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Work/Life Balance: Weddings

Work Life Balance 1I spent this gorgeous Memorial Day weekend in Williamsburg celebrating the marriage of my dear friends Evan and Sarah. It was a beautiful affair not just aesthetically but also in terms of the love that emanated from the happy couple, their family, and the gathered friends. I love weddings. Judging by Facebook (which we all know isn’t actually the most reliable source of information to judge by), I attend fewer weddings than most people my age. Up to this point I haven’t been able to determine if it’s because I’m unpopular or I just know fewer people getting married. For my self-esteem, I’ll hope for the later. But one thing that stays consistent with my wedding-going is my involvement with wedding videography and that’s when things start to get complicated.

The gorgeous couple. I got to tag along with the photographer Dani White during the pre-wedding photoshoot. This is one from the shoot. Click on the picture to visit her website!

The gorgeous couple. I got to tag along with the photographer Dani White during the pre-wedding photoshoot. This is a one from the shoot. Click on the picture to visit her website!

Whenever a friend asks if I’d consider doing their wedding video, my initial reaction is excitement. I feel honored to be asked to do their video (although when I think about it, I’m usually one of the few people they know who does video on a professional level). I also experience the “creative burst” of a new project where I have a hundred ideas of how I could most effectively execute everything and try new techniques.

But then reality sinks in. If I’m videoing a wedding, I can’t REALLY be a guest at the wedding. It’s hard to balance the two without feeling like I’m either missing out on the fun of wedding or the parents of the bride/groom are silently judging me for not having a camera attached to my hand at every moment. But I can’t have a camera recording every minute of the wedding. First of all, I don’t have enough battery life or memory for that. Second, there are only so many tender looks and sweet dancing that you can film before it becomes repetitive and boring. And then there’s also the fact that my job doesn’t actually end when the wedding ends. I’ve still got days of sorting through footage and editing to deal with. So if I’m actually invited to the wedding, why not enjoy some of the awesomeness of one of my close friends tying the knot?

This is my "Buddy Family" from college. We are amazing and awesome and love the color purple.

This is my “Buddy Family” from college. We are amazing and awesome and love the color purple.

This is (just a slice of) my BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministries) family from William & Mary. We couldn't even all fit in the frame.

This is (just a slice of) my BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministries) family from William & Mary. We couldn’t even all fit in the frame.

Somehow we all accidentally coordinated. I suppose green is a school color...

Somehow we all accidentally coordinated. I suppose green is a school color…

If you know anything about me, you know I’m an intense person. If you ask me to do something (like film your wedding), I’m going to do it and do it well. I’ll even forget that I’m supposed to be having fun because you’re my friend not just my client. That’s an unfortunate reality of my profession and well known skill-set. My hope though is that you don’t mind me trying to have fun at a wedding I’m working for a friend. If you see me put down my camera and dance for a bit or eat a slice of cake, I hope you don’t judge me. Or think that I’m a bad videographer. Just because I’m getting paid doesn’t mean I lose my invitation privileges.

The funny thing is though, besides some distant family who don’t actually know that I know the bride and groom, I don’t think anyone actually judges me. I’m the only one judging me! I’m the one that feels guilty for eating cake or dancing a song with my friends or not filming ONE dance because how likely is it that something SPECTACULARLY different is going to happen this one time. And if it does and I miss it, is it really that much of a travesty?

I’m always my biggest critic.   But at the end of the day, I just have to tell myself that my work is a wedding gift to them in a way. While I may get paid, I put heart and soul into it. And I do it in lieu of some of the fun and carefree times I could be having. And that’s okay. Because it’s all a celebration of love and happiness in the first place.

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On Writing Resumes

Resumes 1I’ve determined recently that I don’t know how to be a grown-up. I wish they’d required a class in high school or college called “Grown-Upping 101.” That would have been extremely useful now. Instead, you’re left to gather important information haphazardly as you go along. Sure you could read books and study cases online, but you almost need to take a class on how to determine what is worthwhile information on grown-upping and what is just a sneaky way of someone trying to steal your money.

If you’ve read my blog “Waiting on the World’s Approval” then you know I’m job searching. But then I’ve been saying I’ve been job searching for about a year and a half now. The only thing that really changes is my level of desperation and feelings of defeat and hopelessness. However, now I have reached a peak point of desperation where my life in general, not just my job, are not to my liking, and to get to the place I want to be, it requires a new job in a new place. So here I am writing resumes and cover letters and salary histories and demo reels and work portfolios.

