That “Influencer” Lifestyle.

December 10, 2020

It feels weird to wake up, make breakfast, wish Ari a good day at work and then sit down to create YouTube content, plan videos and open emails from lens makers. My brain refuses to accept it as “work”, although it checks all the boxes (it’s endless, stressful, and generates income). I tend to laugh when someone calls me an “influencer”. I only jokingly refer to myself as an influencer, although I guess I am one.

When I started my channel, I didn’t want it to be my main source of income. I started because I needed to share information on anamorphic lenses. It was definitely a hobby. It consumed my time and money, but I enjoyed working on it. After a couple years I started to feel entitled to some compensation. I’d resent my audience for they’d pour money on lenses but give me nothing in exchange for all the information I provided. I thought “if I do this well enough, someone will come by and pay me for it”. The whole “American Dream” thing, free market and all. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work that way.

For several years I felt important, but not relevant. I felt I was popular among the folks without resources, but that people in the actual film industry, lens makers, and all sorts of technicians would laugh at how the videos looked and the information contained in them. I felt I was fighting the system. “Use a $300 lens instead of a $30k! You’ve been deceived!”. Very radical, or so I felt. But being popular with the people without money also means that no one is willing to pay.

Twice I burned out and almost quit. The second of those times I really thought I was done. On my “farewell party”, I ran into some people I thought were much cooler and relevant than I was (Corridor Digital), yet they recognized me in a crowd and had lots of praise for the content in my channel. That shuffled the idea I had about my audience and reach of the content. If these guys were watching enough to recognize me, who else was out there?

I got a little bolder (at least in my own standards). I hired an editor so I wouldn’t be constantly swamped, I still had lots of other work (YouTube was far from a good source of income), and I started to reach out to smaller brands for collaboration. Everything went pretty well, although I always had the feeling they were helping me out, and not the other way around. I still felt irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

Then 2020 came around and everything was incredibly chaotic. I had lots of time, absolutely no outside work, and running very close to burnout again. I wanted all my content to be *perfect*. Full control, best performance, excellent visuals, unquestionable logic. I was failing, and this is where Blake comes in. I invited him to help me figure out livestreaming and from there we started creating more and more ideas together. Blake has a very different perspective on things being *perfect*. Perfection is to accept the flaws – or at least some of them – and doing so makes the videos better.

That was a trip. Accepting imperfection made the videos better. A lot better, actually. So I started accepting imperfections in my communications and reached out to people I considered HUGE and was blown away when they replied. This happened so many times I realized I was holding myself back on taking this step forward. I was stuck on the loop of “I’m better than this, yet no one wants to help me”. One of the toughest lessons was to accept I can be paid to do something I believe in. When I say it like this, it’s pretty obvious, but not six months ago, I’d feel I was compromising my ethics if I accepted money for something I was willing to do for free.

All of this has reached a point where I’m turning down outside work and taking the days at my own pace. I tackle lots of emails, edit some videos, do a little animation here and there, read a lot, research, pet my cat and play videogames. And I’m finding time to be there when people close to me need support. That never happened before. To help with all these changes, I’ve had weekly therapy sessions since 2015 and I’m taking anti-depressants for a month and a half now.

It’s okay to slow down, it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay to accept help. Hopefully this can influence someone to avoid burnout and find a healthier way to pursue their dreams.