© Nicholas Smith

The Things that Matter Most

© Nicholas Smith
© Nicholas Smith, Thornham UK

Original post from Nick’s blog.

Looking Back on Life

So it’s that time of year again when I look at my life and all of the things that I’ve accomplished, or in my case, haven’t. My opinions have changed as I’ve gotten older and the things that mattered to me weren’t always the same. I was a selfish person as I only thought about material things. As clichéd as it sounds, but I’ve realised that it’s not the things around me that matter, but who, that make me happy.

Like a lot of others I have goals that I’d like to fulfil and every year I look back to see whether I’ve achieved them or not. I think the goals I set didn’t seem unrealistic, however not setting a time frame may have been an issue.

For example when I was studying graphic design at art school and I was in my last year. Everyone had the opportunity to complete a third year to leave with a full degree. However I still had to go through the interview process again to see if I was a worthy candidate. Feeling pretty confident I thought I’d easily get accepted. Unfortunately I didn’t get accepted and left art school with a diploma instead.

Not thinking much about it, I just assumed finding a job as a graphic designer would be a doddle. So I went back to my part-time job I had at that time and kept looking for design jobs. I started to get more and more relaxed and started to settle down in this dead-end job. Instead of being active and pushing myself to find something that I enjoyed.

Eventually I scored a full-time job which seemed promising, but years had gone by, and ever since I’ve felt like I’m constantly on catchup from all of that time wasted.

My main goal in life has been to work in an exciting environment that I enjoy waking up to in the morning. To be able to support myself and have the freedom to do my own thing and have my own personal space. With all of these together, I could finally say I was happy.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a pretty impatient person. Because of that I guess I’ve always thought that my goals would come quickly.

I’ve always worked since leaving school, but they’ve never been my ideal job roles. Because of that I always found myself buying things to make my life seem more enjoyable. This was before I found my comfort in photography and because of this, I wasted a lot of money on things I truly didn’t need.

I’ve always been a big fan of films and music so that’s where I found myself spending most of my earnings. I used to be an avid gamer ever since my father bought me a commodore 64 (now that’s showing my age).

I suppose I can be forgiven for buying all of those things, I was young making my first wages and wanted to own things that made me happy. I guess I just wish I found my passion in photography sooner as maybe my money would have been invested in that instead.

I’m glad though that I eventually did find that enthusiasm, as I now realise that space is a valuable commodity. With no emotional attachment to these circular pieces of plastic, I’m now in the process of selling them to try and get some money back to put into what really matters to me. I no longer own a games console, mainly due to lack of time to dedicate myself to sit down in front of the telly. However also due to a lack of interest. I’m quite thankful though, as it’s one less distraction.

I went through a lot of fads before I realised photography was my creative release. I think that everyone goes through a journey of discovery. Some who take a few more detours than others. I’ve taken a few myself, and collected quite a lot of things along the way. What I’ll say though, is sell the things you don’t need. If you find yourself never using something, why keep it.

For example, when I used to buy movies I always told myself that I’d only buy them if I knew I was going to watch them more than once. This quickly got thrown out of the window. I ended up telling myself that I’d watch them again when I’d move out and have movie nights with my friends. This never happened. I’m also selling my music CD’s and I’m even getting rid of clothes I no longer feel are my style.

This has been a great relief as it’s less things in my life that I need to worry about. With all of these non important things in my life, everything’s less cluttered, literally and mentally.

One thing that I always look at each year is how successful I’ve been. I guess success is measured differently between person to person. Though I base mine on happiness, with an emphasis on my job and how respected I am.

I tried to think of a small sentence that would describe how I measure my success, and came up with this.

“I base my success on the quality of work I produce, which I measure on being recognised by other people.”


© Nicholas Smith
© Nicholas Smith, Southwold UK


Currently in my life I would say that I’ve still not found my perfect job, and because of this, I’m quite jealous of my friends. Whom seem to have found theirs.

