A few years ago, I was obsessed with photography for a few months. I found an analog SLR camera off Craigslist for $60 and ran around taking pictures of everything. For two months. And then it sat in my closet collecting dust because I quickly learned how a) SLR cameras are heavy and highly inconvenient to carry around, and b) film developing is super expensive. In the end, nothing ever happened with the photography, and what do you know, my older brother turned out to be the photographer in the family.
It did give me a bit of perspective, though.
I used to love taking pictures in macro view. It’s when you get right up close to the subject and you focus on the very minute details. My brother observed that some photographers only take pictures in macro view, and this abuse of the technique was for “amateurs.” This was totally the truth in my small foray into photography (which is okay because I’ve established by now that I’m no pro), but the thing is, I also find myself looking at life in macro view. I’ll be going along, doing something I love, confident in my direction and purpose, and then something happens that trips me up. A misstep here, a miscommunication there, and all of a sudden I’m recoiling, discouraged, hesitant and wracked with self-doubt.
I’m a singing teacher. I really enjoy it, and I happen to be pretty good at it. But sometimes, even the best teachers have bad days. Maybe the student is frustrated, confused or demanding. Maybe they’ve brought their own baggage into the lesson and decided to unload it on you. Maybe you’re distracted, tired, hungry. Last night, I taught one of those lessons when things were just not clicking. Normally, teaching leaves me feeling fulfilled and rejuvenated. Last night, it was different. Although the lesson still ended productively, I was left totally drained. I was discouraged. Whatever it was that the student came with, I absorbed it, and then put it under my macro lens and magnified it a thousand times larger than life.
Even people who are extremely gifted sometimes have moments when they hit the wall. But last night, I recalled that small nugget of unintentional wisdom that I had learned from my brother years ago. Macro vision is good sometimes, but not all the time. It’s a tool, a type of perspective, but only one of many. Sometimes, you need to take a step back and remember that your experience at this moment is only part of a greater picture. You’ll find highlights and shadows, brights and darks, and they are all inevitable, all necessary. Without this contrast, you’d be left with a blank wall. And blank walls are easy and neat, but nobody ever makes a gallery of them.