Alison Brown Photography | Perspectives on Transitions

Perspectives on Transitions

August 01, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Transitions are hard. Sometimes they feel never-ending. Sometimes they are forced due to circumstance, sometimes they are intentional. I've always been someone who's craved adventure - letting my heart lead the way, not worrying so much about stability - really taking in everything the world had to offer. When I was in my twenties I felt inspired to take big risks - I felt brave enough to move across the world to Australia on my own in search of a different life. After I graduated from UC Santa Barbara, my mind was open and free and I felt compelled to dive into life and see how much juice I could squeeze. Another thing that was also nagging me was the fact that American values had never really aligned with me. I hated the corporate culture, the short vacations, the fact your job owned you, health care wasn't a human right, no respect for the environment, relentless greed and entitlement, materialism, consumption... it was exhausting. I had also recently lost my father after a painful battle with alcoholism. At that time America was not for me. I needed a break. 

I left for Australia for four years and I wouldn't have returned to the U.S. if it wasn't for visa issues. I hoped that the reason why I had to return would eventually become clear. But three years later, it still isn't clear. It feels like I've been in transition since I left Melbourne, and it's been extremely disorienting. Most months I've felt like a salmon swimming up stream. I landed back in San Francisco after spending the summer of 2015 traveling - I spent a month in New York, sailed from Hawaii to California to do research for the Ocean Cleanup Organization, and even spontaneously booked a trip to Europe since a $300 flight was something I didn't want to pass up. I hoped that travel would give me the clarity I so desperately needed - where did I want to go from here? 

Kangaroos at SunriseKangaroos at Sunrise Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean RoadTwelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

I landed back in San Francisco and lived in the Mission for a year. I got what I thought was my dream job, working in sustainability, only to find that the company was a mess and my manager wasn't anything short of a hurricane. I longed for my life in Australia, where things made sense, and life was just plain easier. In Australia you don't have to worry about things like health insurance. So I decided I was going to try out consulting and focus on photography while I left San Francisco on a 3 month trip, aka the "wedding tour," as I went to Vietnam and Australia for 2 weddings, with a solo month in Bali in between. I worked out of a co-working space in Ubud as I grew my portfolio by working with several female entrepreneurs on branding and photographing the Ubud Readers & Writers Festival. 

I returned to the U.S. a little more certain of my direction, but as Donald Trump became President my thirst for adventure was overpowered by my overwhelming need for stability. The world suddenly became scarier, and the security I once found through the freedom of travel only made me feel anxious. I started practicing yoga everyday and went very far inward - as far as I had ever gone before. I stayed with my mom in Portland, Oregon and started applying for full time jobs again. Maybe it was Donald Trump, or maybe it was the fact that I was getting older. My priorities were changing. I was changing. 

I had an opportunity to move back to the Bay Area and look for an apartment with my long-time friend from UC Santa Barbara. If I was going to have a roommate again, it was definitely going to be her! We found one really easily in Lake Merritt and since I had never lived in the East Bay, I thought I would give it a try. I had always had a love-hate relationship with the Bay Area, but even more so after the tech takeover. San Francisco felt plastic, devoid of the magic it once had.

I was still consulting and doing photography, applying for full time jobs in environmental communications. I had done a dual master's with honors in Sustainability Management and Journalism, with 8+ years of great work experience under my belt. But the job market in California is so competitive that it is a literal miracle that anyone gets a full time job doing what they want to do. I joined the board of the Women's Environmental Network as their Marketing and Communications Chair, hoping that would help give me an edge. But after 40+ job interviews and 40+ "no's" and people telling me that someone else was just a TINY bit better, I was done. I couldn't even successfully interview anymore and I think it started to show. Why was it so hard to work in an industry that desperately needed people with my experience? Was I terrible at interviewing? I had never had this issue before, why now? Why did these last few years have to be so hard? Is this not the right path? Where is the right path? UNIVERSE! PLEASE GIVE ME A SIGN!  I winded up taking a job at a non-profit that is doing amazing great work, but not in the environmental industry. The position is at least 3 tiers below what I had been doing before, and the work has been a blow to my ego. It was a rough transition starting this role, feeling like a failure most days, not living up to my potential. But as I settled in, I decided that the job wasn't that bad. I started using the extra hours when work was slow to focus on my photography. It was only a mile and a half away from my house and I could walk - which is not very common in the Bay Area. I decided that the steady income and solid benefits were worth it - and it was actually nice to not be working in an industry I was so passionate about. I could go home and not feel stressed. It occurred to me that I had never really had a job that wasn't stressful before. I had all this space and energy to go to yoga, and creative energy to put into my photography. I could still do photoshoots in the evenings and on the weekends because clocked out at 5pm everyday. 

The transition over the last few years has been so long and intense. I had to go so deep within and shed so many layers that I feel like a completely different person. Perhaps these last few years of growth were necessary for my path, but I hope the next few years are lighter. That instead of holding space for intense personal growth, I can now hold space for someone else. So here's to you, wherever you are. I look forward to meeting you :)


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