Well, here I am. I just got up at 12 in the afternoon (12:30 if I’m honest), and I’ve managed to stumble downstairs. My fridge has been freezing my food, so frozen strawberries over a english muffin was my breakfast. I really can’t complain… its just last night, at 2 a.m I was so mad that my carrots were frozen.
Technically I have an hour till I have to head out, and meet a friend for coffee, and I really should be working, but I really want to write.
When I decided to not go to college, I can’t explain the weight that fell off my shoulders. I could finally see myself getting older.. before the future was just blank, and I couldn’t think of anything to come after graduation. Looking back the decision was clear all along, but the process it took to get there seemed unsteady and unpredictable at the time.
My professional career started in 2014. My best friend handed me a $5o bill after I took her “senior photos.” Little did I know that feeling of utter shock of going home having made money while having the time of my life, wouldn’t fade AND would become my normal. By fall of 2014, a dear couple at my church literally handed me the opportunity to shoot their wedding. I like to say I worked hard to get there, but reality is the Lord dropped it in my lap. That brisk October day was one of the most stressful days of my life. There was much sweat, lots of tears, but no blood (shockingly).
I’m not sure what really drew me to weddings since tears had been streaming down my cheeks during that first ceremony in the dark (to be clear, stress tears). But once again, a wonderful couple from my church spotted me that day, and booked for the following May. Before I could even shoot their engagement pictures, one of her friends from work had booked me for June. AND so began the snowball of what has become my vocation. I like to think I’ve come really far from that year… Judging that I don’t have braces, I don’t meet clients in Nike shorts anymore, and my income has changed from a $50 bill.
I guess the purpose of this post is to share a little of my story, and where I am today. Last year was incredible. As I normally do, I overbooked everything. There was a point that I was having meltdown on my parents bed with a full page checklist of shoots I had to edit, hand in hand with a checklist of the shoots for the next three weeks. To be honest, its beyond me how I survived. But that feeling of rush during a bride and groom portraits, the build up as I parked for the senior session, and the text I got after delivering family photos, now that. THAT. was how I survived. It became very clear I was within my giftings. The problem? I was a Senior in High-school, who was SUPPOSE to be applying for college and scholarships. SUPPOSE to be studying for final exams, and reading lit books. Lord knows that is where most of the tears came from. There were days I should have quit, but my parents encouraged and pushed me. I remember my mom over years telling me “You are all about people, you get people. And this small portion of life is about books and tests, but the rest? Its going to be people. Just get through this, and you will thrive for the rest of your life because you are good with p.e.o.p.l.e.” So the finish line was throwing my cap in the air on a May afternoon.
I’m probably an undiagnosed workaholic, but it started with using my free time from school with work. Last summer I had a 40+ hour job as well as shooting weddings and seniors. Midnight became my editing time. I remember I would actually used my lunch break to go meet brides. When I would come in Monday from the weekend I asked off my boss would ask me “how was your time off?” Reality, I had worked an 11 hour wedding day that Saturday, and could barely get out of bed to go to church the next day cause my body was so sore from carrying my camera and bag. BUT you know what? I was so insanely happy for most of that summer. I enjoyed working my day job, and I loved taking photos. Truth, I was just tired A LOT.
Which leads me to July of 2015, where you can find me sobbing at a little table in Whole Foods. I was sitting across from my best friend/ coworker/boss / roommate 4 days a week. We were talking about how crazy life was and how I was so tired, and I had started to not enjoy my job. It was causing me to give 50% to my clients and 50% to my summer-job. No one was getting my full energy and care. I started sleeping past alarms, missing phone calls from clients, and avoiding my boss. And out of no where, I just blurted our “Oh my gosh. I’m suppose to quite my job….” Then began the flood of tears. It was so overwhelming to have to make a choice that made me sick at my stomach. I had never been faced with having to quit something that wasn’t wrong and I loved SO much. That job had been my life and my family for two years. I was there off hours, I was there over-time… It was my second home. A weepy conversation later, some poor Whole Foods worker informed us that they were actually already closed. I whipped up a “I’m so sorry” and sniffled out to my friend’s car.
