In June 2015 Zenaidy said goodbye to her two beloved Sphynx cats at home and went on a month-long photography workshop to Patagonia. This was a particularly ambitious undertaking, and not only because she was so new to photography. Up until that point, as she says, “I’d never even walked a block in my neighbourhood in my whole life!” Yet here she was, trekking across the unforgiving, formidable terrain of Patagonia, carrying all her gear. This proved to be challenging on many levels: not only as a test of physical endurance and stamina, but also of mental strength and determination.
Ask any hiker, and they will tell you that the trail is a tough, powerful taskmaster, and it will teach you a lot about life, and about yourself. It slows you down, forces you to notice the details around you, to be in touch with nature, and with your own body. You have to pay attention to your surroundings, and it brings everything around you into immediate focus. You soon learn that your mind can either be a powerful foe, or your greatest ally.
Perseverance pays. The trail teaches you that as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you are making progress. Even though it is hard; even though there is a long journey ahead. You take the lessons of the trail with you into your life: learning to enjoy the journey instead of always rushing to the destination. Slowing down to listen to the birds and smell the flowers. Working steadfastly towards your crazy dream, even when others don’t understand it, or don’t believe that you will succeed. Without the hardships of the trail, you won’t get to appreciate the magnificent view from the top. Zenaidy believes that if she hadn’t pushed herself out beyond her comfort zone, she never would have had all the wonderful experiences that have made her the person that she is today.
We are ultimately all the culmination of our choices, our triumphs and disappointments, and if we never push ourselves beyond that which feels safe and comfortable, we risk missing out on so much that life has to offer us. Zenaidy says that the wisdom she has accumulated throughout her life is especially important to her because of the ability she has to share it. “I can share what I’ve learned with others, sothey can live richer lives. I believe that no experience is wasted if you learn everything possible and allow it to make you a better person.”
This trip marked the first of many things: her first trip to South America, her first time hiking up a mountain, and the first time she got to use all her camera gear, practice the techniques she had learnt and shoot in her favorite genre: landscapes. Once she returned to Australia, she entered some of her photos from that trip into an international photography competition, and won two awards at the professional level. The fact that this wonderful achievement happened so early in her journey as a photographer, made it all the sweeter.
Very quickly, photography became more than a hobby to her. Where initially she thought of it as just an outlet for her creativity, a way to let her imagination run wild, she soon realised that her interest in it as an extension of her personality was more profound. Being visually creative from a young age, Zenaidy derives great personal satisfaction from creating beauty. Whether it is through her work as a cosmetic dentist – giving her patients the gift of a beautiful smile – or through her art, a huge part of Zenaidy’s life revolves around deepening the lives of others through sharing beauty.
She speaks of having her own personal ‘Aha!’ moment. For many years she was very intent on developing her career, and reaching her professional goals. She completed her dental studies, specialized in cosmetic dentistry, and started her own practice. She cultivated personal relationships with her patients, and worked hard at delivering the best possible service to them. It is very important to her to make them feel safe and comfortable, and she takes the time to talk with them, to understand what they want and how they feel, and to provide them with the care they need. She built up her practice, nurturing it to become one of the most celebrated dental clinics in Melbourne, winning many awards.
However, one day she came to the realization that there is more to life. As fulfilling as her career is, there is more out there to experience. She could broaden her focus to include this passion for visual art and the exploration of beauty. She uses the metaphor of a flower garden to explain this broadening of her horizons. She likens this intense focus she had on her professional career as looking very intently at an iris: noticing the vivid purple of its petals, the sharp contrast to the yellow at its center. Being amazed by its beauty and intricacy, just to look up and realise that it is merely one species of flower in a vast and boundless garden. She realized that the same dedication and passion that she pours into her professional life can be applied elsewhere. She can derive the same joy and satisfaction from creating and exhibiting beautiful photographs, that she gets from giving her patients top class service.