The Bottleneck

On Saturday mornings I have a student who is a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company in Japan. I have known him for over three years now and I am familiar with his life and work. Over the years he has been moved up in the company and now has many responsibilities that keep him very occupied at work. Often he has to attend meetings, make reports on projects to the upper management, review his subordinates’ progress and take care of visitors such as other researchers or professors. There are receptions and business trips as well. Outside of work, my student pursues his role as a research scientist with equal energy and a great consumption of time. He attends seminars – sometimes as a specially invited guest – in the U.S. and Europe, writes and reviews papers for publication, writes and edits manuscripts, and even manages to get some research time in now and again. These past few weeks have kept him unusually hopping and he admitted to being “very tired” when last we spoke. He is single and it comes as no surprise. A man that dedicated to his passion and to achieving his goals has no time for romance, marriage and children.

Last week after our class I reflected upon my own situation. My work keeps me pretty busy too although it is more a matter of scheduling and class preparation and teaching than important meetings and large responsibilities. However, I do spend long days away from home, leaving before 9:00 in the morning and typically coming home after 10:30 at night. At home I usually have the kids to look after or some household chores to manage. My time is pretty full too. Sadly, it is not full of the pursuit of photography. Well, I often feel frustrated that I can’t spend the time I need to on preparing photos, writing articles or even blogs, organizing and filing photos, or searching for new places to find business. But that doesn’t mean I would trade my time with my family. It is very apparent though that to be that dedicated to one’s career dream or life work family gets squeezed out of the picture. My student said he envies people who can make the pursuit of their research their full-time work without having a job that occupies so much time. I could certainly relate. What if writing and photographing were my full-time job?

Once there was a time when I was single and free and I certainly could have applied myself more to becoming more professional. But there were always reasons and excuses – usually a sensible day job that took up time or a lack of money – that I let prevent me from achieving more. These days I certainly want to be writing more and preparing more ideas for photo submissions. I have lots of other things related to the business of photography to do, but I just don’t have much time for them these days. My personal time and free cash is very limited and with both in short supply there is little I can do to move along. When I re-visited Ryogamisan in May this year – my only outing and hike this year so far – I felt as though I was being squeezed through a bottle neck. I could hardly move with family occupying nearly all of my time away from work and money being virtually impossible to conjure up for photography. Yet from my bottomless pit of optimism I saw myself as passing through a bottleneck and believed I would be coming out the other side soon. I recall descending the mountain and feeling very positive about the things I felt I could do in order to keep doing photography.

But the fact is that many of those things cost money and take more time than I have and so progress is slow. When I found an old file on my computer called “Photography Projects” I opened it and found there were things I wrote down in 2009 that I should try to complete yet had still not completed. Sometimes I imagine having three days, then five days, and finally three weeks to catch up on all the things I want to do. That time, unfortunately, is just not available.

Even if I had sufficient time in a week to keep up, I would no doubt waste it anyway. I am easily distracted when I am busy and I can involve myself very seriously in other things that are not so pressing. At least I have avoided spending too much time on writing blogs lately!

So, one of the things that has given me a creative outlet over the last few months has been playing with applications on my iPhone and manipulating photographs. I enjoyed my results so much that I made a book on Blurb out of it.

I guess these days, I don’t have much enthusiasm for doing photo-related things in a serious business way because I can’t spend the time on it that I need and I hate starting and stopping projects all the time. I want to just be able to spend time on a project making good progress. I also think, however, that sometimes I do tend to waste time because of poor time management or sometimes simply due to my feeling that work and family have kept me too busy.

One of my iPhone application creations used in my book The Small Print

 

From my book The Small Print

 

Another iPhone app creation in my book The Small Print

Can you guess what this started out as?

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