Last night, I photographed Gisselle’s wedding and had the pleasure of hanging out with a ton of my clients who were guests (WHICH IS THE BEST WAY TO SPEND A WEDDING EVER), and one of them asked me how I knew photography was like the thing I would do, told me that she was waiting for the thing she wanted to do, and that she felt a little behind, considering she had already graduated and still didn't know. I nodded in sympathy, I feel like that, too, and then I was like WAIT A MINUTE. YOU’RE LIKE 5 YEARS YOUNGER THAN ME. Dude NOTHING had happened for me at the ripe old age of right-out-of-college, and things happen so much faster than you can imagine, but so much slower, too. It’s a lot of hurry up & wait (more like hustle hustle & wait) when you’re chasing your dreams (or finding out what they are), let me tell you from experience.
I told her that at her age, I was biding my time living in France still having NO CLUE what the heck I was doing with life. I mean, I was enjoying the hell out of myself- I don’t think that “not knowing what you want to do” is an excuse to hate what you’re currently doing- but I knew the path I was on, I wouldn’t be my path for long.
So I thought a Reader's Digest version of my timeline would be encouraging for you on your dream chasing journey.
If you don't have it all figured out, then welcome to your 20s.
2009: Age 20/Third Year:
Cried on my 20th birthday, because I had just decided to COMPLETELY change my life plan, realized I would need to get a different degree, and that everything I had planned for and prepared for up until that moment, I had rendered completely useless. AWESOME.
2010: Age 21/Fourth Year:
Started my senior year, and had abandoned the idea of being a neurosurgeoun (wtf?) and decided to be a Speech Therapist; I had been working as a Learning Therapist for a few years at this point and LOVEDDDDDD it. (I hadn’t picked up a camera til the last quarter of my senior year.) I applied to live in France through the TAPIF program, because I still had not a clue what I wanted to do after school- and the “get a job right after graduation” thing never sounded appealing, and I honestly don’t even think I ever considered it. I applied to Utah State University online, which is one of the only second-Bachelor’s degree program for speech therapy, and was online which was an added bonus as at the time I didn’t know Utah was beautiful (now I know!), it just sounded totally boring, andddd I was already accepted into the teaching program in France. So online school for me to get another degree, as if one wasn’t already enough.
December of my senior year, I picked up the camera, and that’s a whole other story ;) Within a few months, I had convinced one of my bosses to loan me several thousand dollars to buy my own camera, and that he could garnish my wages $5 an hour to pay it back (needless to say that took forever- in fact I don’t think I paid it back until I moved back from France!).
March of my senior year, I was done with school- I had finished classes a quarter early because I’m a gross overachiever, and I had taken summer school because I loved school (and mostly because summer classes were cheaper & I was paying for myself), and so I had March-June to do whatever the heck I wanted. At the time I was working like 45 jobs, so I was just gonna work my butt off, get my motorcycle license (??) and bid my time until moving to France.
And then I decided to move to Australia.
I want you to know that at this point, I am done with school, I have purchased a super expensive camera, and I still have literally no idea what I was doing.
I sold my car for the flights to Australia, lived there for Spring Quarter, flew back to walk the line in June, and then flew BACK for the summer. I worked at a ski resort there, and hated EVERY SINGLE SECOND of that job. Again, I did not know what I wanted to do, but I knew that I did not want to work at a ski resort daycare where the minutes seemed like HOURS and I remember, for the first time, realizing that I was not prone to subjecting myself to things I did not enjoy (aka I do whateva I want) and I was proud of myself that the feeling was unfamiliar. So I lived in Australia for a good 4 months and worked 11 days. Yup. Ain’t nobody got time to work a job they don’t love.
Summer after my senior year, I moved back from Australia because I felt my life wasting away at that damn daycare, and worked back in SLO for a few months before moving to France.
2011: Age 22/First year out of college:
At this point, I still had no idea what I was doing. I just started online school at USU, which I loved because I love school, and was about to go into the most life changing year of my life, so really nothing was picking up traction for my future yet.
While I was in France, I practiced photography all the time, non stop, day dreamed about it, ADIDAP. STILL had no clue it’s what I wanted to do.
February of my first year out of college, I decided I really wanted to fly home and surprise my best friend for his birthday. We hadn’t spent his birthday apart since we had known each other, and I was not down to let France get in the way of that. So, I posted on Facebook that I needed six photoshoots to be able to afford the flight home, and I got double. That’s the first time I realized I could get paid doing what I loved (STILL not that I knew at that time that’s what was going on).
