We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Hsia and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Three years after graduating from university, I have been through a lot of various jobs. Although I was drivingly focused on pursuing my passions in travel photography and filmmaking, it wasn’t a comfortable journey. I had to learn and fully understand what hard work and maintaining my motivation meant. It’s naive to think that achieving one’s goal just requires a little elbow grease and hard work to lead you where we want to go in life. We sometimes forget we have to accept ourselves patiently through the process and be prepared for detours. There were a lot of tears and sweat involved in my journey thus far, but also fear and doubt in my skills. Being hardworking is all good, but maintaining that persistence as an artist during the pandemic was a risk I had to take. Speaking of risks, how about working at a grocery store during a pandemic! One of the most significant factors that were challenging for me was to take a part-time job at a grocery store. The situation wasn’t the ideal field I wanted to be in during a pandemic, but it was a risk I had to take to maintain a consistent flow of income. I was constantly bombarded with waves of emotions from disgruntled customers. Some were even racist because I am Asian. Most days, I had to mentally train myself to be prepared for dealing with rude customers. As difficult as it was, I am forever grateful that I was still able to have a job. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by great coworkers and managers who support each other during these hectic times. I really appreciate getting to know coworkers from all sorts of personal and professional backgrounds. Beyond the pandemic, the real struggle was keeping myself motivated to work on my projects afterward. I would wake up just in time to get ready for my scheduled shift, go to work, and spend the next 8 hours running all sorts of mundane tasks. By the end of the day, my energy was drained. I would come back home feeling fatigued and lose focus on my priorities. Somedays, I even thought that I wasn’t going to finish anything on time. I was afraid that I would be wasting too much time focusing on my part-time job, consequently losing a sense of myself. Balancing my side job during the pandemic and maintaining my passions is difficult, but I’ve learned to take things one at a time. We all should remind ourselves that rushing things just to be productive isn’t always right. Instead, we should take time actually to enjoy the process of creating itself, and taking little steps, only one thing at a time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I mostly started volunteering to work in non-profits since high school. When one of the members asked if I would be interested in working as their documentary photographer, I was flattered and took the opportunity. I was an amateur, but I was always excited and curious to take action. Especially whenever I had the chance to travel around, I would take the time to immerse myself with the team and observe other people’s fields of expertise. I think one of the main attributes of working as a photographer taught me to be focused and detail-oriented but also to learn to communicate and interact with people from all cultural backgrounds. When I had deadlines to make, I’m always critical with my work because of my unnecessary perfectionism. When I’m under pressure to finish deadlines, I struggle to present my work to clients. However, I think being an artist requires us to have a little fear and doubt. It’s one of the components that can push us forward to develop our skills and accept not everything has to be perfect. I’d say the more we are aware of our experiences and enjoying the process, the better we can access ourselves and reflect on our work.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I would take them sightseeing in Jordan. First, we would go on a camping trip to Wadi Rum, in the southern part of the country. Wadi Rum is a famous location used in many popular films such as Star Wars. One thing I loved about this place was seeing the endless colors reflecting on the rocky surfaces. I really enjoyed the peaceful and quiet atmosphere during the sunsets and sunrises. Next, I would take them to the city of Amman. I remember going to a fantastic cafe and trying one of the local desserts called Knafeh, a sultry traditional Middle Eastern noodle cheese layered pastry soaked in syrup and topped with pistachios. It’s a perfect treat after a long hike and goes well with a cup of Turkish coffee!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to thank my parents for supporting me regardless of my struggles navigating my career path. Even though we had some differences, at the end of the day, I think they try to understand and show me how much they loved me. As I get older, I realize keeping in contact with your family is essential. You can stay focus living in the present, but make sure you don’t forget the people in the past because they are the ones that have sculpted you along the way. So shout out to my loving parents and close friends. Thanks for being there for me, always.