A Cautionary Tale…

I was tasked recently with writing… everyday… whatever was in my mind/heart.
So… today’s stream of consciousness happened to be related to this portion of my life. (apologies in advance again for the distinct lack of actual racing stuff on my racing blog as of late)

A cautionary tale

I realized recently, that my ability to pull off a daily “everything is fine” performance in the eyes of the world is actually doing me a disservice. “Fake it till ya make it” has backfired in a big way.

I was told by someone that they all thought I was this really successful motorsport photographer. Ha! That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Yes, I bust my ass every year, and at every race I attend, to capture the events and promote the drivers, teams, and series, but that’s where the successful part ends. Apparently I’m successful at looking successful.

Back story: It took me forever to be deemed worthy of a hardcard. I get it. When the series merged, despite having a hardcard on the ChampCar side, I was low man (er… woman) on the totem pole again. I had to prove myself. Fair enough.
Did I think it would take 5yrs? no. (first one issued was last year)
One of the conditions was that I had to attend 75% of the races. But since I could never guarantee that I would be credentialed at events so as to secure gigs in advance (often media credentials are not confirmed until 1-2 weeks prior to the event) it was often too costly to make travel plans on “probably”.

But I did, many times. And I worked three “pay cheque” jobs in-between races, to fund my dream of working in motorsports. And though some gigs did fall into my lap, they were few and far between, and barely covered the cost of one race weekend, let alone the season.

I’ve paid my dues along the way, and rightly so. I’ve provided shots for no charge for charity events. I’ve helped out smaller teams, and cash strapped drivers, only to be passed over for someone else when the money became available. I’ve even, as life is cruel in very ironic ways, managed to get other people paying gigs and secure employment.
But now, sadly, years of broken promises, lack of reciprocation, and missed or non-existent opportunities and payments have taken their toll.

Through the kindness of some very generous friends who I was able to bunk in with, I was able to escape my unbearably complicated at the moment life and get to some races this spring. Much like a driver sitting on the couch at home telling everyone he’s a good driver and they should hire him, rather than proving it on track, a photographer/writer sitting at home doesn’t stand much of a chance securing work if they aren’t onsite, building their portfolio and relationships. So with just enough money to cover gas, and a meal a day. I headed to my “happy place”

In return I actually got attitude from some because I haven’t been to as many races so far this year. (for the record, I have attended the same amount of races to date this year, less one, the season opener)

What those in judgement are not privy to, is that in trying to live up to the expectations of the card hanging around my neck like an albatross, and prove myself worthy of covering the series, I actually bankrupted myself last year. I over extended myself to make it to as many events as I could, in an attempt as well to secure some actual money. Midway through the season, I lost one of my main sources of income, but carried on with my race plans unaltered despite the financial hardships, again, the promise of future paid work being dangled in front of me. This sent me into the off season with giant debts, which only got worse with the loss of another source of income coming into 2014 (thus the missed season opener)

I write this not for pity, but in solidarity with others who may be going through the same thing and think they’re alone, and also as a warning. I’ve seen some of my colleagues fall by the wayside this year, with similar hardships and disillusionment, while a fresh new crop of dreamers with hope in their hearts and stars in their eyes enter the fray.

You know that quote:
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” ― Maya Angelou

Live this. Please.

I made championing this series and this sport a priority in my life, only to discover after spilling litres of blood, sweat and tears, that I was only ever an option to those I worked with and for.

So here’s some free advice, take it or leave it:
Get it in writing. Whatever it is. Get it.
Get the payment first (or at least a retainer)
Don’t over extend yourself for a “maybe” or a “probably” or a “next time”
If your particular skill, product, or service will benefit THEM, make them pay for it! Don’t be their whore. Swag doesn’t pay the rent.

I still hope to finish out the season as planned, but with $50 in my wallet to last me to the end of the month, and my final source of income dangling dangerously close to the edge of the cliff (I’m actively job searching) realistically, I’m rethinking my future, at least in the short term.

My race plans for the season are still in my calendar, because without those to look forward to, life is pretty hopeless at the moment. Of course the irony is that I may have to sell my camera gear soon to keep a roof over my head for another month.
Unless by some miracle, a race weekend paying gig falls in my lap (newsflash: I’m available!) Toronto is the only 100% next race at the moment.

And that’s my Debbie Downer post for the week. Might as well get it out of the way on a Monday right? LOL! Oh well, no where to go but up right? #alwayslookonthebrightsideoflife #itsonlyafleshwound

oh, and since they may be my last racing shots for a while, might as well take a moment and go enjoy my latest race albums https://www.facebook.com/Pit2Podium

And with that, I’m off for a run. Thankfully that costs $0 😉

3 responses to “A Cautionary Tale…

  1. Great post, so true. I’ve been on the fringes for a long time, but I’ve also had to accept that there will never be any money in this blogging/photography gig, and I’m ok with it. You have made a lot of sacrifices (and produced some great work). There’s not a lot of appreciation, and this is coming from someone who only receives credentials on a race-by-race basis. Sometimes having the courage to say “this is not working” is liberating and better than saying “all is well.”

    • thanks SB. Liberating indeed.

      Ya, It was only when I had a conversation with a friend last week that my eyes were opened to my amazing “all is well” acting skills 😉

      I realized I actually didn’t respond to the snarky comments about missing some races with the truth. I just stayed mute, and allowed myself to be insulted and guilted. As usual, putting other peoples feelings and comfort first, at my own expense.

      I’m hoping that things will turn around outside of the track so that I can just enjoy the race weekend in the future.

      Then again, I’ve been putting all of my spare time and disposable income into racing for 10 yrs now, with little to no return, and not much to show for it. In all of that time… zero vacations. You know those trips that people take for fun?! Ya… none of those. If there wasn’t a race at the destination, I didn’t travel there. I’ll be 50 next year, and have yet to go to my dream destination: Italy. Perhaps I’ll toss all of my future race weekend pennies into a bucket and take myself to Tuscany for my birthday… 😉

      • You have to take care of you and not worry about anyone else’s comments. I think it’s important to be realistic, but also to not beat yourself up too much. You’ve achieved a lot even if it hasn’t been lucrative.

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