Time Isn't Infinite
Make time for those you love
Late 2019 my family and I transitioned home after about 11 years being away because of my husband's military service. We were homesick. We missed our family and wanted our son to grow up with his grandparents and cousins. Little did we know that 6-ish months later COVID would hit and spending time with family would be limited to almost nonexistent. I had lost my job due to a company merge right before COVID shut everything down and I was unable to find another because my son's school and childcare shut down shortly after. That fall, I enrolled in "COVID College", virtual classes through Nashville State Community College. I ended up seeking two degrees- Photography and graphic design, at the same time. I was taking more than full-time credit hours and had little time to do much outside of schoolwork. Some family were still not open to visitors with the virus, and, sadly, it became such a habit to not visit. When things started to return to some sort of normalcy, and school was resuming to in-person, my world became very busy and I didn't make time for those I love as much as I should have.
I became so obsessed with the idea that I had to do everything perfectly when it came to school. I put such a high amount of pressure on myself that most of my time was spent hyper-focusing on my school work and studying. Every day was filled with studying, shooting, designing, researching, etc. I would drop my son at his school and I would go straight to my school where I was in classes from 9am to 5pm. I would come home, cook, take my son to baseball, spend time with him, and the moment he was in bed, I was working on school work until 2am or later (there were a couple all-nighters!). I didn't make time for anyone other than my son. My life revolved mostly around my photography and design.
School was something that made me feel so alive. It was something I put so much work in and was seeing the rewards of the effort I put in. But, I was putting so much pressure on myself for everything to be 100% or perfect. Friends and even professors would comment on my perfectionism, etc. But it was like a fire was lit under me. I had something to prove... but I'm not sure what I was proving or to whom I was proving anything to. I have spent my whole life catering to others, and this was the first time I had something for me. I think that was why I was insanely passionate about everything I put out during my time at NSCC. While I don't have regrets on how hard I worked, I do regret not making time for those we moved home to surround ourselves with. It's now been beat into me to make time for those you love.
The past year has been filled with so so much loss. About a year ago we lost my grandmother after a very long battle with cancer. After she was comfortable with people coming around, after COVID calmed down, it had to be in very small spurts because the cancer had caused her to become so anxious. Our visits were usually constrained to about 30 minutes when we were able to spend time with her. I would talk to her on the phone some times and she was so scared of getting sick that she would request that the slightest sniffle would keep us away. I had an elementary schooler with allergies, who always had a sniffle. So we only had a handful of time with her. Toward the end, I kept telling myself to make time. To just go... but I had a kid with sniffles all the time and I was so hyper focused on my work. I thought I had more time. It went from, "We have maybe a year with her", to "We may only have a month", to me taking a day off to schedule me an appointment with my doctor with plans to visit her immediately after. Shortly after I was done with my appointment, I got a call, "You need to hurry to come say goodbye, she won't wake up". Mawmaw took her last breath about 5 minutes before I got there. I couldn't drive fast enough. Now, I don't have the ability to make time with her.
After the loss of Mawmaw, I was struggling at school with 1 teacher. When I went to her to let the teacher know I was struggling to keep my head above water after the loss of my grandmother, her response wasn't sympathetic in the slightest, but that she wasn't going to permit me in any other design classes unless I dropped the photography program. I felt as if I had a target on my back because I was a dual concentration and design wasn't my main focus. Other's saw it and often commented, "Why does she hate you?", "She really doesn't like you!", "I think she's mad because she thinks no-one should be able to complete a design program in 2 years and here you are dual concentration doing both". I was confused because I put so much of myself into BOTH programs and it was a big contributor of why I didn't make the time I should have to be with my grandmother. I then allowed this teacher to get into my head and created a heightened sense of failure. Instead of stepping back and make time, to catch my breath, I pushed myself even harder. I did make the decision to step away from design after realizing the program wasn't going to offer what I wanted from it, but that just pushed me even harder into my photography and setting goals to learn new things and push me out of the box I was safe in.
