External pressure and expectations can be difficult for anybody trying to pursue a creative career. Social media, a necessary business tool, can make avoiding comparison and the “hustle mentality” nearly impossible, while conversations with other artists can either be incredibly uplifting or deeply detrimental. For some creatives, including myself, this pressure and guilt is compounded by forces beyond our control – such as chronic illness.
I’d like to make one thing clear off the bat: chronic illness does not make me any less capable of seizing opportunities and working hard. It does, however, mean that my life, including my career and my studies, requires much more careful planning than it used to. Chronic illness does not define my decisions, but it has absolutely shaped them. When one lives with severely limited energy, one learns to take stock of their goals and priorities on a continuous basis. In order to pursue photography, I make sacrifices in other areas of my life that an able bodied person may not necessarily need to. For example, on a day that I plan to shoot a show, I will probably choose to nap in my free time instead of exercise (particularly if I plan on working at my day job beforehand).
In my world, energy is a precious resource which needs to be managed wisely. I cannot work hard blindly (as much as I might like to and some days try to), for I do not have the resources to sustain it long term. Unfortunately, in a world that supports a hustle mentality over self care, I occasionally experience guilt in having to take things at a slower, more measured pace. While the guilt may be unfounded, I believe that it is important to acknowledge and respect. In the media, we are increasingly hearing of artists being encouraged to hustle, and pushed to the point of mental and physical burnout. While artists are by definition passionate, the exploitation of that passion has a limit . I suppose that in my own little way I hope that sharing my struggles will contribute to a more balanced culture surrounding work/life balance for artists.