What if you had everything you ever dreamed of? Success. Financial stability. Accolades. EVERYTHING. You would be overwhelmingly happy, right? Of course you would be. Anybody in that enviable situation would be deeply fulfilled. But what if you were not content? Instead you felt empty. Utterly unfulfilled. “What’s wrong with me?” you’d ask. This is the situation that photographer Mark Cluney found himself in. A full time photographer since 2010, he was published, booking amazing weddings, meeting every single goal he set for himself. And never more miserable.
“I guess, like most people, I just always pursued whatever I thought was going to make me happy. For example, I wanted to get my weddings published. I thought when that happened, I’d have made it. I got published, and I felt amazing for a few hours, but then everything went back to normal. No one cared the next day. It didn’t give me the ‘significance’ or whatever it was I was looking for. I lived basing my worth on my latest photo shoot. If I had a great shoot, got published on a great blog, booked an amazing wedding; I’d feel good about myself. It was really fleeting and shallow; an empty way to live. It never gave me what I was looking for, so I’d look for the next thing. I’d think to myself, ‘If I can just book a $5000 wedding, I’ll be okay.’ I did, but I wasn’t okay. It just kept going until I had everything I’d ever wanted. Literally almost every dream I’d had for my business had come true. And I’d never felt emptier.”
Cluney did not always feel this lack of fulfillment in his life. However, he describes that as he became more successful in his business, the sense of desolation ironically became more pronounced. He says he would go through periods where he felt okay, but that he also had “rough seasons.” “I’d be super hopeless, drinking (a lot) every day, never satisfied with anything I was doing. Those rough seasons got closer and closer together as I became more and more successful. I struggled with alcoholism since I was twelve, but had a decent handle on it for quite a while. As I got more successful, traveled more, became more in demand, I couldn’t deal with it. So I drank. I was depressed, stressed, always anxious, and it was taking a toll on my marriage and family.”
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Perhaps your anxieties are internal? The fear of failing at that which is most dear to you? Or the terror of living with regrets that can never be remedied?