June of my first year out of college, I moved back to SLO to... do something, who knew. The day I landed, the car I was going to buy fell through, my old learning therapy job told me they didn’t have enough hours for me, and the lease for the house I was going to move into didn’t start for another month. So in short, I was carless, jobless, and homeless.
Age 23/Second year out of college/2012:
By the grace of God, all things were fine (like always), and I accepted a nanny position with an amazing family in SLO where I would watch the kids 3 days a week and get free rent. CHILL.
I worked part time doing about 100 zillion things:
-Chase bank driver from 5 pm to 2 am twice a week
-Learning therapist 10-20 hours a week
-Nanny 3 days a week
-Real estate assistant
-Data processor for a solar company
- (and finally!) Photographer (but only kind of)
I asked a random guy who was a friend of a friend if he thought I should quit going to school to be a Speech Therapist and pretty much sacrifice all future’s stability, and take the leap to start a business, because I loved it. I really wanted an objective perspective, and pretty much told God to speak through this random dude and I would take whatever he said as a straight up sign from God. That random dude ended up being John, he told me to start the business, and we've been together ever since :)
I got my business license in October of 2012 and quit school, and by January I knew that photography was something that could probably really happen for me, with a freaking lot of work and a lot more skill.
I got an office for photography in March of 2013/ my second year out of college, and at that time I half felt like I made it and half felt like I was tricking everybody (which is, surprise!, how I will continue to feel til like the day I die).
Age 24/Third year out of college/2013:
I moved out of the nanny house into a cute little apartment downtown (where I still live!), and pulled more hours at the other hundreds of jobs I had to support myself while trying to build up the business (which costs mucho money and takes mucho time).
I did my very first Fall Photo Off with sororities, and knew it was going to be a long haul until that paid off, but felt FREAKING BRILLIANT for thinking of that idea (which ended up being the best move I could’ve made as these sororities have been the most loyal & gorgeous foundations of my photography and business since).
I started panicking that I couldn’t sustain myself on a zillion part time jobs and a full time photography business (the first few years take A LOT OF FREAKING WORK), so I started working full time at the Learning Therapy place, out of fear, and self doubt, and impatience. I can’t say I’ve made too many decisions with those motivations, but, again, I had no idea what I was doing.
I loved that job, let me tell you, but January came and business picked up FAST and I was taking days off to photoshoot, not sleeping to finish editing, and knew I was half-assing both my full time jobs. I had to make a really tough choice in deciding, again, do I quit stability or do I take some risks and follow what I love?
Let me check in with you: At this point, I KNEW what I wanted to do, I didn’t know IF I could- which was stupid. I knew I would put a shit ton of work into it, and I knew that people wanted my business. Those are just a few of the prereqs for quitting something to do your own thing.
Age 25/Fourth year out of college/2014:
With the support of my amazing skill and beautiful sororities and John, I quit my full time job and went full time photography after a hundred years of doing other things.
Now that I write this, it doesn’t seem like that long. Like it only took you four years to figure out what you wanted to do & do it?
But GOD during, it FELT LIKE FOREVERRR.
Age 26/Fifth year out of college/ 2015-2016:
Now, the dream is still building, the magazine is almost at its year anniversary, I finally don’t need to work eighteen part time jobs, and this is a very small summary of the last year that has been a whirlwind of AMAZINGNESS for my business. But it took years to get here. Years of Fall Photo Offs (which will never end), self exploration (which will never end), educating myself with workshops and seminars and practice (which will never end), hustling and trying new things and the magazine and putting myself out there and WORKING MY ASS OFF (which will never end).
So, long story short, my dear friend, you never catch your dream- you’re always chasing it. Every step along the way is getting you closer, even if it feels like it’s taking you a thousand miles away (… my journey took me literally thousands of miles away). And every time you get closer, the dream grows. Chasing my dream isn’t “Starting a photography business” anymore- it’s take over the world ;) (Naturally, that’s the next step after starting your own photography business, right?) It’s having the magazine support a full time staff, it’s consistently blogging, it’s going to Saint Thomas for our anniversary, it’s growing the high school senior portraits part of my business, it’s doing 5 years, 10 years of Fall Photo Off, it’s photographing the weddings of all my sorority clients when that time comes (!! That happened for the first time this weekend!), it’s continuing to build a life I love in SLO with John and convincing my sister to move here with Beau ;)
And I would be so so sad if one day I woke up and thought “And there it is, I’ve caught my dream.” Because at this point, chasing my dream is all I know how to do.
(Except if one day I woke up and Beau Bear lived here... Dream caught and squished and kissed and held onto forever & ever.)