       I hate it.

Resumes 2            Everyone I talk to says they hate it too so at least I’m not in the minority, but I also feel like I’m bad at it. Like I’m an incredibly creative person, but resumes and job searching call for a certain level of formality that I can never quite decipher. But on the flipside of that, for someone working in the entertainment industry like me (or at least the fringes of it), I can’t just list my experience and personal information in Times New Roman black and white text. I mean, I could, but I feel like my likelihood of getting a call back would diminish even more.

So then how do you create job-catching resumes and applications without driving yourself insane? Everyone online has their own answer. Do this. Don’t do this. Use this font because it’s professional. NEVER use Comic Sans on anything. (Okay, that’s actually good advice). Make sure you ALWAYS include this (which varies from source to source). Don’t be too girly. Don’t use red because it’s intimidating. Don’t be too bland.

Ugh! There’s no end to the “advice.” One of the few things I’ve really taken away is that you have to decide what you want to stress and commit to it. A jack-of-all trades resume isn’t really all that helpful. You have to show that you have a very specific skill set that basically matches exactly what they’re looking for to even get a call back. What happened to hiring people who might not have everything they’re looking for but have a proven record of learning fast and exceling at whatever they do?

Also, writing multiple resumes—basically a different one for each job—is necessary. This one I can’t argue with that much. If you have a wide range of skills, tailoring them specifically to each job makes sense. But I tend to run into the issue of time constraints and lack of confidence in what I’m adding to my resume. When I have to redo my resume every time I apply, I get burned out and discouraged really fast.

Resumes 3My overall problem is that I hate job searching. I hate resume writing. It destroys any bit of self-confidence I had previously built up for myself. And I can only do it for so long without any responses before I go insane (aka quit job searching). And that’s the opposite of what I want to do! I need to get into a rhythm and keep applying until I successfully find something! Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. Resume writing and job searching is always going to be a struggle for me. It’s always going to be a vicious cycle of building my confidence up only to tear it down only to need it built up again to successfully snag a job. I feel like I go in endless circles. THERE IS NO ESCAPE!

I mean I hope there is an escape. Life is much more awful than I realized if there isn’t. But it still feels hopeless at times. So how do you survive? How do you deal with job searching and resume writing? How do you not go insane?

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Wayward Brothers and The Shadow of Family Shame

Wayward Brothers

You know those picture perfect families? The ones that all go to church together and have regular family dinners even when the kids are grown and off living their own lives? The ones who call or text each other relatively regularly to catch up on life? The ones that miss each other if they’re away for a while?

I don’t live in one of those families.

Not that perfect families even really exist, but there are certainly better functioning families than the one I call my own. While I love my family dearly, they have a lot of flaws—one in particular I’d like to address here because I know I can’t be the only one suffering under this shadow. That is, the shadow of family shame.

My parents and grandparents have always loved to be very vocally proud of my brother, Colton, and I. Part of my father’s job is sales so he’s always going into people’s houses, getting to know them better, and sharing stories of his own children’s accomplishments. I’ve especially made it easy for him because I’ve carried the mantle of the “Good Girl” for as long as I can remember. I do all the right things. I got all the best grades. I went to a prestigious college. I work hard at my job in my field of study. My brother…not so much.

He’s never been very interested in school. He had a free ride to college through his private high school but didn’t keep his GPA high enough to keep the scholarship. He quit working about 8 months ago and has been living in a 2-bedroom apartment alone (because his roommate moved out and he refused to look for another one or move with his roommate to a new place) with my parents paying his rent for the past 5 months. He was diagnosed with bipolar depression about a year ago but refuses to take his prescribed medication, show up to psychiatrist appointments, or go to therapy. He has serious anger management issues. He expects my parents and grandparents to pay for all of his expenses when he refuses to work and throws hysterical fits if they don’t. My dad has tried to have him work with him (in construction), but Colton typically spends the day whining about everything, aggravating my already exhausted father, and sometimes even walking off the job without a word to anyone.

Simply put, he’s a mess.

And it’s hard for me to sympathize with him but so much because we’ve always had a tumultuous relationship. I’m 5 years older, which created a disparaging maturity gap while growing up. The most friendly relationship we’ve had occurred once I went to college (more than likely because I wasn’t around most of the time). I felt like I understood his needs and frustrations with my parents a lot better when I came home for summer and winter breaks. However, when I moved back home after college, that connection was quickly lost. And when he moved out 6 months after graduating high school in 2013, our relationship crumbled into something nonexistent. He only contacts me if he wants something. (Most recently, it was for a $1000 loan that he SWORE he would pay back in a month because he’d be making LOTS of money by then. I’ve loaned him money before and never been paid back so I tried to politely decline causing him to be angry with me ever since. Even showing up at my birthday party and eating a free dinner without ever acknowledging my presence.)

