I’m starting a new interview series on the blog. I’m feeling “poised” these days, on the edge of whatever will come after I graduate in the spring from my two-year design program at NSCC. (A job? Where? My own business? But how? Et cetera.) All of this change is bringing to my attention the fact of risk. Risk is part of life, it’s possible wherever you are in your life, but it comes to the forefront when you’re at a cross-roads. And then you wonder to yourself, should you take a risk? What does it mean to strike out into the unknown, try a new thing? I’m often quite scared of taking risks, and feel anxiety just like everyone else.
So this is a selfish series, really. It’s for me, it’s to inspire me and remind me that risks can be exciting, they can bring growth and beauty. That everyone goes through it, and that you have to go through it to get something worthwhile. So I’m going to be reaching out to people who’ve taken risks and done interesting things. (That’s everyone.) And I hope it brings you some of that inspiration too.
First in the series: a rad photographer and videographer who I met almost two years ago (what?!) at the Youth Social Enterprise Boot Camp at CBU, where I was a keynote speaker and she was a participant. I hope her poetic, thoughtful and smart words encourage you like they have me.
1) Name, age, where you live?
My name is Jenni Welsh, and I am 27 years old.
I was born and raised in Palmerston Ontario, a small used-to-be railroad town , population 2.581.
After graduating high school in 2005, I traveled Canada from coast to coast, rarely settling in one place for more than a few weeks.
In 2007 a series of events led me to Cape Breton Island. From the first moment I stepped over the causeway I have been completely captivated. I have been living in Sydney for the past seven years, and though I have entertained the idea, I have no intention of leaving.
2) What is (or are) your passion(s)?
It’s challenging for me to isolate one passion, but aside from the people in my life, and living room dance parties, my longest standing passion is my ever growing infatuation with videography.
White balance, exposure, composition, the way that the light sprays through the lens illuminates a subject in an honest light.
It’s intimate and revealing.
I love the feeling of being totally engaged in moments and how they are being perceived. Sometimes I feel like my perspective on the happenings of right now, is how I express myself artistically.
As if my camera and I are freestyle dance partners gracefully flowing through time as the seconds pass by.
Maybe I am making this sound more whimsical than it is, but what I mean to say is that I love finding the truth in movements and sound and sharing those moments with other people.
With that being said, though I have always had an affinity for video production from as far back as I can remember, it wasn’t until years after I laid down roots on Cape Breton Island that I uncovered another passion; community development, more specifically, collaboration.
My recent work with Caper Radio provided me with the opportunity to connect these passions together in ways that I couldn’t really foresee.
3) Do you take risks in business, in life? What are they?
Risk: the hazard or chance of loss.
The short answer is yes, very much so.
There was a time when I associated risk with recklessness but I have since strayed from this belief.
It is very difficult for me to answer this question in a roundabout way, so bear with me while I take the long way around.
I consider myself to be somewhat of a ‘conundrum’ in comparison to my peers.
I happened to stumble recklessly into Cape Breton in my late teens, at a time when a lot of people my age whom are from here were leaving to pursue other opportunities.
With the beginnings of a skill set in video production, I went to community college in Sydney, and had an amazing mentor and teacher take me under his wing. Within a year, I landed a job working for a television station, with benefits, and a retirement plan. I was even a part of a workers union. (I know right?)
Outside of my job in television, I was immersing myself in Cape Breton’s local music community, attending shows every opportunity I could, and even learning to play the guitar myself. I was absolutely fascinated with the music, and I made a lot of new friends rather quickly. I realized early on, that one magical part about the arts community in Cape Breton is that everyone is interconnected and supportive of each other’s creative endeavours. We live in a close knit community, and you will often discover many overlapping layers that I feel strengthen the inner core of Cape Breton, which is clearly a mecca of musical and artistic talent that lives and breathes in almost everyone who touches ground here. This realization prompted my desire to integrate myself into this community.
In hindsight, I realize my first job here was a pretty awesome position to land in Cape Breton Island at the age of twenty, and I definitely took this for granted. But, at the time, there was something that wasn’t quite igniting my passion. It wasn’t the job or the Island, but the lack of connection that that job had to the Island.
