Guest blogger, Mariah Ashley, presents the second of her three-part series, "THE TRIFECTA OF TROUBLE - How Three Big Mistakes Created the 'Perfect Storm' and Almost Sank the Snap! Weddings Ship." Make sure you read part one, The Tale of the Tin Pig, A Cautionary Anecdote first!
Part Two: Guts: Hate 'em, Spill 'em, Trust 'em.
My son is a freshman in high school this year, which is weird because it feels like just yesterday I was the one in high school. Maybe that's because last night I was in high school... my son's high school... for parent's orientation. Whomp.
A throng of anxious parents, including yours truly, all got our children's schedules. Then we proceeded to wander the halls like thoroughly disoriented, frightened tourists looking for Period A class. I finally found Biology I, Room 451, though not in the allotted four minutes because I took a wrong turn at the cafeteria and ended up in the janitor's broom closet.
Finding my seat as the bell rang, I noticed myself breathing a little irregularly (and not just because I was sprinting away from an angry janitor). It seems like I was having some kind of I'm-back-in-high school-and-it's-not- a-terrible-reoccurring-dream-it's-actually-happening anxious episode.
As you may have guessed, I did not peak in high school. I was not homecoming queen. I was not the most popular girl. I was not friends with the most popular girl. I did however have the unfortunate privilege of sitting next to the most popular girl in home room for four years. We'll call her Shauna Dee.
For me, every morning subjected to the luminescent wonder of Shauna Dee was a depressing downward spiral of impossible comparison followed by dark self-loathing. Okay, maybe it wasn't really that bad, it was only 720 days of cheerless despondency but who's counting?
In those days, a.k.a. the stone ages, a.k.a. 1986, when I was in high school and no one really cared about a child's self esteem, the PTO would offer carnations for sale on Valentine's Day. Student's (the expectation here being the boys) could purchase red carnations to be delivered to the girl of their dreams in homeroom. Yes, you know what's coming next.
Every year some poor volunteer would have to lug a wheel barrel full of red carnations into my homeroom and empty them adoringly on Shauna Dee's desk. Every year like a dope I would hope that one of those scraggly red blossoms would have my name on it. Every year it didn't. Double Whomp. One year Shauna Dee took pity on me and gave me one of her flowers (because she's an angel) and it promptly snapped leaving me with a long stem in one hand and a stubby bloom in the other. Whompity whomp whomp.
Don't be too sad for me, wipe those tears! This tale has a happy ending. Senior year Shauna Dee, beloved by faculty and students alike, was caught cheating on a History exam! Gasp! Her fall from grace was a sound heard round the world (although it just sounded like tinkling bells because she's an angel, remember?). Now, now, don't get all, "That's not nice to revel in Shauna Dee's misfortune on me." That's not the happy ending, I haven't gotten to it yet.
One day soon after the fall of Shauna Dee I was walking along in the hallway minding my own business and guess who said hello to me? That's right! Shauna Dee! Not only did she say hello but she also asked me a question. It was the strangest and saddest question that anyone has ever asked me. A question that completely changed my perception of myself, Shauna Dee, and the value I had placed on the social ladder of high school.
She asked, "Mariah, do your parents hug you?" just as matter-of-factly as you can imagine!
I said, "Yeah, they do. All the time. It's kind of annoying." Very cool.
Shauna Dee just looked at me and nodded a little nod and turned down another hallway.
What a monster you are thinking! Mariah rejoices in this poor girl's lack of intimacy with her parents. Calm down, that's not the happy part either. The happy ending is the lesson that Shauna Dee taught me which is this, If you think the grass is always greener on the other side, maybe you just need to water your own lawn.
You may be asking yourself what does watering one's lawn and the tale of an angel fallen from grace have to do with a mistake that almost sank the Snap! Weddings ship, Part Deux? Well I'll tell you.
GUTS, more specifically hating other people's (Haters Gotta Hate) and not trusting my own.
There have been times this year when much like sitting next to Shauna Dee in homeroom all those years ago, I have felt envious of other's photographer's (fill in the blank here with any of these words; success, skill, talent, popularity, shoes)... you get the green eyed picture.
Sometimes it is hard to watch others seemingly rocket to the top while you are left plodding along. What I found was that the more time I spent looking over the fence at what my neighbors were doing, the less time I spent creating my own brand, cultivating my own style, and watering my own lawn. I'm never going to have Shauna Dee's awesomely bad 80's wardrobe. I'm just not that girl, but I am a girl who has guts.
From fear and desperation I recently pulled a Shauna Dee, i.e. copied off another photographer's paper. I'm not proud of it, but fear can do crazy things to a photographer. The cheating incident involved a seminar with a photographer who offered their price list for sale. I had been reworking and struggling with my pricing recently. I felt in my gut that it was cheating to purchase the pricing and I debated it for oh... about one second before I shelled out the $200.
Excitedly (the kind of excited where you are getting away with something you shouldn't) I opened the PDF document to discover the secret pricing magic recipe of the Shauna Dee of wedding photography. What I found was shocking. The pricey pricelist was exactly the same as my newly reworked price list. Not kidding. The philosophy, the structure, the actual prices...the same! Almost to the penny. Except I just flushed $200 down the drain because I didn't trust my gut. Whomp.
Moral of the story? Stop comparing yourself to others and don't look at your neighbor's paper for the answers. Do these two things and you too can have G.U.T.S. (Gigantic Unbelievable Total Success). I no longer waste my time stalking other photographer's blogs, I spend that time crafting my own. I'm not paying anyone for their cheat sheets either. I studied the material myself and I'm confident I know what's best for my business.
A side note: I didn't have to go as far back in the time machine to learn a little about guts. I could have learned something about guts this very morning when my naive freshman son went off to school wearing a cowboy hat. We live in Massachusetts. Not Montana. Now that's some guts.
Epilogue/ A Future Screenplay
A high school hallway circa 2013. The camera pans past a closet and a trash can to a lone janitor, broom in hand sweeping up the scattered shards of self esteem left behind by some naive teenage boy. The janitor adds the debris to the contents of the trash can, one newly purchased yet recently discarded cowboy hat.
Fade to black.