On Personal Growth and Taking Risks

Tessellated Pavement Long Exposure, Tasmania

For a long time I thought personal growth was something that just happened, along with all the other life events.  Every experience shapes us in different ways and we grow (or not) as a result.  It wasn’t something I considered that one might actively *work* at it, focus on it, have a goal or outcome to achieve.

Eventually I got older and wiser and realised that if effective personal growth was to happen, it did have to happen conciously, rather than subconciously.  Several factors influenced this realisation and a key one was being sent on a 3 day Dale Carnegie business course.  It wasn’t a do or die career moment but there was certainly an expectation that improvements could be made and in all honesty, it was a bit of a wakeup call.

At the same time came the awareness that my current career choice had a limited lifespan due to radical changes in technology, so I put some thought into it, did research, discussed with experienced people and chose to go back to school again in my early 40s.  Have since been studying project management part time for the last 3 years. This was a significant investment of time and money and a real risk.  What if I failed?  What if I couldn’t manage the workload?  What if I hated it and it was a bad decision?

Being an adult student has been an interesting experience, especially when you are in a diverse group of students, ranging from 18 year olds all the way through to me, some with work experience, many international students from all round the world.  I had to invest time and energy to attend class, do assignments, study for exams, all while holding down a demanding full time job, and also take time out for having a live too.  Mostly one that involved housework and gardening and very occasional trips to the movies.

Of course I have still maintained my photographic addiction hobby during this time, but due to time constraints and simple lack of creative energy, it has been less about going out with my camera and more about continuing the education theme.  Given my focus has been on learning, I chose to expand that umbrella and include photography as well.  After all, I was soaking so much information into my brain, no reason why some more FUN information couldn’t make its way in there 🙂

Truth be told, it has been a tough 3 years.  The sheer time studying takes is significant, not unmanageable but it has meant I was late to a birthday dinner and left very early because I had a major assignment and had struggled with a problem I couldn’t solve all day.  Ironically I figured it out when I got home and fixed it in a couple of hours!

My friends are amazing and supportive and now and then drag me out of the house to remind me there is a world out there.  For my birthday a couple of years ago they threw me a surprise picnic on my lawn cos they appreciated how busy I was but are AWESOME because they wanted to celebrate the day with me.  I feel guilty that I spend so little time with them currently, but I know they understand and I always make time for important stuff (like their birthdays!)

So if you had told me 3 years ago that I would be here today, I would have laughed and called you insane.  What do I mean by here?

Right now I have completed my 5 papers (and got two A+ !!) and am doing the research methodology course in preparation for doing essentially my thesis.  AND I am also studying not one but TWO Photoshop courses online (with another two courses I have started and need get stuck into) and I am LOVING IT!

I took a major risk with the first Photoshop course at Xmas time, it was on special and quite affordable but I had no idea what lay ahead.  Within 6 months I had completed half that course and JUMPED at the opportunity to sign up for the advanced Awake course and I am 1/4 the way through a year long course and its FANTASTIC.

The Awake course was financially a real risk, with the exchange rate in bad shape it cost me $600+ but having seen work from the original students in the course magazine, it was a risk I was prepared to take and haven’t regretted a single cent.  One of the best decisions I could have made, even if the timing has been a little challenging.

But I have learned so much, not just in knowledge, but about myself. I found out that if I am passionate about a subject I can read loads of textbooks about it.  Even branch out in new interesting directions, simply to explore and learn interesting new things.  Turns out I have truckloads of discipline, that I can and will study well in advance of deadlines and exams, I can put the work in and manage my time effectively as well. Oh and manage to lose 14KG at the same time!  Coleslaw and exercise!

Yes its hard to have to make hard decisions and compromises – do I stay home and finish my assignment or do I go to the movies?  It’s also hard to put your hand up and say “I don’t understand this”  or “I need help” but I also knew that if there was a real problem then asking for help was the only way past it.

In April I took another kind of risk, where I went on a solo roadtrip around Tasmania, covering 2000 km driving in 12 days.  Saw a great and largely unvisited piece of the world, didn’t get bitten by anything nasty, ate amazing chocolate and took loads of photos.  Had a wonderful memorable experience and would happily do it again.  Was I nervous of travelling alone?  Hell yes!  Was I going let it stop me?  Hell No!

