An opportunity to transform blood, sweat, and tears into a new beginning.
It’s one in the morning on the first day of the new year. This time last year, we were in dire straits and I felt I put us there. Financially and emotionally: borderline S.O.L. It was all salvageable, but worrisome enough that even Mark Knopfler’s masterful picking wouldn’t cheer me up.
2018 was a year of possibility disguised as the scary unknown. When January rolled around, my wife and I had decided it would be best to phase out our videography business. Five years of doing one thing is heaven, if it’s the right thing. Five years is enough time to build habits, processes, and plans of attack. I wasn’t so much saddened by the decision to stop, but mostly concerned that our time had been spent heading down the wrong path for far too long. When you set out to do something, it needs to be something you believe in wholeheartedly. We committed to it for the long run because we thought we could make it a successful, long term career path and a viable future for our family. We believed in ourselves and that we had the resolve to carve a life on our own terms. After five years, we had our busiest year between weddings, recitals, and corporate videography. Regardless, we decided it was time to walk away.
I come from a family of freelancers, musicians, and hardworking women. My Apá is a musician and he, for a majority of his prime working years, was slave to festive seasons and touring schedules; always away, always at the mercy of la chamba. When we still lived in Mexico, my Amá hustled to keep us fed, clothed, and registered in the private Catholic school a few blocks from my Grandmother’s house. In memories besieged by the fog of time, I can still see her cutting hair in the early mornings of 1994 (while she worked her way through beauty school as well). I can see her cutting fruit outside my Ma Maria’s house, which was real busy in the middle of the day. She would sell fruit and shaved ice, as I meandered with the neighborhood mocosos, or the kid with the soccer ball, or sometimes with the older kids at the arcade down the street when I wanted to learn something unsavory about the world. When night came, my Amá moonlighted as a waitress for a brief time. The was a restaurant around the corner where they said two rats were possessed by the devil and danced to the sound of the Lambada. (We Mexicans tend to be specialists in hyperbole, so in reality, the occurrence might have been a less religious one and not-so cautionary toward the forbidden dance). Nonetheless, this is my lineage. We do not shy from work, but we could do better in the long term planning department.
5 years. 1825 days. 43800 hours. And so on.
Enough time to learn. Enough time to know if this was the right choice.
I was spending days and nights in the basement, in a tangle of wires and gear and makeshift solutions. Editing. Editing. And also editing. I thought I was doing the right thing, but I was growing exceedingly meticulous on my cutting. I would cut long form wedding films and my goal was to provide a timeless artifact of the day. I sacrificed turnaround time for a solid overview of the entire day. I was doing too much for too little, working myself into the ground when less would have sufficed. I should have committed more to my health and self-care instead of which angle to cut to during the ceremony. Which nose-picking bridesmaid to omit from the cut. What music to license for the highlight when I could have used the same music I licensed for the preparation montage. I would cut and slice my way around Premiere and cut myself up as well, under the impression I would dice my way out of normalcy. It’s never that easy, though. The plan wasn’t clear enough, the money wasn’t worth the strain on my family, and something about the business itself questioned and jostled at that trusty creative engine of mine until it cracked. I write this at the beginning of a new year, still feeling tired, and constantly thinking that I may not be good at creativity in any capacity at all. Running a business, even one of a freelancer in a forgotten area tucked away in the prairie, is a beautiful grind of investment in the form of sweat, tears, and among other things: time.
Making meticulously crafted home movies for strangers cracked my head open, my creative brain fell and it broke on the floor before I could catch it. All the while, my wife and son marched on and did the dishes and drew pictures upstairs without me. I can afford to give my work all the sweat and tears and the spare gas in the tank, but not my family time.
In fact, when we set out to do this, My wife and I figured out a way to work part time jobs, run the business, and care for our baby boy without a babysitter or daycare. Five years of hard work, but somehow we managed to find time. There was always time. As the business picked up, that precious time faded and I knew the choice would come between my little erratic business, and my commitment to the light of my life: my wife and son. We couldn’t make it work anymore. I couldn’t make it work anymore.
So in short, I knew exactly what to do when the time came to make a decision: Fuck this, I’m going to go get a 9-5, and when I come home during the week, I will play ball with my boy in the backyard, drink wine with my wife on the deck. And I will spend the weekends living and learning and making art because we make time for the things we truly love and can’t live without.
I will live the shit out of my life. I will stop surviving and start thriving. I will do the best I can with the time I have in this life I have chosen. I will change course without hesitation if it means my loved ones will be okay. Finally realizing this, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be okay now. Isn’t that what life is all about?
“Life is precious, every minute. And more precious with you in it.”Charlie Kaufman
Moving forward, my nights will be spent dreaming, and my days will be spent making those dreams manifest. Perhaps it’s my fate to think this way, but as the child of immigrants, I feel I have a responsibility to those who came before me to never become complacent. My Amá and my Apá worked way too hard for me to get too comfortable. Life is too precious to to stay rigid. I tried to make something work that didn’t work for me. I was a square peg round-holing. However, don’t get me wrong: If the desire, ambition and adaptability is present, square pegs find their way into the round hole quite often. It’s just not for me. I’d rather find a square hole that completes my incessant need to make art on my own terms. Now it feels like I can actually start writing improbable and ludicrous stories about dancing rats…
With the help of our amazing family and friends, we were able to transition from small business owners into full time employment positions in just over 12 months. It was the hardest year of our lives, but quite possibly the best one so far.
However, I bring no bitterness with me into this new chapter of my life. The efforts of one family to prosper and thrive are never thwarted by the universe. It sucks to feel like you can’t cut it, like your best shot looked lackluster at the heels of a jaded audience. But if I have learned one thing in this entire ordeal, it is the undeniable truth that the love and genuine good you bring into this world, no matter what form it takes, will find its way back to you. Five years have not been wasted. As I look back, mistakes and difficult memories transform into a landscape of discovery in my rear-view mirror.
So in actuality there’s not much to this journey: I shot and edited wedding films with care and sincere commitment for each of my couples and their families. In all honesty, I may wonder if it’s all been worth it. But a part of me tells me they will treasure their memories, and that they will share those moving images with their loved ones down the road. I gave those five years everything, not just behind the camera: Five years of love, commitment, and laughing at kid’s cartoons with my wife and son.
Those sleepless, dreamless nights of mine have their vindication after all.
So in an effort to continue this learning experience into 2019, I leave you with this mantra, in the words of the incomparable Jorge Drexler:
“Nada se pierde, todo se transforma.”
“Nothing is lost, everything transforms.”
Be well this coming year. May you find your path sooner than later, and let your happiness be driven by the love in your heart. You deserve it.
Also, make art if you have time to spare! (We working class humans require reminders so we can get that done too). #makeartmakehaste