them, taught me (without even realising it) some of the most important lessons I have learned in life.
So, what on Earth could I do for them to even begin to return such a gift?
Do something for them. Do something for them involving photography. Maybe I could give them pictures. Maybe I could make them a book. Momo (the father) mentioned in one of our chats that he would love, more than anything, to build a house for his children. So they can have a proper house to live in, with doors, windows, a flush toilet. A home where wild dogs don’t run through the house at night. A home where they could have separate rooms for the parents and the children.
So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to build them a house, using my photography skills.
And you know what? This project has been the most rewarding, satisfying thing I’ve ever done in my career. It has taken more work than I would have ever imagined, but it warms my heart every single day just to try. Just to think about going back to Fiji and seeing Sulu’s face when I tell her what I’ve been working on. How the hundreds and hundreds of people have contributed to building their home. How this one little idea became a reality because other people believed in it too.
So far we’ve raised $18,000 putting us only $12,000 away from our final funding goal to be able to build the house. We’ve printed 400 books (only 200 of which are left) and we’re well on the way to getting into the second stage of the project – the design and construction!
If you think it’s a worthwhile cause, grab a book. By doing so, you’ll be helping build the Evisisi family a home and you get a book out of it! If you’re one of the awesome people who has already purchased a book then please share this around. We need as many people on board to help as possible. Every bit counts!
[UPDATE] You can now get a copy of the book via an instant downloadable PDF
To purchase the book click here (100% of the funds raised go directly to building the Evisisi family their home).