That element of integration and community that I was unknowingly seeking, was not being satisfied. Though I was extremely grateful for the opportunity, and I developed many skills, my lack of passion really showed in my work ethic, and the amount of myself that I gave to my work. I often felt stagnant, and disconnected from my community and peers.
The first and biggest ‘risk’ I took was blindly leaving a comfortable secure position in my field, to work independently with Caper Radio on projects that had no real financial stability. In fact, since then, I have never had any security in this sense, but I have realized that this comes with the territory of being a young person dedicated to living in Cape Breton.
I just learned this the backwards inside out way.
4) How has taking risks paid off for you? What good things have they brought to you, that you are grateful for?
To be forward: I see the risk that I took, to be less of a risk, and more of a responsibility to myself and to the contribution to my community.
I don’t believe in moral absolution, and I realize that this is way out in left field, but I strongly believe that when you have a skill set and there are social needs that align with your skill set, it is then your responsibility as a member of that community/society to offer up your skill set, regardless of how it will ‘pay off’ or propel you forward as an individual. (This is easier said than done and I realize it borders on idealism, but I do try to live out my life this way.)
I have also learned through trial and error, that when you work really hard, and you are dedicated, and team oriented, with social goals in mind, that opportunities will present themselves to you to propel your work forward, so long as you are open to them.
Since branching out and taking a leap into the ‘financial unknown’, Cape Breton has provided me with numerous opportunities to grow, both internally, in my career, and otherwise. (Too many oat cakes.) In all seriousness, the pay off for my time spent working in the arts community in Cape Breton is unmeasurable.
I owe most of my optimism to Caper Radio; the staff, local business and musicians that support the ever changing station. This is the first taste of real collaboration that I ever had, and definitely changed my entire perspective on the meaning of ‘work’. I have realized that I have an innate need to be a part of a team, to collaborate with other people by sharing creative energy and fostering ideas into action. Caper radio inspired this realization.
I have since had the opportunity to work with many talented and amazing artists in the community, and developed supportive relationships with others in the industry.
Outside of the relations built with the staff at Caper Radio, I have had some amazing mentorship opportunities outside of the station, the most recent being a one year internship with Celtic Colours. This provided me with opportunity to dive deep into the roots of Cape Bretons culture, and work with some of the brightest minds I have ever had the pleasure of crossing paths with.
I have developed confidence in myself and my skills, I have learned to become a leader, and I have learned the value of hard work.
I don’t have a substantial savings account, I don’t really own anything of value to anyone but myself, and I am content with the fact that this will probably never change. It’s amazing what creativity will allow you to do with limited resources and shoe string budgets.
I guess the greatest pay off for me would be coming to the realization that time is the only thing that I have to lose.
5) Have you ever felt discouraged, unconfident, or unsure of what you’re doing? What do you do when that happens? (Think of this, too, as advice for others who might feel that way.)
I never feel discouraged, says no one ever.
I think every human has probably experienced these types of feelings in all varieties and sizes. I often battle with my own insecurities, and uncertainty is a feeling that I am very familiar with. Its not always a whimsical, ‘sprinkled with fairy dust’ scenario like I tend to make things sound when I am reflecting.
I have struggled a lot with my confidence. I have bit off more than I can chew and have had to ask for help to dig myself out. I have watched my friends come and go, and come and go again, and that is never easy. But hey, sometimes you have to be bold enough to feed the need to explore other horizon lines in order to fully appreciate the perspective that the place you are rooted in offers.
Sometimes you leave home, and never come back because you find a groove somewhere else that suits you perfectly.
Yes, since living in Cape Breton I have made mistakes, and the repercussions are discouraging. But, over time you learn how to turn those mistakes into stepping stones, even if you are not sure where those stepping stones will lead.
Fail forward, so to speak.
Even when I am uncertain of where the direction I am going in my own life, or even where my next pay check is going to come from, the people I surround myself with can always be relied upon to replenish a sense of purpose. ‘Your contribution is meaningful and important.’
That is the beauty of community and collaboration; you are all working towards the same goals, so even when you feel down, you are still moving forward.
My biggest takeaway is this:
A person can be content living anywhere, but its the people that we surround ourselves with that make the happy happen. That’s exactly what Cape Breton has done for me. This island has a certain magnetic pull that grounds the souls of my shoes and keeps me here, and for that I am grateful.