James and I were driving home from dinner out as a family Monday after the boys’ 18-month wellness checks at the doctor. (Dinners out together after doctors appointments started as a thing with James and I during our fertility treatments, and continued on through the boys’ wellness checks at the doctor over the past year and a half. Early on we were so amazed we all got out of the house with these two tiny babies that we figured we might as well get some food while we were all packed up, and we’ve continued the tradition because it’s good for our souls to get out as a family & any excuse for that we are happy to take advantage of! ;))
Anyway, I digress. Back to Monday evening…
The windows were down and it was that perfect fall-like evening where the sun was fading on the horizon and the breeze was just the right combination of warm from the last bits of summer hanging on but with a cool aftertaste of fall squeezing its way in. James had his hand on my knee and the boys were making all kinds of noise in the back seat with their toy cars as they practiced using their vocal cords in new ways (which they do all the time lately)!
I caught James smiling to himself as we neared a stop light and shifted my gaze onto him, hoping he might share what he was thinking.
He continued looking straight ahead into traffic and said, “Remember when you used to come home from the law firm crying all the time?”
He paused, but I could tell he had more to say so I waited.
“And you’d talk about taking the photography business full-time all the time. Then when you finally quit you were mad at me for not seeming happy for you… but that’s because I always knew you were going to do it. It was just a matter of when you finally did.”
“Oh I remember…” I replied. “I was literally so exhausted I was making myself sick with anxiety.”
“Now look at us… “ James said with a smile as he glanced in the rearview mirror at the boys and laughed. Micah was trying to put on this tiny pair of Spider Man sunglasses upside-down, and Gabe was saying “ca-cuck” over and over again as he drove his firetruck up and down his legs.
I sat there quietly, with a big old grateful smile across my face – my heart literally feeling so full it could burst out of my chest. I could feel a lump in my throat and swallowed hard as the tears stung the back of my eyes.
I couldn’t help but think back to 6 years ago this week, when I quit a job I had taken to pay the bills, to follow what seemed like a crazy dream at the time.
Back then I thought I knew what our life would look like as small business owners. I had visions of success that in retrospect, don’t actually look much like what our life looks like now at all. And I’m so grateful for that. Back then I thought I’d want to speak at conferences, and host huge workshops. I thought we’d work our way up to charging a certain amount of money (a benchmark of “success”) and follow in the footsteps of others in the photography industry that were often parading around in front of everyone shouting into the abyss about their “successes” all the time and how to do it just like they did.
Instead though – and not in any grandiose gesture – but rather day by day, quietly and intuitively – we followed our guts and our hearts instead.
Originally we went into this business because we loved photography, but as we continued down this path together – it was clear we were sticking around for the people. People with such beautiful souls – they inspire us to be better people every day. People whose stories have left imprints on our hearts over these past 9 years of shooting weddings and families. People who now feel like family to us too.
Along with all of that – this business has taught us a lot of other things. Our marriage was challenged in ways it hadn’t been before as we navigated our lives as co-workers/business owners and spouses (& eventually as parents). We were constantly humbled by rejection, and were incredibly grateful for the growth and joyful moments too. During a time that was incredibly dark for us personally – as we struggled to build our family – we found solace in traveling the country together, telling couple’s loves stories in new and exciting places. Our business was the redemption we needed at times, and also the catalyst to build a new life together… one where we defined what success looked like to us, which – as it turns out – looks a lot more like a reasonable workload, quality time with each other and our loved ones, and “Football Sundays” off with our boys. Success looks pretty ordinary to us – as we work from home together all week and tag-team our duties as parents, homeowners, and business owners (and consider ourselves pretty darn fancy if we manage to shower or get dressed before the boys go to bed at 7pm – haha).
Our life feels quiet and modest. We relish in the day to day moments and occasionally I have to shake myself & remind myself when I still see people in the industry chasing that proverbial carrot hanging in front of them – that that is not what I want out of this life. It just takes one giggle from my boys, or them tackling me to the ground when I sit to read them a book to be reminded of what it is we want out of this life….
We want a life built on moments, not things.
A life filled with memories, not hours logged on a time sheet.
We want to look back on it all when we are old and gray and feel good about the choices we made and the way we spent our time.
6 years ago when I walked out of the law firm for the last time and came home to James to the start of this new adventure – I never could have grasped what was yet to come. But as I sat in our car on the way home Monday evening – with our boys giggling in the back and James holding tight to my hand from the driver’s seat… I knew we were exactly where we were meant to be. And for that – I am so incredibly grateful.