Looking back at my time in the corporate world, I am both grateful and torn. My project for my photo class this semester is an exploration of finding me. Initially I wanted to combine fashion photography with struggles of things I’ve gone through or changes in my life that have occurred. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a model but I’m working towards finding one for my next shoot. Anyway, so because I couldn’t just not shoot anything, I turned to my typical models… My dogs.
This semester and its project is going to be rather liberating. It’s probably going to upset some people in my life, but this is something I have to do for myself. These photos go deep within me and stir emotions in me that I’ve been trying for so long to understand. My last 3 years at Aetna, I worked from home. In my first year, I traveled a lot, performing in services and on site visits, but the last 2 years of working at home, I rarely did any traveling; rarely meaning I may have traveled a handful of times. All of the people I worked with were 10+ years older than me. All of the people I went to school with were 5+ years younger than me. In my 4 years in Chicago, I made one friend. Aside from her, I was isolated. I never got out of the house. I sat on my butt all day in front of a computer and gained 25 additional pounds. The winter months would come and it was dark, cold, depressing, etc for months on end. I never got out in the world and exercised. For awhile I started running, but it was on a treadmill in my office, which didn’t get me out of the house. My husband was working all day and had a 4 hour daily commute, so when he was gone, he was gone for 12 hours at a time. I’d get up and no one was there. I’d get off work and no one was there. I’d wake up and do the same thing day in and day out. I’d get up and go sit in an office all day. My last 9 months at Aetna, I took a job working for Aetna’s Tricare segment, which ultimately was given back to Health Net so there was no more need for the Aetna Tricare employees (which is why I was laid off). Because we were waiting in the wings for the DoD’s decision on whether or not to give the Tricare contract back to Health Net, there wasn’t a whole lot of work to do. When there was work to do, I’d jump on it and before I knew it, I was back to not having work to do again. My days began getting much longer. My limbo seemed to be endless. The only thing I could tell myself was that nothing lasts forever and that someday it would have to end. I’d sit as a zombie in front of my computer for 8 hours hoping for an email that needed my attention, or an announcement about the Tricare decision, or a phone call that needed my attention. Anything to keep my mind off of the fact that my life was so dull. My house was big and beautiful, but it felt like a dungeon. The sun went months without shining. Some days when it was overcast, the sun would peek through the clouds and I’d go lay in the sun spot, even if only for a minute, so I could soak up as much as I could before it was gone again.
Going through this made me start thinking more about my life and what I wanted for me. I started thinking I had to do something to keep my mind off the incessant limbo that WAS my life. I began thinking about how much my parents pushed for me to go to school for business and how I would never make money with an art degree. They’d say, “Look at your cousin. She has an art degree but can’t work in her field and now she’s working two jobs to support herself.” They were so proud of me when I got my first job within Aetna and they heavily criticized me for not “doing enough” to keep my job when the layoff came. What decision did I have? It wasn’t up to me. I trusted that God would have His way because I could NOT live my life for my parents. I remember it like it was yesterday when I told my parents I wasn’t going to pursue a bachelor’s in business. It was as if the world stopped. I understand the need for parents to worry about how their kids will support themselves, but I will never, and I mean EVER, push my kids to do something they don’t want to do. I see them doing the same thing to my older brother who has finally made the decision to go to college and I told my mom last weekend, “You did the same thing to me and eventually got over it. That’s probably what you’ll have to do here.” They should just be proud of the fact that at 28 years old he’s finally decided to go. If anything, more and more people need to realize, regardless of if their parents will be angry, take away their promise of paying tuition, say you can’t live under their roof anymore, etc, because you’ve made a decision to pursue something you love over going to school for something you dread, it is worth all of the pain you will go through to be free from a future you would have ended up living for your parents, instead of for you. Your parents don’t live your life. YOU live your life. I’m so glad I made the decision to do what I want with my life. I’m so happy I got laid off. It truly was the best thing that could have happened to me. No I don’t make the money I used to, but I never lack anything. I still have a wonderful roof over my head, a nice car to drive, food on the table, a husband who loves me, and everything in between that I both need and want.
Sorry for this long tangent, but these are the things behind the below few photos and the types of things to come with this project. I’m only posting a few because they are all film photos that were scanned and spotted (which takes forever) and I feel like choosing the stronger photos to show is better than choosing a few strong and a bunch of mediocre photos to show. These photos represent the pain of being in a world where I felt like I didn’t belong; a world that felt unnatural for me to live in. They represents the darkness and despair I felt all of those times where the sun never shined, the darkness of being in isolation and all of the things you wish you had or could do, feeling like they are so far away. They represent the pain of disappointing the two people who have raised me, but the freedom of taking my life and running with what I know is right for me. The story doesn’t end here. The story doesn’t end until my heart stops beating. I may not have the paycheck and the retirement benefits, but I have my freedom. I have my life. I have my happiness.