What have I learned from all of this? 
If you don’t take risks, then you don’t end up somewhere new and you lose out on essential experiences to help you learn and grow. 

My next risk opportunity is to gamble on my ability as an artist and photographer.  I have a spot in a community art gallery in March next year to hang some images for a month.  Right now I am working on finding out about costs for printing and framing canvases and other options and then I am going to commit financially and print out 3 images and put price tags on them and see what happens.

When I have a good enough portfolio I am going to approach local galleries and design stores and see if they will feature my work.  I am going to put myself and my work out there and take a chance on people liking my work enough to buy it.  There may be a website gallery where online prints can be bought, cards, cushion covers, calendars!

Some things in life happen by accident or serendipity, unplanned and unavoidable.  It took me a long time to realise that if I wanted to have a life that was *my* life, that to take  active steps towards creating that life meant I had to actually DO IT.  To commit and  take some risks – making scary hard choices and following through.  So far I have been lucky (plus a fair amount of hard work was involved) and they have been good choices.

I am not the same person I was 3 years ago, and I hope that in another 3 years I am different again.  Words I never thought anyone would hear me say!

Have you had a similar journey?  Is there a moment that changed your life in some way?


About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
This entry was posted in For Beginners, Waffle and Burbling and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to On Personal Growth and Taking Risks

  1. Joanne says:

    What an amazing journey – kudos to you for your strength and determination. I would have been the one at the movies for sure but hopefully next year when I FINALLY get serious with these courses, I’m half as diligent as you. Wishing you all the best with your photographic endeavours, looking forward to seeing what you choose! 🙂

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks Joanne, yes I have worked hard at it, that for sure. But why are you waiting til next year to get serious about your courses……..?

      • Joanne says:

        Currently in the process of trying to sell and buy property in two different countries, then moving at Christmas (hopefully within same province). Hence there’s all the sorting and tidying to do here in preparation for “the” move. Hopefully down the road or worse case scenario, back to Australia (nothing personal – just don’t like the heat). Plus Hubby is about to leave for a couple of months working in two different counties. Add two teenagers to the mix , the tax that still needs doing and it’s busy, busy, busy. Not that I’m complaining, please don’t get me wrong, however it leaves me with in the inability to focus on anything else at present but the obvious. Next year – new place, new beginnings – aren’t you glad you asked, lol! 🙂

      • lensaddiction says:

        Wow you DO have a lot on your plate! Yes I understand when you have so much going on that you simply don’t have time or energy left over for the creative stuff.

        Good luck with all the moving!

      • Joanne says:

        Thank you so much! 🙂

  2. Robyn G says:

    You are an inspiration Stacey!
    This is such an encouraging post and thank you for sharing your journey. Wishing you success in all you are doing.. every step.
    I took myself back to school in my forties too. It started a chain reaction!
    You are so right about making choices. Thanks for the reminder 😃

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks Robyn, glad to hear I am not alone in my adult education journey – what are you studying?

      Late night meanderings of my brain and this post was the response 🙂

  3. loisajay says:

    What an empowering post, Stacey! You are right–if you like something, you can move mountains to do it! Congrats on the A+–two of them!!

  4. Sue says:

    Wow, what a journey! Kudos for learning later in life, and having the guts and determination to see it through!

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks Sue, its a lot easier in some ways because you have the maturity to understand the ramifications of failing, but for some people they have partners and children and other demands on their time. I don’t have that so I am lucky 🙂

  5. mmjustus says:

    The thing that’s always held me back is fear of things that rationally I shouldn’t be frightened of. I made a 14,000 mile solo car trip across the U.S. back in 1999. I had an amazing time, but people kept commenting on how brave I was to do it. I wasn’t brave by definition because it never occurred to me to be scared in the first place (bravery, to me, is doing something in spite of being scared).

    But I get scared of things that, in comparison (risk, cost, etc.), I have no business being scared of. Like spending reasonable amounts of money to market my books, learning Photoshop [wry g] (Photoshop absolutely terrifies me, and I don’t have a steady-enough hand on the mouse for it, but it would be incredibly useful for creating better book covers so I keep guilting myself about it), and other things that might actually help my real life. It’s stupid.