Though what bothers me the most about the entire situation is how my family deals with it. They are terribly ashamed of the turmoil my brother is currently living in. They talk about it amongst themselves (or rather, they OBSESS over it, discussing meaningless details into obscurity), but they refuse to talk to anyone else. They’re embarrassed. They don’t want to be judged. So rather than looking for help and opinions from a pastor or friend, they continue to ruminate on their own minimal and exhausted solutions (which consist of, “give him money until he turns himself around” and “don’t be too harsh on him because he’s very sensitive right now.”) They blame themselves for my brother’s situation. They didn’t love him enough. They didn’t give him enough attention. They didn’t drill the “right things” into his head hard enough. They’re terrible parents. But it’s not their fault! Well, some of it probably is if psychology has a say about it, but the situation he’s in now—no job, no income, living above his means, no education—that’s HIS doing through and through. He stopped working. He stopped going to his psychiatrist appointments. He stopped taking his medication. When he’s 20 years old, it’s a bit more difficult to force your child to swallow his prescribed pills.

And I can’t take the guilt! I feel like I’m living the Prodigal Son’s parable except it’s before the Prodigal Son is even anywhere near coming home. And I know we’re supposed to learn a lesson from and not be like the older, “good” son, but I certainly can see where his annoyance is coming from! Like I went on vacation with my family last summer, more than likely the last beach vacation we’ll be able to take as a family. My brother decided he had to drive separately so he could “ride around.” Being the impatient person he is, he smashed the back corner of his car into a cement support beam in the parking garage as soon as he arrived late Sunday night which started him on a spiral of despair. He refused to come out to the beach with us and instead stayed in bed all day long. And once he left, my parents discussed his situation non-stop until one night at dinner I finally had to call them out on it because I WAS STILL THERE. They had been ignoring me all week. Unless I had something to add to the “What’s wrong with Colton and how do we fix it?” discussion, I doubt they even noticed I was there. And this bothered me because I had made special arrangements to take a whole week off work during a busy time and spend it with them. The least they could do is talk about something other than my brother, right?

If you can’t tell, I’m feed up. I don’t want to be harsh. I don’t want to be a jealous Prodigal’s Sister. But I also can’t stand the pity he gets. The special treatment. The rewards he receives for not making an effort. Because I know if the situation were reversed in even the slightest way I wouldn’t get the same kind of treatment. I’d get screaming and guilt trips and no one caring about “hurting my feelings.” They tell me the hard, cold truth and move on.

I know no family is perfect. We probably all have “Wayward Brothers” or some variations of one in our families. We all witness familial unfairness and special treatment. But I do think it’s important to be honest about your family. It’s not worthwhile to sweep our spider webs into the corners and pretend they’re not there. I know it’s embarrassing to admit that you don’t have a perfect family. But perhaps we wouldn’t even want one if we were more honest and began to realize that we all have our family problems.

I wish I had a solution for my parents. I wish I knew the magic way to “fix” my brother for them. But I don’t because I’m only human. And I’m just as flawed and imperfect as he. I’m just not draining their bank account. What I wish they could get over though is the shame. Accepting something as a problem—no longer letting it shame you into an embarrassed burrow—can really be the first step to fixing it. Once you stop hiding, denying, and making excuses, you can actually start to change. I wish they could see that.

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Waiting on the World’s Approval

Waiting on the Worlds Approval 1

When I was in 5th grade, I received an award for making all A’s in all my classes for the entire year. I remember wondering why everyone was making such a big deal out of it at the time. People (e.g. my friends’ parents) said things like “Maybe Kaitlyn will be Valedictorian” which started me on a path to a deviously veiled self-destruction. You see I took those comments about being Valedictorian to heart. People actually paid attention to me. They knew my name. They thought I was smart enough to accomplish something seven years in the future. That’s a dangerous thing to tell a 10 year-old with an empty void of self-confidence.

So I spent the next seven years trying to live up to that expectation. I worked myself academically to the bone. I agonized over every point on every test. I studied on weekends and holidays and rarely went out with friends because I had a single goal: BE VALEDICTORIAN. But why did I have this goal? Why did a few, encouraging comments when I was in 5th grade cause nearly a decade of misery for me?

