This long overdue announcement was something I had been unintentionally delaying for too long this year. I started this letter months ago on an airplane and I am now sitting again at an airport, waiting for my four hour flight to Denver, in hopes that I will be able to finally complete my disarray of thoughts in one piece. Without a doubt, the last 12 months have been rough, packed with a number of life-changing events that have had a huge impact on my personal and professional life. One event led to another and I found myself going back and forth, questioning my actions and intentions over and over again, until I finally made a decision: I decided to pursue my dream to become a full time photographer, writer and educator.
As strange as it may sound to some, Photography Life has been my side project for a number of years. Although I have spent countless hours on this site, I never thought I would turn away from my career in Information Technology that I had been pursuing since my sophomore year in college. The thing is, I always thought that my true passion and love was for technology and everything related to it. I spent 15 years building my skills and advancing my career in one field, only to find myself taking a 90 degree turn and starting over on a completely different route with its own set of challenges. And it is not like I had to turn away from a bad or unsuccessful life. My last position as a Vice President of Information Technology in a reputable hotel management company was quite fulfilling – a job I only dreamt of as a child and something I could have retired from if I wanted to. I had all the support, respect and financial incentives to continue my career and yet there I was at 35, questioning everything I had previously accomplished and considering an alternative route. “Why on earth would you do that?” – was a typical reaction from my friends and colleagues. They had a hard time understanding the choice I was about to make. But my closest ones had seen it coming. They knew that I had been feeling empty for a while.
Why was I feeling empty? What more did I need that I did not already have? Have I been simply going through a midlife crisis? I was not depressed, not a bit. I am not in my forties+ and I don’t miss my younger days. I don’t look back and think that I have little time left – I stay optimistic when I think about my future, even if I am destined to live a short life. So midlife crisis or depression are definitely out of the question. I just could not see myself doing the same thing I had been doing for the rest of my life. Is that enough of a reason? For some people, it might be. For others, they stick to their choices and move on. I had been of the latter type all my life – I preferred stability over uncertainty. I have always been a workaholic. I just cannot exist otherwise. Probably something I inherited from my father, who was always restless, always on the move, always wanting to be an achiever (and he absolutely was). I put all my sweat and blood into every job I had, because I was raised to either do something well, or not do it at all. My hard work eventually paid off. I climbed up the ladders of the corporate world pretty quickly. I was featured in magazines and appeared as a guest speaker and panelist in various conferences. I could not complain, I had a great career.
And yet I could never get used to the routine of the corporate world. Working for someone meant adhering to someone else’s rules, even if I did not agree with them. I realized that I am a dreamer and making my dreams come true was tough when my goals were not aligned or shared with others. I found myself more and more like a lion in a cage and year after year, my cage was getting smaller.
I also found myself becoming part of a consumer society, doing what many others do – buying more and enjoying less. My annual income increased each year and I was not getting any richer. In fact, I had never been in so much debt in my life. I remember looking at my income statement at the end of last year, questioning how in the world I was able to consume a quarter of a million dollars in one year. I found myself with zero savings and close to $100K in debt. And I was planning to get even more debt for the next 30 years by buying a half a million dollar house. Having never owned a house, I wanted this one to be perfect in every way. Remember what I said about doing something well or not doing it at all?
I remember that day when I was driving home from my work. I had a layout of our dream house in my hands that I was planning to scan and send to the builder, with automated window shades, fully wired with TVs in every single room, vacuum system on every floor and all other modern conveniences one could possibly think of. Being a tech geek, this was going to be an advanced and modern house. While I was getting sunk in my dreams of owning such a house while sitting in a typical Friday traffic, I got a call from a close friend. He needed my help – he was having an anxiety attack right after leaving work. He could not breathe, he could not move. He found a way to get out of the highway and barely made it to a parking lot of a restaurant. I turned around and immediately went back to help him. When I arrived, he was laying in his car and breathing heavily, thinking that he was about to pass out. I moved him into my car and we went straight to the emergency room.
My friend had a great corporate life. He recently had a child and he bought a nice house he always wanted to have. A couple of days earlier, he accidentally found out that the company he worked for for so many years as a manager was getting sold. Aside from a couple of people in the company, nobody else knew what was going to happen to them. Most corporate employees were about to be terminated and his position was going to be eliminated completely, along with many others. With the job market looking at its worst in the tech industry, he knew that the layoff would get him hurt badly. He was barely making his ends meet with the new house and the thought of losing his job made him panic and caused the anxiety attack. By the time the hospital was ready to admit him, his anxiety attack ended and he came back to his senses. I took him home and talked to him on the way, trying to do my best to ease his feelings. And that’s when it finally hit me – I saw the same pattern in my own life. I was doing exactly what my friend and many others do – become a slave of the modern capitalistic society. A never-ending vicious circle. Consumerism at its best, embedded and engraved right into my soul. I came home that day with a firm decision: no more debt, no more slavery.