That Monday, after seeking consul from my parents, friends, and mentors), I quit my job. On the way I had pulled over thinking I was going to throw up, and stepping into the office, I went lightheaded. It was an extreme experience for me, though I know many have done that same thing before me. It just felt so right, yet so wrong at the same time.
I came into 2016 with only one wedding booked. In fact, I was standing in an arena full of 16,000 believers shouting praises and prayers to the Lord when the clock hit 00:00 | 01.01.16. That moment shook me physically (the whole place was jumping and dancing), but it shook me on a deeper level. I KNEW where I was suppose to be. My dream daily was to work full time as a photographer. I had quit my steady job, and the finish line was 5 months away.
So I decided not to pursue further education through college. My parents were fully on board, which honestly, I’m not sure I could have done it without their love and excitement for me. When I look back, scratch that, even know, I know some people think my parents are crazy for letting me not go, but they saw two years ago a passion, and through my Jr and Sr year they watched me give up my free time to build that passion into a growing business. It wasn’t just a hobby. It wasn’t just a phase. I know the Lord gave them peace, and they have stood next to me and helped me every step.
I never publicly announced that I wasn’t going to college, and on a weekly basis people ask me where I am attending and what my major is. So I guess this is my first time saying out into the world. And as far as I know right now, I won’t be going to college. I’m not going to say never, because the Lord can change everything. However I would like to say it isn’t encouraging when people side stab me with “Oh.. well you will probably go to college anyway”, “that’s so nice, once your finished I’m sure you will go to college.” “Are you sure???…… I suppose GAP years are normal.” “You really should reconsider, a business degree would be best.” Though you mean it or not, most of those comments imply that you believe I’m in a phase, or will probably fail and fall back on college. If I go to college, it will not be an escape or a back up plan, it will be the Lord’s plan A for my life. I’ve never been an academic. Of all people, my mother knows it best. She walked through every step of my learning disabilities. I remember the first in class test I ever took, I had to leave half way through to throw up. My first time being handed a pretend ACT I ended up sobbing for more than an hour questioning God why He had allowed such a terrible system. AND I know I’m not the only one. I have met countless people who have fought through it like I did, if not harder. My favorite Art Teacher talks about the day she danced out of chemistry because she had given everything to become nurse, and she d.i.d.
College isn’t for me. And May 20nd of 2016 I walked on stage, and received a piece of paper that was my ticket. My ticket to the rest of my life. I won’t be looking back. As I pray over my business, I can see the fruit of my labors. The Lord has blessed me with more then I ever asked. Currently I have a whole page list of shoots to edit, hand in hand with a checklist of shoots for the next three weeks, but THIS TIME, it’s my job. That’s my normal. It’s what I do. And I’m starting to learn to give myself free time, because work isn’t after school any more. Work is how I spend my week, and I’m allowed to have time off.
I live with my best friend now, in a cute little apartment in one my favorite parts of town. We have the best tile in our kitchen, plants everywhere, and my favorite photos hanging all along my bedroom walls. My goal is to start booking internationally; It may never happen, but I’m so thankful my goal isn’t a diploma anymore. In truth, I struggle daily. I struggle to work hard and I struggle to give myself some slack. I eat frozen strawberries at 12pm because I stayed up till 4a.m finishing up one of my October wedding’s gallery. When you have your own business, there is not check out. Emotions pour into everything. You take work home because… that’s where you work. I can’t not talk about my couples to my friends. I’ve missed a lot of friend’s parties and events because I work Saturdays. BUT I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’ve never been happier in my life. I’m learning and struggling, but I’m LIVING.
I hope if you have read this far, you have been able to know me better.. at least you’ve learned if you didn’t know I’m pretty emotional and throwing up isn’t rare.
I am thankful for the love, encouragement, challenges, and support my friends and family give me. Above all else I cannot boast of my own works, but of the One who gave me life.