A couple months after Maw passed, I was working on a couple major projects for a creative photography class. I had 2 big concepts and challenges to solve with each one. I pretty much shut down everything around me, with exception of taking time for my son after his school let out for the day, baseball practices and games– aside from that, I was focused on nothing other than school. I was still in the design classes at this time, so it was a balancing act of being a mom, photography, and design. I had design deadlines and major photography project deadlines approaching. During this time, my husband's grandfather passed unexpectedly. He went to sleep and just didn't wake up. It was a shock. My husband's grandparents lived about 4 hours away, so visiting often wasn't possible. My husband and son went to spend a couple days with family there, while I stayed home with our dog and worked on projects and attend classes. I regret not taking that time with his family then. Instead, I drove up a few days later for the memorial and we drove home that night. I exceeded my expectations for my projects, even got some award nominations... but at the cost of spending time with those I love.
January 2023 started my final semester for my Associates in Visual Communications. I could see the finish line. I had my final portfolio to create and decided to basically start from scratch. At this time as well, I found out that one of my projects which was nominated for an award had won. It was so exciting. I felt as if the focus on my work made sense because I was doing big things and getting recognized. I was proud of myself, and being a perfectionist, feeling proud of myself is huge when all you see if failure in your own work. This drove me even harder. I was almost to the end of my semester and end of my time at NSCC. After that, I would have so much time to spend with family.
March came and my mother-in-law gets sick and put in ICU. No kids can go and only 2 people at a time are allowed in the room. So, I would come home from school and wrangle my son while my husband would go visit with my mother-in-law. I didn't want to take time away from him spending any minute he could with her. We thought she was going to come home. I would text her while she was in the hospital. Everything seemed good, they moved her to rehab (same visitation rules) and I told myself I would wait until she was home to visit so I didn't take time away from my husband going. I was sure she was coming home soon. She was one of my biggest supporters for my photography and I convinced myself she would be upset with me if I lost focus this close to graduation. I started prepping for my portfolio show for school and then graduation at the beginning of May. My mother-in-law was sill in the rehab center, but now she was no longer sending texts and every visit my husband had with her, she was asleep more than awake. She was wearing a bi-pap machine much of the time, so conversations were limited when she was awake. I was about a week from graduation and planned to go visit her the week after graduation because I could go during the day while my son was at school. The week after my graduation came and we were called in to say goodbye. We were told that she was actively dying. I didn't make time and I ran out of time, again. This time it hit hard and I am still struggling with it.
I pushed myself so hard to meet goals, I pushed harder to work through grief, all at the same time of repeating a cycle. I met my goals, I've created such amazing art and memories for families. I've come to realize that I have an amazing gift, an amazing eye when it comes to photography and creating a combination of photography with design elements. But in the process, I became a robot. The only time I took outside my work was what was required of me. I didn't make time for anything else. Even though my son was well cared for and loved, there was a lot of time I still should have given to him that I put photography in front of. In ways, I think it's great that he witnesses my drive, my passion, and the hard work I've put in... but at the same time, he is seeing me not making time for others, and he is seeing the pressure of putting the expectations of everything needing to be perfect. The past year has been the most rewarding and yet the most heartbreaking. I wouldn't allow myself to stop, not even slow down. So, after school was done and we lost my mother-in-law, it wasn't just slap to the face, I was hit with a wrecking ball of reality and grief.
If you have wondered where I've been photography wise, I've been working on making time. Time to process, time to grieve and heal, trying to break a habit of not making time, and creating quality time with my son. We did a mostly no daycare summer and had a summer with adventures and family time. We didn't spend as much time as I wanted with family, but I'm still working to break habits created by my hyper-focusing. I put my camera down more this summer, but also took time to capture raw, unposed moments with family. My son just started back to school, and I am going back to school to seek my bachelors, so things will get more into a routine over the next few weeks. I've promised myself that I won't get so absorbed into school this time. I have created a schedule of when I am allowing myself to focus on my studies, but it is not allowed outside the times I have set. I also am requiring myself to allow flexibility during the time I have study time scheduled. The school I chose is completely self-paced, giving me that freedom. Time isn't infinite.
Maybe "make time" isn't the best way of saying things... Prioritizing time would be better. I didn't prioritize my time in the way I wish I had. I've learned a very hard lesson that I can't make changes to. So, please, make time for those you love because once time is gone, you can't get it back.
I have opened booking back up, but on a limited basis, allowing only a few sessions a month. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please email me at email@example.com or visit my contact page to send a message. If you would like to see some of our summer fun, follow my Instagram, @ChristinaRush.Creative and Facebook page, Christina Rush Photography. You can also look for a blog post soon. Thank you for sticking with me!