Another contributor to my happiness would be friendships. As I got older, I noticed that my circle of friends got smaller and smaller. Naturally this happens as we progress through careers which sometimes force us to relocate, or families to care for that we’ve decided to start. I guess I didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did.

Like most I too have to earn for a living. Working five days a week to support the things I enjoy most. Because a lot of my time is spent in a working environment, this probably has a great influence on my overall happiness.

I’m someone who takes great pride in the work that I create as I feel that is a representation of me as a person. Why would I want to put half the effort into something fully knowing that I could have done better. Especially if people saw my half arsed attempt, what would they think of me?

When I was a child I always found it hard to relate and communicate with others. It’s probably why I’ve gravitated towards artistic things. It was a way for me to express myself, maybe even a form of communication.

Because of how much pride I have towards my work, I want others to notice how much effort and passion I put into it. When this doesn’t happen, it can affect me quite heavily. I take this ‘not being noticed’ as me being a failure and the work not being good enough.

For example take something like Flickr or Instagram. Both a well known image sharing resource and a great way to get your images noticed. As with any social networking platform, there is a like system in place for people to show their appreciation and congratulate you on a well made image.

Everyone likes to get noticed, that’s why artists create, to show people our work. I expect we like compliments even more so. As it’s a reassuring sign that we’re doing the right thing and our artistic creations are good.

Because of this very visual tally that is visible by everyone. I’m constantly comparing mine to others. It can get quite depressing sometimes seeing other images having hundreds or even thousands of likes. When I see my own and barely broken the twenty mark, I start to question what’s the difference in my images that people don’t like?

This translates to both the work I produce in my job and also as a photographer. I feel that I’m not noticed at work, though what I find odd is, even though there isn’t any passion for my job why does it affect me so much.

Thankfully though I’ve found my style and no amount of likes will change that.


© Nicholas Smith
© Nicholas Smith, Walcott UK


Being Grateful

Even though there are parts of my life that I haven’t fulfilled, I also look at the things I do have. There are other people out there who are worse off than I.

Even though my job isn’t perfect, I’m grateful that I have a one. Without it I doubt I’d be able to do the things I enjoy most. I wouldn’t be able to buy film for my camera, or pay for chemicals to develop them. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford a car, to see the local landscape and document it.

Even though I have to work, I recently started going part-time, to pursue my passion in documentary photography. I’ve taken a big cut from my salary and the project I’ll be working on is unpaid, but to have the opportunity to do the things I enjoy are more important. Not many companies would allow their employee to suddenly start going part-time. Maybe this is a sign to say that I have some kind of value, as they’re keeping me on.

Of course I know people who have fancy expensive cars. I’m just grateful I have a car, even if it has seen better days. I think I’ve seen more of East Anglia in the past year than I have in 29 years not owning one. I’m more thankful of that, than what type of car I have.

Another aspect I am grateful of is that I have a roof over my head and a nice warm bed to sleep in at night. I still live with my parents, mainly because I can’t afford to move out. Maybe it’s from spending too much on film. I think everyone has to compromise in life, and for me this is it. I’m sure sometime in my life I’ll eventually get the opportunity to buy a house. However if I did that now, photography would also have to be put on hold, and that’s not an option.

One of the most important things I am grateful of that is currently in my life, is my girlfriend. When things seem tough and I’m feeling low. She’s there to help me through the struggle. I’m able to open up and talk with confidence without opinions or criticisms. Companionship was quite a large gap in my life which I’d been looking for quite a long time. To finally have that intimacy returned to you is quite a wonderful special feeling that could never be replaced with any number of CDs, DVDs or photography books.

The last thing I should mention is photography. Photography seems to have answered a lot a questions, though also made me ask others. It has made connections with people that I wouldn’t have made in other ways, and this has been something I have wanted for sometime. It has made me more proactive than any other creative activity I have done before, tested my mind and introduced me to other types of artist releases.

Finally I can say this is where my passion lies.

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