When life throws you a curveball

When disaster strikes at random... How do you bounce back up?
What do you do when disaster strikes at random? When all your dreams as an artist, photographer - or maybe entrepreneur - are suddenly disrupted? How do you bounce back up?

About 6 months ago I planned to buy a new camera lens, take more risks creatively and join a photography trip to Asia. I was busy contacting charities and NGO photographers, to see where this could lead. One wet weekend I was running though the city during torrential rain. As I ran across a road and jumped on the sidewalk, I slid upwards and landed hard on my right shoulder. I heard a 'pop', followed by massive pain and internal bleeding.

I'll spare you the gruesome details. I cut through two tendons and needed reconstructive surgery. There were times when doctors wondered if I would ever lift my arm again. Can you imagine how this feels when you dream of lifting your camera? Maybe you've been here yourself? What I discovered is that my shattered dream can become my motivation.

Photography is a powerful therapy. You can set yourself goals, as small as you like, and see yourself break these goals. Photography forces you to go outside and face the challenges. It also gives you time to be alone, gather your thoughts and recharge. If you have a physical injury, photography gives you a measuring stick. You can start by walking down your street with a 'point n shoot' camera. If you add physiotherapy, you can press on to greater distances and a heavier camera. This spurs you on to start dreaming again.

On the day I left hospital, my mind was buzzing with photographic ideas. All I had with me was my smartphone. My right arm was riddled with keyhole surgery and my left arm was hugging an overnight bag. I held my smartphone awkwardly in my left hand and stole a blurred shot of the hospital corridor. It's nothing special, but it's the start of a long walk.

Hospital corridor

Two weeks after my surgery, I was able to go outside, but couldn't lift my DSLR. I saw this lady at a bus stop and noticed how her hat and top blended with the background. I shot blindly in bright sunlight, clutching my smartphone in my left hand while pedestrians walked past. I only had one shot. It's not a professional shot, but good enough for Instagram. Getting the driver in the reflection was a bonus.

Green bus stop

The point of this article is not my recovery. The point is this: it's not how you fall down, but how you bounce back up that matters. If photography is your passion, use it to bounce back up. Hang on to your dream and let it propel you forwards. Don't give up.