Laissez-faire: how I generally describe not only my economic and political views but also my views on personal relationships and my own health. Anyone who really interfaces or knows me would probably say that I’m steady, always just, me. It’s not often that I get upset, or angry, or flustered by something to any major degree. I’m always able to lend an ear, and surprise surprise, more than willing to lend an opinion. For most of my life, this has been a blessing; very rarely would I ever concern myself with the way I felt, or the way others felt. Not that I would ever be purposely cruel or untruthful, but I would never dwell on the past or what other thought of me. As I’ve begun to learn, I also haven’t considered what I thought of myself.

Throughout my four years at Acadia, I was mostly surrounded by wonderful people, who created an innumerable amount of amazing memories with me and perhaps for me. This flatness that I’ve felt most of my life was a positive flatness. I was always feeling well. Never too angry, never too sad, never too worried. As trying times surfaced while I was an “Axeman” (not that I would ever call myself that in real life) which included family deaths, challenging personal relationships and courses, I would continue to gloss over them, more or less ignoring the problem and living in the moment. While one can’t live in worry of both the future and the past constantly, one also can’t exist solely in the now. Can they?

As my four years came to an end, facing uncertainty and the rest of my life, my mental health began to break. For the first time ever, I became aware of myself physically and mentally in a way that was uncomfortable, and scary in acute moments. I know for a fact that this experience is not unique to me. For the first time, I felt anxieties and panic for no apparent reason. This is not something I’d ever experienced. My flatness? That became a low flatness. A steady state of unimpressed, emotionless, careless, unhappiness. Thankfully, I never found myself low enough to consider any sort of harm, nor did I ever find myself low enough that I lost control of myself or a situation or my self-awareness. Friends and family were amazing to me, as always. I had wonderful co-workers who created a happy working environment where I held a great job. I went on (and was taken on) what many would consider “trips of a lifetime” yet, I never once was excited. How was this possible?! I was upset at myself for not being appreciative, or for not brimming with positive emotions as I wanted.

This led me to make some life changes, of which I’ve discussed openly. Exercise. More family time. Dietary changes. Trying to care more for my friends. This also led me to seek the help of some wonderful medical professionals, of which there are far too few in Nova Scotia. I’ve been on anti-depressants for a few months now. While there have been some side effects, they have helped me back on the path to the old happy Sam. But I’ve realized, the old happy Sam would’ve (apparently) only been happy for a limited time. I want to become the new Sam, who’s aware of himself, his surroundings, and cares about his future and his work and most importantly, himself. I want to keep feeling good and doing well. Don’t we all?

Photography has been one of the most influential factors in this transition away from University life and through faltering mental health. It’s encouraged me to appreciate my surroundings. The more local content I post to a local audience, the better the reaction I receive. People love where they live, and I’ve missed out on that my entire life so far, taking it for granted. Nova Scotia is beautiful. Mahone Bay is beautiful. Hell, my backyard is beautiful by most standards.

Photography has encouraged me to go out. Go for a walk. Go see some new people, some new places, some new things. The only incentive, really, is to capture these people, places and things for my own pleasure. I’m not making any money from the cool pictures I post on Instagram of forests, lakes, and rivers. That’s okay with me. It’s stress-free but also encourages me to do better for myself, and my portfolio. It bolsters my skills and experience as a photographer.

Photography has given me a purpose and a sense of appreciation for those who appreciate me. I don’t get pleasure from likes on Instagram or Facebook, but like any good content creator, I get pleasure knowing that other people enjoyed my work. Perhaps it made them smile, or recall a memory, or just gave them some eye candy for a few seconds. It’s great to receive feedback and to hear that people were talking about you. My time I spend in session is the best kind of stress; sessions are constructive stress, where the intense work delivers meaningful results. The editing and research and education gives me a chance to learn and exercise my brain compartment. Being in a creative slump isn’t great, but it’s the cost of doing business as I see it. The pay-off, when you nail a shot, is entirely worth it. When people love that shot, it’s entirely worth it. It eases my anxieties and brings me up. I never want to feel flat like I’ve felt in the past. Creative work is helping me toward that. I implore anybody to do more of what they like or to try new things if you don’t enjoy anything anymore. Reach out to family, to friends, and especially to a medical professional. (Drugs aren’t the answer, except for when they are). Photography has proven a far, far more effective drug than anything I’ve ever been prescribed by my physician.

While I work toward paying the bills, I’m happy to work toward my own betterment.