The term "Ride or Die" as I know it came from biker-culture. It was a mantra, if you will, a statement of passion, a commitment: I'd rather than die than not be able to ride. Now the term is generally used to refer to a partner or friend that will hang with you as you ride out the storms that life brings.
The term "Ride or Die" as I experience and need it, however, isn't about anyone else. I guess it's closer to the origin of the phrase. To me, when I look at this photo in the context of my personal and professional life, "Ride or Die" is a promise and a reminder to stay the course.
This photo was actually the second image I saw today that served as a ride or die reminder.
This was the first:
This photo popped up as a "Memory" in my Facebook feed this morning after sleepless, anxious night.
I took this photo almost 10 years ago on one of my first trips out to play with NikonD40. I barely knew how it worked. I didn't know much about exposure or composition but I knew I felt a connection to the camera and it's ability to stop time and ask that the world pay a little more attention to this one moment, thing or idea, so off I went.
In the years that followed, I'd take a few photography classes in high school and college. I would, and still do, read blogs and watch YouTube videos and download tutorials, but those only do so much.
When I look at this photo from 2010 and think about my ongoing journey with photography, I can feel the frustration that coursed through my body in all the times I've felt like quitting. I can count the hours I spent scrolling Instagram and Flickr feeling like no matter how many YouTube videos I watch, I'd never measure up. I can also think of a hundred photos that I'm proud of that wouldn't have been taken had I quit or kept trying to measure up.
There has never been a single class, meeting, or tutorial that I can point to as a direct line from where I was at any given point to where I am today (or where I'll be in a few years). There is a long list of friends, mentors, books, and small business podcasts that can be credited for helping move that needle forward and then there's the simple commitment to moving it forward at all.
My ride or die.
What has helped me more than anything is simply continuing to try, even when myself and the world told me I shouldn't. What has helped is staying in the arena, even when I was drowning in the negativity of the comparison game and assumption that I'd never be as good as name-that-insta-handle. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about throwing in the towel all time time. I revised my resume last fall, applied for traditional jobs with reliable salaries and traditional benefits. I remember being nervous as I donned my plain, acceptable interview shoes and sitting across from people who could have provided me an easier, safer and more comfortable route answering questions that made me, I also remember pulling away from that office building hoping that I'd never need to remember how exactly I got there in the first place.
In the months that followed (and yes, there have been bad days that have sent me back to the jobs sites and the resume primping), what has helped me more than anything is just trying my best, and admitting that I'm doing just that: just trying. What has helped is reaching out to my peers who celebrate collaboration and lifting each other up, rather than competition. What has helped is being willing to try, to fail, to be disappointed, to ask, to listen, to play, to learn, and then to try again.
If the last year has taught me anything it's this: everyone has the opportunity to have an opinion about what you should be doing and how you should be doing it but you're the only one doing it. So keep doing it. Ask questions along the way, take breaks if you need to, but, above all, stay on the bike.