I’ve struggled with the idea of publishing this personal of a post. This exact post, in particular. It’s scary, showing yourself to the world. But it is part of an ever growing process for me. Of getting out of my comfort zone. Of doing things that scare the bejeebus out of me. Of pushing and perservering and trying. And of failing.
When I was first starting out in this business, I mean really seriously omigod-what-on-earth-am-I-getting-myself-into starting out, I was scared. Terrified, if I’m being honest. Knees shaking, fingers trembling, heart racing scared. Of success. Of failure. Of not actually being a good photographer. Of letting people (my friends, my clients, myself) down. I was so scared that I was going to misstep, that I would falter. I was conviced of it, actually. It was inevitable: Failure. At least that’s what I had told myself.
If I prepared myself to fail, to have to give up this dream someday, then it wouldn’t hurt as much when it happened. “Expect the worst, hope for the best” became my mantra.
I spent the first year in this business sad. Glum. Depressed. Convinced that no matter how hard I worked I was never going to book another wedding, or a portrait session, that I’d never have a professional website, the equipment that I needed, a faster computer. I was certain my work would never be great. I’d be stuck somwhere between okay and mediocre forever.
And it broke my heart into a million tiny pieces. Every. Single. Day.
I can’t tell you when or where it happened exactly, only that it was some time last summer. The Austin heat was sweltering, no rain in sight, and the days were only getting hotter. Drier. Even though the sky couldn’t shake free a storm, one was brewing in my soul. My heart was ready to let go. I was sick of being the only person at my pity parties. Moreso, I was sick of even throwing them (they’re historically un-fun, poorly attended, and the food is horrendous). I was sick of feeling that empty pit in the bottom of my stomach – an ache in the space reserved for despair and hopelessness that you can only feel when it’s full. Filling up the whole of you with woe. Doubt. Sorrow. That wasn’t me. Not even a little bit. So I decided I wasn’t going to be that girl who wasn’t me any longer.
Fast forward to this past November: Cool and crisp, a perfect Minnesota fall filled with the smell of wood-smoke, damp leaves, and cool sunshine. Fall is my favorite season, and for whatever reason this past one left me feeling reborn. As if I’d somehow come into my own skin finally. I felt alive. Rejuvinated. Ready. I was reading Jasmine Star’s bookzine “Exposed” and came to the page on redifining failure in an effort to truly pave the way to success. It struck a chord with me. Hit home. Made perfect sense. So I grabbed my moleskine and I wrote. Page after page after page. Day after day. I detailed what failure looked like. I counted my blessings – the things in my life that I’m thankful for Right.This.Moment-and I let go.
And in that moment: Transcendence. Lightness. Freedom.
It sounds cheesy, trite, falsely prolific, I know. I can’t even believe I just wrote the word “transcendence.” But it’s true. Once I defined what failure looked like, once I made it an actual option instead of something that was either an inevitable destination or a demon to be avoided at all costs, it stopped looking like an absolute, and it stopped being scary. Instead of sobbing on my kitchen floor, words thick, struggling to come out, ranting about how I’m never going to amount to anything, how no matter how hard I try I never get anywhere, I’m here. Farther than I ever dreamed I’d be at this point in my career, yet still so excited by how far I still have to go. It’s not about the destination anymore: The lenses, the website, the fully-booked wedding seasons, the workshops, the networking, the status-quo. It’s about doing it. Every day. No matter what. Shooting. Dreaming. Living.
Most of all, living.
I don’t have all the answers, I don’t even pretend to have some of them, but this much I know is true: failure will only hold you back if you let it, and dreams will only take you so far. The rest is work. Difficult, exhausting, thrilling, heartbreaking, wonderful work. And you have to do it to become who it is that you truly are.
The process to shed myself of that negative skin has taken a long time. Hours. Days. Weeks. Months. The winds of change began blowing that hot Texas July, and still blows warm upon my face, and stirs my soul. It’s the kind of breeze I’m crazy thankful for. Every second, of every day.
Wow. Thanks for sharing. I have had similar experiences with Music, and I haven’t gotten quite as far as you. It takes courage to own your failures and make something of them. Kudos. I look forward to your success now and in the future.
This post is so close to my heart. Thank you for writing it so well and so heartfelt. Eloquently and beautifully expressed.
Heck Yea You Friend!
i’m stuck in this exactly place … at this very moment.
and little slivers of -not that- are beginning to shine through.
You have such a great gift Athena, not only as a photographer but with artistic expression in general. Thank you for having the strength to be vulnerable, I don’t think you realize how helpful your words are to the people who read them.
so proud of you dear friend
you inspire me everyday
to push, to continue to chase my dreams
to stay in the moment and live the dream.
love you so much
thanks for being you
every single minute!
You dear, brave, beautiful girl.
I am without words.
But my heart is overflowing and giving a fist-pump.
That is how moved I am.
The power of raw truth is an amazing thing.
So proud of you. Times ten :)
Lady….. just wow.
You…amazing you…rock.it.out!!! :)