I believe a lot of you have a similar story to the one I’m about to tell you. Creatives, crew, freelancers, side hustlers and dreamers. As we unwillingly traversed the last year together, we grew. Amidst all the panic and pain, we were given time to think, learn, and evaluate.
I have never in my life gone months without having anything to do at all.
Pre-pandemic Ina was not unhappy, but she had snowballed with such pace and momentum that she wasn’t actively choosing her path. It was just forward. She didn’t know how to brake, she didn’t even know she needed brakes.
My momentum was cash-flow driven, so when all my projects got cancelled one after another, I had the obvious reaction; Panic. But as I navigated the next chapter, I learned this.
It was empowering to fly all over the world, explore new places, meet new people, perfect my camera kit. I loved arriving in the hotel lobby, getting upgrades, rooftop cocktail bars.
It made me feel like a business badass. I’m not dismissing this feeling.
But my brain never had a moment.
The hard work, early mornings, long production days, and logistically running a company on top of it all exhausted my mind.
My brain was always tired, and all I wanted outside work was to relieve it. I’d do anything to dull and quiet the racing thoughts and never ending to-do list. Beers with friends, guilty pleasure tv, podcasts and music, I’m not dismissing these moments either because they are wonderful, but focus and quiet was hard for me. I needed something easy to occupy my brain so it wouldn’t scream.
Story time. I was with my family relaxing by a pool in the middle of nowhere. As we were laying down on our loungers with no music, no conversation, no food, just quiet, I managed to sit for about two minutes straight before my brain went into “these are all the things you should have finished by now” panic mode, and I jumped out of the chair immediately shouting to my mom “let’s play some yahtzee”. Her annoyed response “I don’t want to play yahtzee, I just wanna lay here in the sun, can’t you just relax?” No, mom, I can’t relax, I have no idea how to relax. My brain is exhausting. I need yahtzee.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the projects I was working on, I just didn’t have time to engage in them aside from the actual time it took to be on set or in the editing room. I had no bigger purpose than doing the best I could at that exact moment.
I was always meeting new crews and new clients at new places and finding new rental houses in new cities driving new cars, learning about new businesses and new mission statements and managing new marketing teams with no time to recharge. I was killing my introverted battery.
Ironically my Instagram account description was: “Always be inspired”, and I was never inspired. I didn’t have time to be inspired.
So when everything was taken away from me. All my paid gigs, all my personal projects I had committed to, all my promises to other people, all weekend plans and all travels, and I was left with nothing but my brain. But my brain was also left with nothing to worry about and no places to go. No deadlines, no call times, and no deliveries.
It was the wildest gift my brain could receive.
I’m not going to sugarcoat how painful those first months were. I had a panic attack in the car while stuck in a snowstorm so hard that I thought I had a heart attack, with no hospital around and stand still traffic. I thought there was a chance I was going to die in that car.
I spent countless hours crying in the bed. I spent other hours trying to drink it away. I thought I was going to lose everything I owned, everything I had worked for. I experienced real depression, and complete numbness. But to be reborn, you must start from scratch.
And help came from many places. Friends offering safety. Real talk with family. Getting tools from clients on how to work towards a balanced mind. Strengthening my relationships.
My brain did what my instagram had proclaimed all along. I got inspired. I became attentive. I opened up my soul. I slowed down. I could focus again. I could read, work out, meditate, cook, take fucking long walks and just receive.
With this gift I sat down and started from scratch. I didn’t touch a camera for months. I entertained the idea of never working in visual media again. I didn’t force myself to do anything. When work started trickling in, I took it piece by piece, knowing I needed my brakes.
September 9th, the day San Francisco turned orange, I felt the long lost urge to tell a story again. I wanted to document. I wanted to capture this. I grabbed a camera and I went outside.
The embers of my passion were patiently sitting there, ready to bring back the fire in my life.
My drive was back, with a vengeance.
I know you all have a story too. Let’s make a video about it, let’s take photos, let’s write a children's book or throw some paint at a blank slate. Or just get together and talk about it over a glass of wine. That was hard. This is still hard. This will be hard tomorrow too.
We can do hard things. Take your time. Your embers are resilient.