How a baby boomer completely changed his life

Are you doing what you always wanted to do? Baby boomer Matt Wronski, a longtime resident of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, wasn’t. But he didn’t know how to change his life, until a friend gave him a simple piece of advice. Now he lives a whole new life, in a whole new place.

I am an architectural photographer, born and raised in the U.S., now living and working in Dubai. Nothing would be interesting or noteworthy in that statement, other than the fact that up until the beginning of this year, I was not an architectural photographer living in Dubai. Until a year ago, I was a restaurant owner living, raising kids, and just trying to get through my day which was spent pretty much in the confines of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Matt Wronski at work.

Matt Wronski at work.

Thirty seven years of my life were spent supporting myself in one way or another through the business of food and beverage. From washing dishes and waiting tables in Michigan, tending bar in New York City, running restaurants, installing computer ordering systems and selling equipment in San Francisco, I pretty much did it all.

What started as a way to make money to support myself while I figured out how to pursue my real dream of taking pictures for a living, I became a “restaurant guy.” The only problem was, I didn’t want to be that guy. The longer I was involved in restaurants, the more it became clear I was never going to get out. I was never going to go back to what I studied to become, a photographer.

As the great recession of 2007 played out, as the burdens of owning businesses with the increasing labor and food costs took their toll, I realized I needed to make a change into a different type of business. I realized, in my circumstances, I needed to become a one-man band. After looking into other businesses, none of which was the least bit fulfilling, I had a very long conversation with a dear friend, who happened to own a very successful real estate brokerage. Knowing me as well as he does, seeing my unhappiness at the prospect of owning my restaurants for those final years, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Matt, you were put on this earth to be a photographer. How much more time will you let pass before you go back to what you were meant to do?”

image

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai taken from the top of the Shangra La Hotel.

He asked if I’d ever considered photographing houses for real estate agents. I hadn’t. He was familiar with pictures I had taken which hung in my restaurants, and he felt I might be good at it. I figured I’d give it a shot.

I began shooting for my friend Len, the one who had encouraged me to shoot houses. I soon realized my skills were not where I wanted them to be and set out to learn as much as I could. YouTube, Adobe Photoshop Tutorials, and Facebook pages propelled me along my path. I came across a tutorial series by a professional architectural photographer based in Los Angeles. After some back and forth emails, he told me about a workshop he was hosting in March last year and invited me to attend.

Wronski_skyline

The Marina in Dubai.

It wasn’t until a couple more emails that I realized it was taking place in Dubai. I made arrangements to travel there and after the event, discovered I had absolutely fallen in love with the place. It is an electrifying city and is building things like I had never imagined. I decided, as crazy it sounded, I would return to live and work. After setting up my company while still in The States, I moved here New Years Day and am loving every minute of it.

By being given a chance to chase a dream I’d all but given up on, I discovered I could indeed do something other than ask people what kind of salsa they’d like on their tacos. I took all the things I learned through those years of making people happy with my food and figured out how to make them happy with my photos. And instead of looking at my old career with regret, I cherrypicked the best parts of it and apply them to what I was meant to do.

Check out Matt’s work online.

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8 Comments on "How a baby boomer completely changed his life"

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William C.
Guest

At this stage of life, I can definitely relate. It is funny how we learn more about ourselves in retirement than when we are young and just setting out to conquer the world. I have discovered a number of things about myself and now I just need to move forward and harness them.

Laura Lee Carter
Guest
YOU GO MATT! I LOVE reading articles like this! What an inspiration to others who have not quite found the courage to live the last part of their life doing what they came here to do! I also got stuck in my original career as an academic librarian. I always said I’d change when I found something better, but instead I got fired by an asshole at age 49. As it turns out, that was exactly what I needed to change EVERYTHING! I started a dating service, met a great new husband and finally became a writer at age 50!… Read more »
Lynn - Encore Voyage
Guest

Way to go, Matt! You have started your own Encore Voyage! Our experience was a great deal like that. We BOTH ended up without jobs, then, with me crying on the patio, we had this discussion: “So what do you want to be when you grow up???” Scary as hell, but we started the complete reinvention of our lifestyle and we’ve never looked back! And we couldn’t be happier. We’ve learned a lot! We wish you the best of luck on your journey!

Colleen Kelly Mellor
Guest
Funny you mention real estate, for I went into that career, for 8 years, following a 30-year “stint” in teaching. Life had given me few choices, really, for I was a widow and single parent, twice, early in life, raising young daughters ten years apart in age. Like you, I did what I had to do. At the height of my realtor career (when I was getting year-over-year six-figured salaries,) I left–to pursue my dream of being a writer. Now, at 70, I’m doing that. I didn’t want to be the old woman in the nursing home saying “Well, I… Read more »
roz warren
Guest

Inspiring. Love that Dubai marina photo.

Theresa Mazzenga
Guest

After a lifelong career in the clinical hematology laboratory at two major hospitals in Rhode Island, I am pursuing my lifelong dream of owning a baking company. I rent kitchen space from an established bakery and not having a storefront must seek vendors for my products. To be honest it is very difficult, profit wise, in this economy but I am persevering in my lifelong dream. Best wished to Matt!

Susan - Booming Encore
Guest

What a great story! It takes both courage and confidence to make such a significant personal change… congratulations Matt!

Merydith
Guest

Thank you Matt for telling us your story. As a BB, I need to be inspired and to hear these stories often. I will never retire. It has no interest for me. I have worked hard to build an international business and under the umbrella of leadership development, I can do many things. There is nothing more important to me than waking up and being enthused about what I am going to do in the day.

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