    • mmjustus says:

      Just adding another comment so I can click the notify me button. Sorry [g].

    • lensaddiction says:

      Yes people comment a lot on the fact I go out on photography trips by myself and I never really thought about it, but I guess to them it is unusual and therefore brave.

      I get a bit funny about attending social events when I don’t know anyone there – work events and stuff like that – thats partly my inner introvert and partly other things like social nervousness. Usually I end up having a good time but often I have nearly talked myself out of going to things when I should just front up and go. The brain is a strange place…..

      I never considered Photoshop terrifying as such, more just REALLY BIG and REALLY CONFUSING and complicated to use. Apparently Elements now has layers and is a much more cut down more user friendly version (and a lot cheaper) so you might find that a more approachable and manageable option instead of full blown PS.

      Thanks for stopping by and saying hi 🙂

    • green_knight says:

      The Fine Art Photoshop course – it’s pricey, but occasionally on sale – is utterly fantastic at demystifying Photoshop. (Stacey kept posting her pictures and I was full of envy – I am now halfway through and cannot praise it enough.) You’ll also find it much easier with a graphics tablet – a mouse, particularly on a PC, is a very imprecise tool, and very few people can handle it to their satisfaction.

  6. I take my hat of to you. Opening doors and experiencing other ways is good for body and soul. I also did some studying later in my life. I studied things I am interested in and always wanted to do. I am now a memory healer and qualified animal behaviorist, passed cum laude!.

  7. green_knight says:

    2015 has been the year for Learning Stuff Properly for me. I haven’t actually finished any of my courses yet, but I am at least taking them, and learning, and following instructions, and practicing. And I’m taking charge of my learning and instead of trying to do things that really do not work for me (and getting frustrated, and eventually giving up), I am finding things that I *can* do and that *do* teach me skills. I have graduated from ‘can’t do art’ to ‘not very skilled artist’ which is a giant leap forward.

    Your journey is inspirational; and I thank you for sharing it; your success with the Fine Art Photoshop inspired me to take the leap; and in one way or another that *has* changed my life.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Its the taking charge of your own learning and understanding what works and what doesnt which is really important – I may have mentioned it before, there is a book called Make it Stick which completely reverses everything about the way things are taught and what we thing about learning – it really resonated with me and you may well find it interesting

      I have infected a few people with my enthusiasm for the Fine Art Photoshop course, and I really hope everyone finds it as satisfying as I have and I am glad it has added value to your experience 🙂

      • green_knight says:

        I’ll check out that book; thanks. Taking charge is *scary* in many ways, not in the least because I frequently come up against people with long experience (and/or formal training) that make me go ‘this isn’t working for me’, I need to do [completely different thing] instead. It feels quite arrogant at times; but this is my brain: I know it better, and the results back me up.

      • lensaddiction says:

        I disagree, I don’t think its arrogant, I think its acknowledgement that you understand your personal learning style.

        I remember being about 10 at school doing maths, and I have always struggled with numbers but the WAY they taught it completely confused me, as an example I could get the right answer with short division but they insisted that we do it via long division which is where I got confused. I hated maths all through my schooling and now I realise it was because of the way it was taught and expected to be learnt. My brain simply didnt work that way but there was no latitude outside that. So yeah, I get it!

  8. What a fantastic post, Stacey! It was so good, I read it twice 🙂 Your story is absolutely, hands-down an inspiration to me. I seem to chase my tail in circles trying to find the time to get things done that I want to do, but end up never really getting anything done at all. I think I need your project management skills! In any event, I’m in awe and am now determined to get up from my chair, go over to my laptop, and start the first lesson in Photoshop Artistry!! So thanks for the much-needed kick in the butt 🙂 Can’t wait to see the rest of your journey unfold!

  9. ardysez says:

    What an inspiring story. Huge congratulations to you. All that you say is true, in my experience. You do have to have a conscious awareness in order to get the motivation to achieve. I also think that mature age study is the best. It helps with focus, awareness and motivation so much more than when we are clueless 20-somethings.

Love to hear your thoughts on my post!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s