“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” –e.e. Cummings
Each week we share a piece of us on our photographic journey. We have titled this series, “Courage to Grow”. We hope that our own soul searching will inspire similar introspection in our readers and that together we can make our best art and live our best lives. A few days ago, after visiting my parents in CA for the summer, we arrived back at our home in WA. I’m always nervous to return home after a long trip, as you never know what will have happened. How’s the grass? Is everything still there? Are there ants? Upon arriving, everything seemed fine. The house smelled a little stale, but I figured that was just from being closed up for two months during a heat wave. After about an hour back and reporting to my husband, who is in Italy for work, that everything looked good, I decided to open the fridge and see if I had left any Diet Coke.
All I wanted was to come home, relax and unpack. Why this?
A cold one sounded perfect after the long drive. I opened up the fridge and what was inside was something out of a horror movie. Rather than cold, a warm and encompassing air hit me and the entire inside was covered in mold. Along with the warmth came the worst smell I have ever encountered. The fridge was pretty empty, but the freezer was not and so we had two-month-old rotting chickens and stock just festering in our freezer. I ran outside and then started to cry (among some other things). After a long day, did I really have to come home to this? We have enough things going on, do we really need to now buy a new refrigerator? All I wanted was to come home, relax and unpack. Why this? My mom, who has a much kinder heart and stronger stomach, volunteered to clean it up, which was pretty incredible. While she was tackling the hazardous area with a mask, gloves and gallons of bleach, Nathan and I started looking for a new fridge. Through texts we found a fridge…but the earliest it could be delivered would be 3 days from now. 3 DAYS!!!! I called the store and told them our situation thinking there must be some sort of emergency clause, making it possible to get us a fridge today. Nope. 3 days. I was livid. What are we supposed to do for 3 days with out cold food? I have to drink water without ice and what? Eat top ramen every day? That coupled with the fact that the house still smelled of rotting flesh put me in a right cranky mood. After a little bit of calming down and a trip to the store to unwind and grab some snacks, it started sinking in that even though this situation was gross and lame…that’s about all it was. It wasn’t life altering or life threatening and while it was an inconvenience to purchase a new fridge and not have refrigerated foods for a few days, it was fine. After a night of open windows and my sealing the fridge shut with valve tape, the smell dissipated and a cooler and ice gave us plenty of cold to get us through the next couple days.
When my situation really sunk in, I realized how incredibly grateful I should be
I started thinking about my friends from Italy who immigrated from Africa. One friend spends his Sunday afternoons boiling water so he and the 6 men he shares an apartment with can have potable water for the week. Another friend, who escaped Libya with her life and nothing else, works tirelessly for others, many who promise to, but don’t pay her, so she can send money home to her 3 children in Nigeria. They live on nothing. I don’t even know if they have a refrigerator. When my situation really sunk in I realized how incredibly grateful I should be. I have shelter, money, a car, food, the ability to eat out every meal for 3 days if we need to, the ability to buy a new fridge and an overwhelming amount of comfort in my life (seeing as how I honestly didn’t know how I could make it for 3 days without a refrigerator). I decided that I needed to shut up, stop whining and just be grateful. I have so much in my life. I have nothing to complain about. I think that our photography could use a does of this philosophy. I can’t even count how many times I have heard, “Oh, you are so lucky. I wish I had a full frame camera. Then I could take the photos I want”. Or, “It’s too hard for me to practice all the time because I’m really busy”. My personal complaint/excuse at the moment is, “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to really get this perfect shot until I get the 24 1.4 lens”.
Be grateful you only shot one decent photograph in the last month out of thousands because you had the time and took the energy to try for thousands of clicks of the shutter
I normally try and refrain from attributing statements to everyone, but I am going to in this case. We all need to quit whining and just be grateful. Ask yourself these questions: Do you have a camera? Do you have the desire to photograph? Do you have Internet? Do you have something that inspires you? Do you have a brain, vision, hands? Do you have time? The answer to all of these questions is probably a resounding, “yes”. For the moment I am allowing no, “yes, buts”. Only “yes”. Just let what you have be enough and be so grateful for it. Be grateful that you have your old Rebel to fall back on when your beautiful camera dies and you cannot afford to replace it at the moment. You can still express yourself. Be grateful your work is horrible right now, because the more horrible you turn out, the sooner it will get better. Be grateful you only shot one decent photograph in the last month out of thousands because you had the time and took the energy to try for thousands of clicks of the shutter. When we can just be grateful for what is and not expect anything else, we will find our vision freed. We will discover ways to try new things, find more time and be more creative as we soldier on our journey. Our paths will absolutely not have everything we want. We will not have every piece of equipment we want, our vision will not always be realized, and we will often fail, but remember that pursuing art is a privilege denied to many and we get to experience that amazing pursuit. Be grateful. I promise that if we are, our art and ourselves will be better. These photos are all from our pizza picnic we had the night we got home. We watched the sun set and played in the backyard while we ate food we didn’t have to prepare ourselves. Amanda Voelker is a fine art and lifestyle photographer, focusing on capturing the fleeting moments of childhood. She is currently located in the Seattle, Washington area. With her children and light as her inspiration, Amanda finds beauty in the everyday and is constantly amazed by all the wonder in her life. She strives to capture the subtleties of human emotion and connection in a beautiful way that showcases both the moment and a piece of herself. Amanda is also the co-founder of 30 Minutes in the Life. Aside from photography and family, Amanda is passionate about the ocean, seeing the world, diet coke, reading, and chocolate. You can find more of her work on her website and facebook
Love this! Wise words, Amanda 🙂 PS — your mom sounds amazing!
This is just what I needed to hear. Beautifully written and photographed.
This is just what I needed to hear! Beautifully written and photographed.
Thank you so much, Amy. It was what I needed while writing it too. Always a good reminder.