That evening, I sat down with my wife, told her about what happened to my friend and asked her a simple question: “How happy would you be if we abandoned our way of life, got rid of the debt and lived a simpler life?” I told her about my plans to quit my job and do something completely different for a change. I told her that it is our choice to be happy and we should always be. She reminded me of the days when we just met, living in a small apartment without a single piece of furniture. We had nothing. My car was a Mercury Topaz that I bought for $750 cash from a neighbor a few years back. For the first few months after we got married, we slept on sleeping bags. “Those were the best days of our lives and we were very happy”, she reminded me. I remember those days like yesterday and it is hard to imagine that it was 9 years ago. So much has changed in between…
But life is an ever-learning cycle. I am actually grateful that Lola and I went through all this, because it gave us a taste of different lifestyles. It is a relief when you do not have to worry about putting food on the table, but it is a burden when you think about losing your job and paying off all the debt you have accumulated over the years. I was just being irresponsible in front of my family and my kids, since those were my choices.
That’s when we collectively decided that it is time to change. Move away from the life we have gotten accustomed to and start a new journey. Forget about the dream house. I quit my job.
Money was never a goal in my life. I never wanted to be rich, because I grew up in a wealthy family and did not associate money with happiness. Before my father became a politician and later a successful businessman, our family was tightly connected and we cherished every day. Then came the days when my father would come home, sleep for a few hours and leave. We never got to spend time with him again. Eventually politics, power and money corrupted him. He started to drink and things went downhill from there. He lost everything he had in an instant. He became an alcoholic and passed away too soon. Not a good ending for such a great man. He was the one who taught me not to ever chase after money, that money will come if one works honestly and hard. I witnessed a truly great man’s rise and his demise. He did not stick to his principles and ideas, although he spent his entire life preaching others. Nevertheless, I learned a great deal from both his success and failure. Even when I had my tough times cleaning toilets for less than the minimum pay, I remembered his words of wisdom: that life requires patience, hard work and persistence.
My aim is to be able to balance my desires in my life, so that my focus becomes a worthy ideal that I can be content, excited and happy with.
My wife went through similar struggles in her life and had her days of chaos, choosing to grow up by herself in the US. That’s probably why I connected with her so fast after meeting her for the first time. She went through a divorce and she was not looking for another failed romance in her life. And yet when I met her, it was love at first sight. I was looking at a woman that was going to change me, a woman that finally gave meaning to my life. I proposed to her the next day we met. She thought I was crazy, but I never felt more confident in my life. She was the one for me and that’s it. After a week of my persistence and hours of conversations and lots of no’s, she finally said “yes”. We have been married for 9 years now, have 3 beautiful children and we love each other more than ever. She has been my greatest supporter and we helped each other grow.
Balancing my corporate life and Photography Life was hard. For the past 3 years, my typical work day was about 18-20 hours long. I loved Saturdays, because those were the only days when I could sleep for more than a few hours. Don’t get me wrong – nobody forced me! I did it because I loved it. Writing and teaching is something I had always loved and wanted to do. Seeing someone succeed thanks to my guidance and efforts gave me much more meaning to my existence and motivated me to do more. So I did.
My dear reader, why am I telling you all this? If you have made it this far, you probably found something in my story that connects with you. I want you to know that this site is not just something I started for showing off or for luring you into buying a product. None of that matters to me. I want you to know that I am just like you, no better than you in any way. I am just an ordinary guy and I truly care about what I do and love every part of it. And I truly do care about you – every single reader that comes to this site, no matter what age, gender, social/political status or religious choice. I am proud to have a team of like-minded people who went through their own struggles in their lives and have even better stories to tell. We are all humans, we are all prone to errors. I cannot tell you how many times I have made mistakes and have been plain wrong. It does not scare me or hurt my pride to admit my mistakes. I do not have a sense of superiority that I am the source of ultimate truth and knowledge. I believe that we cannot succeed without making lots of mistakes. Success has no meaning without failure.
And that’s why I chose a new way of life. Photography Life is now my only focus. I have faith in this project, because knowledge is power and spreading knowledge is even more powerful. I can promise you that things will only get better from here – there is no other way. Thank you for being our reader. Thank you for coming to this site and sharing your knowledge. Photography Life unites us all with one purpose: to learn and educate those that want to learn. Be inspired and inspire others.
I would love to hear your story. I promise, I will read and reply to every single one. I always read comments and your emails, even if I don’t always have the time to respond.
Once again, thank you. You are the source of inspiration for me every day.