All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.
I’ve always thought my husband Kevin is a smart guy. Except when he’s not. But this post is going to be about when he is. When I met him, he was taking pictures at the local dirt race track on the weekends. He was young and good looking and I was young and had always liked photography as a hobby so I started talking to him. I found out he was a professional photographer and worked in a photo lab. (I also found out he drove a cool truck, which I liked a lot, too.)
Fast forward about 10 years and he’s still working in a photo lab, but now it’s a large commercial lab and he’s pretty much a jack-of-all-trades around the place. We’re married and I also work at the lab, and I’m seriously impressed with his knowledge and confidence at work. A co-worker tells him they are looking for instructors for photographic classes at the local community college and after much prodding and reassurance from friends, co-workers and me, he takes the job.
This might not sound like all that big of a deal, but the fact is Kev hated school when he was in it. When he was in his early 20’s he found out he was dyslexic and had spent his life up to that point struggling with a learning disability that left him thinking he was just too stupid to learn. He found photography in high school and it became the love of his life. But the idea of teaching it to others scared him to death, and I can still remember how nervous he was in the very beginning. I also remember the joy he discovered in teaching the subject he loved to his students. He probably wasn’t halfway through the first session before he started talking about wanting to teach more. He was only teaching evening classes in the Community Education department, but he found it incredibly rewarding.
He continued to teach over the next few years, even as we added our son to our family. In the spring of 2007, he began teaching in the Community Ed department of an art college and immediately fell in love with the school, the facilities and most of all the faculty. With the photo industry in a decline and knowing that there won’t always be jobs for lab techs, he decided to take a major leap and enroll at the school to get his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in order to some day be a full-time college instructor of photography and be able to continue in the field that he loves.
Once again, this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal – people go back to college all the time, right? Sure they do. But Kev was a father to a 3 year old son, worked full-time, has a learning disability and was 40 years old. He hadn’t taken a class in 20 years, and then he had gone to a technical school, not a full-blown college. He was nervous. No, he was scared to death. But with my blessing and support he started school that fall. Even with transferring credits and being given credit for work and life experience, he was only a sophomore when he started. We knew this was going to be a long and winding road, but we decided he was in it for the duration. Because not only would he need to get his BFA, but he would need to have a Master’s degree to teach at the college level.
So here we are almost 5 years later. It certainly has been a long and winding road. Since he enrolled we’ve both lost jobs due to the decline of the economy and had to make some significant changes. Kev took a job working nights in order to be at school during the day, and in addition to attending school he’s worked there for the last few years as well. Our son is now 8 years old and is active in many things, including playing ice hockey. So Kev strapped on skates for the first time when he was 40 years old and is now a certified hockey coach. There are some days when he doesn’t sleep any more than a power-nap here and there for over 30 hours. But he’s never missed an important event of our son’s, he’s been on the Dean’s list at school since he enrolled, and I’m proud to say he’s graduating Cum Laude in a month.
Tomorrow night is his Senior Thesis Exhibition reception. His show is an amazing collection of images he has captured at our son – The Wildman’s – school over the course of the current school year. Again he’s a bundle of nerves and I’m anxiously crossing things off the list to try to make his night as memorable as possible. I want this night to be special for him, because he’s earned it. I’ve never seen someone work so hard and sacrifice so much to real a goal.
Words can’t express the admiration I have for what he’s accomplished. And this is still just the first step. We’re not sure what happens next as we wait to hear from graduate programs, but whatever it is we’ll approach it with the same ignorance and confidence as we did on the first step. I’m sure the success will continue to follow.