Why No One Talks About Loneliness – (photographer perspective)
by Rae Marshall Photography
This article is secretly a love letter to my cat. I was never an animal person when I was young. I grew up with a family cat in the house and thought I just didn’t take an interest in animals like other people did. My parents cared for pets, and I busied myself with school and whatever teens do. But something changed when I got my own kitten a few months ago. She became my best friend, not necessarily because I am crazy, but because she became my only daily companion after my move.
I met my future husband first day of my sophomore year of college. We were good friends for years, and somewhere in there he went away to Officer Candidate School and came back, and I didn’t think much of it. I never dreamed that I would be living the life of a military wife. I had always imagined a long-haired musician or a fashionable photography partner as a fitting spouse for an artist like me. In reality my husband once carefully hand picked khaki shorts and a beige shirt to wear in public.
I knew military life would be hard. Everyone tells you that. There’s constant moving, strict rules to learn, and your family’s needs are now second to the service. But if I had to sum up my biggest struggle thus far in one word, I wouldn’t think twice about my answer.
I moved away from my family, my best friends, the city I loved, and to top it off lost a constant client base that had made me so happy and busy. Instead I was suddenly in a small town with no friends, no knowledge of Marine jargon, and truthfully… I’m kind of weird for the typical military wife.
But feeling lonely is not specific to military life at all. In fact it is only one instance where I have felt isolated. My first destination wedding as a photographer was 3 years ago when I drove down to Santa Rosa Beach the day before my birthday. I was so excited to feel like a traveling professional, but I remember standing in front of the mirror in my hotel overlooking the ocean, and realized it was just me seeing the beautiful view. There was no one else with me to enjoy the things I got to learn, see or do that weekend.
Photo of me by Little Miss Creative Studios
Being a business owner is lonely. As photographers we wake up on our own time, answer emails, make decisions about our business model, deal with difficult requests, travel to and from sessions, cull and edit our images, decide what equipment to buy or not buy, struggle with taxes, teach ourselves new techniques, deal with pressure as the only person to blame or credit… everything we do is pretty much alone.
Thank goodness for the online photography communities we as photographers have access to, because without them I would be crying in a corner erry damn day. Many photographers and similar professionals must be experiencing this, but I rarely hear anyone talk these struggles. Why?
So WHY then does no one want to talk about loneliness?
Because based on what we’ve been taught, it means we are doing something wrong. We aren’t successful enough, or likeable enough, or doing enough if we admit to feeling alone in our social or professional life. On social media it means that we aren’t actually out with supermodels at a fancy studio every night. It’s embarrassing to admit because we think it makes us seem uncool. So instead we work to make our lives sound more exciting, whether we are catching up with a friend on the phone, or on our instagram feeds. And suddenly it looks like nobody ever feels alone… except for you.
But even though I’ve felt lonely many times during my adult life, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been incredibly loved and supported. In fact I adore my husband, have had incredible opportunities to travel, I LOVE my job, I have a close family and had the best bridesmaids and friends I could ever have asked for at my wedding this past year.
“The truth about loneliness is
you can’t prevent it by having a lot of friends or success.”
Life is hard to go through by yourself, and at the end of the day we’re all just human beings alone in our heads. We can’t be with someone all of the time. There is not a single one of us who can get away without feeling lonely over and over again in our lifetime. (well dang.) But isn’t it freeing to know that it will happen sometimes and that’s okay?
The hard part is remembering to get up with determination when you are at a low point and make yourself connect with someone or something. It is a LIE to tell ourselves that everyone is having a great time never being lonely and letting that stop you from reaching out.
SO HERE IT IS. I want to take this moment to thank my cat. Thank you for sleeping in my arms the night I got the call that I had to drive to a different city at 2am and take the first flight to LA for a stressful job opportunity. Thank you for being the first to greet me each morning when my spouse leaves at the crack of dawn and I probably won’t see anyone for the next 12 hours. Sometimes we just want to know someone else is there, and I want to be gentle with myself because it’s just part of being human.
Ask someone for help next time you can’t figure out the answer, call up a friend to see how they are doing today, or my best piece of advice, get a cat. We’re all in this thing alone together, and that’s strangely comforting.