Today is my mothers birthday. I'm not a big fan of big and expensive presents and I know my mom isn't either. But in some way we need to show the people that have taught us everything how much we care about them. I guess this is my way to say thank you.
This is a few of the life lessons she's taught me in the last thirty years.
Do what you love and you´ll make something awesome
I still remember exactly where I was when I first told my mother that I was quitting my computer science master studies at the university to start a career as a photographer. We had lunch at the best pizza place in the city and I could hardly eat my parma and rocket salad pizza out of anxiety over what she would say. When I finally managed to tell her that I was quitting school, she replied "yeah, I kinda understood that computer science wasn't your thing. I'm glad you've found out what you really want to do!". Afterwards, I was pretty ashamed over even worrying about what my mom would say. She is the one that taught me that the only thing to do is what you love.
Be kind to people
Many years ago, I think I was around 10 years old, my mother and I went out shopping. She'd told me many times since how surprised I was when I stepped out of one particular store and asked her "why is everyone so nice to us?". Her answer wasn't rocket science but I try to live by it still; "I guess it is because we are nice to them".
As a photographer in todays world, you NEVER know who could gain from your expertise. Treat everyone you meet as the most important person in the world, any time from today and the end of time he or she could get involved in a project that requires a kick-ass photographer. And I'm pretty sure they would rather go for a talented AND nice one.
My mother can spend days preparing food for a birthday party. She will buy christmas presents for families that can't afford it. She will spend her weekends with kids from less fortunate situations. Giving of her time and money is natural for her, it couldn't be in any other way.
As a photographer I sometimes do gigs, that I would otherwise charge thousands of dollars for, for free. It is usually for friends, starting their own businesses or working really hard to kick-start their artistic careers. Good people deserve good things and if you give something you'll get more than that in return. Unfortunately, you need money to survive, but earning money shouldn't be your main goal in life. When it feels right, do a good deed. It will pay back in the future.
Stay out of debt
To be able to focus on the important parts of your life and job, you can't let your mind be clouded by materialistic issues. Since I was very young, mom always told me to stay out of debt, no credit cards or monthly installments. Every store tries to reel you in with "buy now, pay later" or "only $100 a month (for the rest of your life!)". I buy things with the money that I have, not money that I will probably have in the future. Money issues are the worst and could destroy every piece of creativity, just be smart from the beginning.
Take care of your body
It took around 25 years for her advice to stick, but a few years ago I realized how important it is to take care of your body through exercise and healthy food. Mom's been a gymnastic teacher for almost 30 years (still loving it and every student loves her) and even though she is turning almost… 40 years old today ;) she still works out almost every day. When traveling the world for large parts of the year, I´m more than happy that I exercise regularly both then and when at home. I'll be able to climb the 5200 steps of the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, Adams Peak, at three o'clock in the morning without dying. I almost never get sick when abroad which I probably have my (mostly) healthy lifestyle to thank for.
And in twenty years, when many of my colleagues with less healthy lifestyles have massive back problems from dragging heavy backpacks with equipment around, I want to think that spending some time every week lifting heavy things at the gym or in the park will get me away from those kind of combat injuries.
Thank you for everything this far, mom. I'm proud of you and I love you!