I occasionally get emails from up-and-coming photographers or students asking me if I’d share the story of how I got to where I am today. And I want to share my story – I do… but sometimes I feel like I’ve only made it through the first couple chapters, and who wants to hear that?
To be honest, I have trouble accepting “my story.” You can ask James… I often sit at my computer, browsing through other photographer’s blogs and websites, exclaiming – “James! You are never going to believe it! This girl is only 21 and has a legit photo business! This is her real and only job! And look at how good she is… at 21!” (Substitute in any age younger than my own for “21” and I’ll say the same darn thing.)
Truth is – I’m just amazed when people have their lives completely together and businesses running at such a young age. And I’m not going to lie – I get super jealous about it. And then I get plain-old frustrated that I didn’t realize I could actually do THIS for a living a long time ago. Imagine where I’d be now… I think to myself… If only I’d started my business 8 years ago.
It really is a terrible way to think… and a terrible way to live – to constantly compare yourself to others. James makes me aware of this all the time. He tells me – You have to stop comparing yourself to others. You are who you are, and all those experiences that got you here have contributed to the person you are today.
And I listen to him. (Or at least I try to.) And I make a conscious effort to appreciate my story. Because it is just that – it is mine. And while I may be rapidly nearing the 30-year mark (eek!) and still work a day job to pay the rent while I build my business from the ground up – at least I’m doing it… Right? At least I’m busting my butt to make my dreams come true. And while I may not be some young pup who knew they wanted to do this straight out of college and had my business up and running at 21…. I can still respect the fact that I’m doing this at all.
It’s not easy. For those of you thinking of entering this profession – please know, it is by no means a cake walk. Actually, it’s the farthest thing from it. And if I wasn’t completely passionate and in love with what I do – there is no way I could continue on, non-stop, the way I have been for the past year.
Even beyond having overwhelming passion for the job – it takes some real guts and courage to put yourself out there like this. And on some days when I get email after email from potential clients I’ve met up with for coffee telling me they decided to go with another photographer… I wonder if I can handle this. (Rejection is not easy to take… especially when it feels so personal… especially when you’re a perfectionist, like myself.) But then I remember all the fabulous people I have worked with and how the photos I took of them and their loved ones made them feel. And I remember all the amazing clients who booked me for next year… and I think of all the photos I have yet to take, and the people I still hope to make laugh at my stupid jokes. And I remember why I do this.
It is quite the roller coaster of emotions… building your own business from the ground up – working your tail off late into the night and getting up to do it all over again the next day. And let me tell you – I feel like I’ve done a lot of difficult things in my life (including earning two college degrees… more that later) – but none of those things were nearly as difficult as this has been. I didn’t work half as hard for those things as I have worked for this. Honestly – it nearly brings me to tears to think of the day when I will no longer need a day job to pay the rent. A day when this and this alone will be what I do. And when that time comes – I am going to throw One.Huge.Party. (Seriously – are you guys coming?! Because I will want you all there.)
And this, my friends – brings me to a quote I want to share with you guys. When I heard the fabulous Conan O’Brien himself say this on his final appearance on The Tonight Show – it brought me to tears. It made me think of myself and my struggles – and gave me hope for what the future holds. And it reminded me that no matter what happened with all of this, I should always be the person my parents raised me to be… and that I should continue to give and care for the people around me – because really, in the end – that’s all that matters, right?
All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. ~Conan O’Brien
*More on my actual story later… first I had to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening. 🙂