What the ? / by Kendra Archer


Two nights ago I woke up sweating from an intense dream (or nightmare). It's rare that I remember my dreams, so when I do they hit hard. I found myself back at school in Paris, I had been feeling lost in Vancouver and decided to move. I felt I wasn't going anywhere and wasn't making it as a photographer so I put myself on a plane and figured round two of photography school would solidify it in me. I'd refresh my memory, gain more experience and feel a sense of productivity. As I sat in an office room waiting to see the school director I was overwhelmed with a sense of loss. What had I done? I was happy in Vancouver with the simple life I had, what the f- was I doing going back to school? Had I really just flown across the Atlantic to prove something to myself? To prove I was "trying" and not wasting away at a simple existence? Every part of my body felt fear and pain as I had just committed myself to a life I didn't want, only because I thought I should do more. In my dream state I wanted so badly to take it all back, undo the decision I just made and run away from that office room.

I woke up in bed with my heart racing. 

After I grasped reality, and looked around my room enough times to really know I was in Vancouver I breathed again. All I could think was "thank god that wasn't real". Thank god I didn't do that, or haven't done it yet - because it wouldn't be off character. I think that dream hit me especially hard because it is tuning into a thought process I'm trying to shake off. Spring is on us and the northern hemisphere is breathing again and waking up from it's wintery slumber. I feel almost as if I'm working backwards after having had a heightened winter I'm trying to relax myself into the season change, and relax more period. 

"You're not doing enough" might be the closest thing to a mantra I have right now, or have ever had. I'm very aware of the fact that's both terrible, and not sustainable. Yet I still haven't  completely let go of it. The dream I had shook me to the core - I could very well end up in that situation, or something similar if I don't change the way I perceive my life, my presence and my craft. I have already forced myself into commitments I didn't want, professionally and personally, in order to prove to myself, and I guess to the world also, that I'm not "wasting" time. "Look at how productive I'm being! That must be a sign of a well rounded person who's got their shit together!" I beg to differ. I find myself clawing at opportunities that might foster growth and gnawing at myself when I feel I'm being "idle". I'm attracted to unnecessary challenges, or uncomfortable situations because a part of me thinks my life should always be hard. It can't just be easy and enjoyable, I have to be conquering something at all times. I've come to know that my expectations for myself are much more robotic than human. Always be productive, never rest, don't relax, always be chipper. Never break down. Never break down (be furious if you do). 

As I look over the writings I've posted to this blog there is a very obvious theme. Self reflection, almost to a painful degree. I can't say when exactly this trend started in me - it's just a function of my personality. An analytical mind that is both beautiful and sometimes self destructive. As I come to understand myself more, listen to myself more and watch myself grow and change it is becoming easier to understand. I used to feel lost in these thoughts, slowly I'm starting to wake up to my own pattern. With this awakening comes an entire new challenge (perfect, another one!) to see it and question it. To no longer live in a constant state of anxiety, lack there of, not enoughs, and do mores but rather to counter those with breath, plenty, enoughs and do as much as you likes.  

To begin to see these patterns and acknowledge them has been the first step of the process, one that already has taken a long time. Now I find myself in the comfortable state of observing them, pointing at them as personal flaws and being too afraid to change them. Too afraid to jump in the ring and actually wrestle with them. It is a slow back and forth of two steps forward, one step back. Correcting negatives with affirmations, and challenging personal beliefs like those I mentioned in this post are the beginning to facing the fear. It is interesting to find myself in a place where I'm looking inward to be both scared and delighted by what I find. So much fear I feel in my life is self produced, how interesting to see that for the most part I'm the cause of my own nightmares. 

All of this means the world to me, and is where my passion sits. These acknowledgements of fear, pain, challenge and delight are what fuel me. As I have been pushing myself harder in these ways I am truly reaping the benefits and gaining a clearer sense of what I want in life: more of this. While photography is my medium of choice, I use it to foster conversations, much like the ongoing one I've created on this blog. As I discover different corners of my being I'm gaining a clearer picture of what my craft is, and what it's purpose is for me. I think story telling is a gift, and one of the greatest ways to heal - and I think imagery goes hand in hand with that. The more I focus on what I really want, and who I really am, the harder it is to accept anything less.

Over the last few months I've had so many new artistic ideas be born out of this process and sit with me so perfectly. With a bit of momentum the projects will be birthed in the upcoming weeks and a fresh new batch of photos should be seen on my portfolio. As much as I feel like I am being pulled, torn apart, thrown around and prodded by the experiences I've had so far into this year, I'm grateful. If I wan't to foster conversation, self reflection and observation through my photography I have to start with myself. I have to be a guinea pig of sorts before I can ask someone to sit in front of me and shed their fears, I have to shed with them.

Here's to the roller coaster continuing, the days getting longer, and the portfolio growing.