When I started working as a photographer in spring 2006, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Shooting high school lacrosse did not seem stressful nor did it seem like real “work,” but it was my first job as a photographer, and I stuck with it.
After nearly five years, I have been fortunate enough to shoot some of the most exciting sporting events in the world. I’ve traveled throughout the country and continue to live an exciting life fueled by touchdowns, slam dunks and close calls.
But unfortunately, I have to slow things down a bit. Trying to balance commitments to both a college education and a more-than-full-time job as a freelance multimedia journalist has taken its toll.
When I first started traveling, I knew life was going to be difficult. I missed birthdays, holidays and opportunities with friends, quickly leaving behind the “normal life” of a college student.
Being on the road so much has taught me many things: value the time you can spend with your family, manage your time and, most importantly, take care of yourself. If you do not take time to eat right, exercise and sleep, you’ll regret it just a few weeks into a busy football season.
I learned all of these lessons the hard way in the order listed above. After working my first football season and missing holidays, I made sure to e-mail my entire family updates on what I was doing, call them often and make sure they were doing well. After spending my first year in college, I learned to maintain a meticulous schedule to keep my grades and work in balance. And after covering the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, I learned that your health should be your top priority when working at the insanely high rate I was putting my body through.
What I did not learn — and am now learning the hard way — is how to take time for myself. If you do not learn to step away from the last-second, game-winning plays or constant travel, you will break down.
After numerous concerns from friends and family, and after seeing physicians and making appointments with cardiologists, I am going to take on the hardest job I can imagine: I must slow down.
This means graduating on time instead of a semester or two early, taking less assignments and trying to keep my stress minimal.
I am truly grateful for the large network of friends I have at the University of Florida and cannot wait to spend more time shooting the breeze.
This does not mean I will stop working; I’m pretty sure that would kill me faster than any cardiovascular issue. It just means I will take fewer assignments to give myself a chance to breathe between larger spans of work.
Learning this lesson early is much better than working myself to death and possibly having a more serious health issue later in life. Despite what many think, I am human. Although I have tried to disprove and will continue to attempt to add more hours in a day and days in a week, I will take a little more time for myself.
I’m positive this will not only improve my quality of life but also improve the quality of my work and education.
Now I just need to find a place to take a vacation.