What I learned after escaping my cycle of academic torture (as Salutatorian, unfortunately) was that it wasn’t really about the glory of being Valedictorian. It was about what everyone would think if I wasn’t Valedictorian. All I cared was that people still believed in me. That people saw me as the intelligent, hardworking, and creative girl I was. And those comments when I was 10 gave me a path to ensure people saw that girl.   Because that’s where I drew my self-confidence. If people believed in me, I believed in myself. If people liked me, I liked myself. If people thought I could accomplish something, I thought I could accomplish it too. But without someone outside myself telling me that I could do it, I floundered in confusion and darkness.

But why would such a strong, independent, intelligent girl like myself think so destructively? Why would I have such low self-esteem when my parents loved me and should have instilled in me the greatest level of self-confidence? Why did I still hold on to a seven-year-old comment like it was God’s word? Why did I even care what other people thought in the first place?

These are all questions I asked myself as I came into my own in college. Where I excelled academically for the joy of it, not to impress anyone. I felt my self-confidence grow, and I vowed never to go back to that scared, dependent girl again. I am more than my grades.

But then there’s the now. The nearly 3 years post-college when I’m still living at home. Still working the same job. Still going to the same church and living the life that 2 years ago I went into therapy saying “I don’t want to keep doing this. I’m bigger than this town or the opportunities here. I need to move on for my happiness and sanity.” And recently my therapist pointed out a hard truth to me: that I’m letting my lack of self-confidence and my desire for the world’s approval get in my way of moving on again.

I want to make the RIGHT next decision. I want people—my parents, grandparents, local community acquaintances, Facebook friends, church congregation—to think my next step is worthy of this Kaitlyn that I’ve constructed for them to be proud of over the years. But I put up barriers for myself. Something is always more pressing than job searching. I can’t leave now because too many people depend on me. I don’t want to dip into my savings account because that’s for emergencies and this isn’t an emergency.

I want to be the good girl. I am the good girl. I have been. I did all the things right growing up. And I went to college. And I came back home after college to help my family and show how grateful I am for their support. But now I’m stuck and jaded and miserable.

My therapist wonders why I don’t just move. Why I don’t go take a risk, make a jump and hope for the net. I want a better job in my field, and I’m not going to be able to find it here. I want to live near my boyfriend and stop this ridiculous long-distance thing that’s been going on for too long. So why don’t I just go? Surely I could find a job once I’m there because I’m a talented individual and I wouldn’t have the toxic environment of my home life (where I’m 25 but treated like I’m 16) weighing me down anymore.

Well, because that isn’t a good enough reason. I can’t just leave my nice, paying job when I don’t have another lined up. I can’t just move to another city to be near my boyfriend. I have to move to a place because of a new job, a better job so no one can say I just moved for a boy or I took an irresponsible risk and I was raised better than that. I can hear my church congregation talking about me—about what a disappointment I am, that I’m no better than the average small town girl, chasing after a guy. I can hear my parents whining about how I’m just running away from them, from my problems, that I moved out too soon, that they taught me better than this. And I can’t stand the thought of disappointing them all. I can’t handle all the horrible things they might say about me behind my back. I just want them to approve of what I’m doing with my life!

So because I don’t know how to make them approve of what I want out of life, I just remain frozen. But I also don’t want to be 35 and still living at home which my therapist used to joke about when I first came in, but now seems like a very real possibility considering how three years have gone by in a blink with zero change.

I’m stuck in the middle because I need that approval from the world. How I wish I could just say “F*** it!” and do whatever I want and believe that it will all work out. But I’ve never been like that. I have to analyze every tiny little decision because if I make the wrong move—even the most miniscule one—I know someone will be disappointed in me. Someone will stop believing in me. Someone will think less of me.

I wish I had an answer for you readers, both for myself and for anyone else who can relate, but I don’t. My therapist suggested setting a deadline of Labor Day for myself. I’m an incredible student. Tell me a deadline for a paper or project and I’ll have the whole thing mapped out so I can be done early. She knows that, so she wants me to try this strategy. But it’s still a matter of making myself BELIEVE that this deadline is real. That it’s like a term paper is due then. That if I don’t make my deadline THERE WILL BE consequences—like perpetual misery and personal disappointment. So all I have right now is hope. Flickering, fleeting shreds of hope.
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