Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. — Henry David Thoreau
Writing this post is surreal. I have imagined it for quite some time, often wondering if it would ever come true. And here I sit, with a light heart floating on contentment as thick as fog. Being exactly where I want to be, which is an amazing feeling and one that I am not familiar with.
Most of you know that I wear many hats: mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, and photographer, to name a few. But, for those of you that don’t know, I am also a lawyer. I have for the last 8.5 years practiced law at large law firms, first in litigation and then practicing corporate transactional work. And I have struggled for the majority of those years with my gut telling me I was in the wrong place. It wasn’t me. It just didn’t feel right; I didn’t feel like I naturally belonged there. It wasn’t that I disliked the work per se (because I did and do like it), or the people (because I’ve made true life-long friends that I am blessed to have in my life), or that I wasn’t up for the challenge of working in a large law firm (because I was – what can I say? I’m fairly Type A 😉 ). I couldn’t quite put my finger on it or verbally identify the disconnect, but there was always a feeling and I knew that my entire heart wasn’t in it.
You see, I ended up a little far from my roots and my emotional and creative tendencies (as you know, emotions don’t play a big role in the legal world, lol). I studied art history in undergrad (including studying abroad in Italy, which holds a very special place in my heart and history) and I went to law school for art and museum law and cultural property. No one at the time told me that it’s not a practicing field, it’s more academic ;D I’ll spare you the details of my exact route, however, as time went on, I knew that I had taken a wrong turn. But, I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t know where I wanted to end up. I beat myself up on a daily basis for not knowing myself better, for not knowing what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be. I beat myself up for not having any one specific natural talent that emerged in my life that made it obvious what I should be doing (besides studying, lol). So I read books, scoured the web for anything that might trigger a gut reaction, talked to family and friends (ad nausea – my poor friends 🙁 ), and analyzed my personality until it was scattered in tiny pieces across the floor and I felt ashamed for not being something I thought I was supposed to be. Unfortunately or fortunately (I haven’t decided), part of the reason why I did so well in law school and with practicing law, is that I am analytical by nature and maybe um, slightly obsessive?? Which may be helpful when trying to make life changing decisions, but it’s not so helpful when you can’t forgive yourself for not being able to make that decision. For years. It consumed me.
Why couldn’t I figure out what I wanted to do with my life? What was wrong with me? I felt stifled and unsatisfied. Imagining I would sit in an office enclosed by 4 walls for the rest of my working career made me want to bang my head on my desk (and I might have). I even went as far as to question: “Is this what life is about? What’s the purpose of life? [Again, my poor friends, lol] Are we born into existence merely to label and identify ourselves with what we do to make money to be able to live? And then we die.” I just couldn’t accept that this was my destiny, what I was born to do; that it was the best use of my skills, heart, emotions, or intellect.
Meanwhile, photography came into my life about 4 years ago. I received a Nikon DSLR for my 30th birthday and started taking classes. I did this for fun, to have an outlet, and to challenge myself creatively. I would love to say that I became enthralled with photography, gobbling every bit of information that I could find and that the heavens rained down on me so that I stood in the front yard with arms extended upward while I yelled “photography is my calling; photography is what I am meant to do!” But, alas, it wasn’t the case. I did very much enjoy it, but I didn’t think much of it as a career option until I had my son 1.5 years later. As most mothers do, they take lots of photos of their kids, and love every single photo, regardless of any technical or artistic merit. I did this. I then started taking photos of friends’ kids, and then friends of friends and then strangers and at some point I was in business. There’s a term for this, Mom With a Camera. And yes, that was me. Is me. Proudly.
I did this while I worked close to full time at my then-current firm. I had two jobs. On one hand, I was a lawyer, and on the other, I was a photographer. And I had a baby who became a toddler. And a husband. And family and friends and other obligations and interests. I kept those worlds separate because it seemed like the logical thing to do at the time, and because I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going with it all. I felt like I was leading a double life. And while photography was immensely fulfilling to me, I still felt stifled because I couldn’t be 100% myself, 100% of the time, in either world. I was exhausted from working so much and sad from missing so much time with my son. But I just couldn’t stop pushing forward, my gut was making an appearance, finally FINALLY and it told me to persevere. But I still couldn’t make a decision about the long term direction of my career, now careers.
After all these years, could I trust myself to make the RIGHT decision? I was scared. Scared of failure, scared of judgment and scared of taking risk. Scared to leave the safety of my firm job. After all, I have a child and I want him to have more than I had. How can I risk what I have just to follow my heart . . .
I am a believer in creating your own path, taking control and creating the life that you want, but I wasn’t doing it myself, I was the worst broken record. At the same time, I am also a believer in destiny and things happening for a reason. Over the last year, I’ve heard and read numerous stories (including people sadly dying before their time), quotes, and sayings that had an overwhelming affect on me, reminding me that our time here is fleeting and not guaranteed, that kept pushing me in one direction, and it was snowballing as the year went on, including the following:
“Let the beauty we love be what we do” – Rumi
“All glory comes from daring to begin” – Eugene F. Ware
“Be who YOU are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” – Helen Keller
“Where Ever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius
“There’s nothing new under the sun. All the roads lead to Rome. And people cannot provide it for you. I can’t wake you up. You can wake you up. I can’t cure you. You can cure you.” – John Lennon
“Life Begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
“Your life is your message to the world. Make sure it’s inspiring.”
“To life a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce
And especially, the terrible loss of Steve Jobs:
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Perhaps I was simply open to receiving the influence of information that was already there, or perhaps it was destiny. The bottom line: how could I teach my son to follow his own dreams and not be afraid of risk or judgment if I couldn’t do it myself?
The night I admitted to myself the path I wanted to take, I cried. Would I be strong enough? Brave enough? Could I actually do it and be successful? Would I be able to pay our bills? Then days and weeks went by. And I started thinking of the details, of the logistics, started talking to others about it. I started planning and building my courage and pumping myself up mentally and emotionally.
I have struggled sooo. painfully. long. to come to this crossroads that I cry as I bring this story to a close. Or should I say, a new beginning?
I am now self-employed, a small business owner and an entrepreneur. I started my own law firm where I will be practicing corporate transactional law geared towards creative professionals (specifically photographers) and other small business owners and entrepreneurs. I will also continue my pursuit of photography and growing my business. I am not one dimensional. I am both analytical and creative, proudly. I want to help other creatives build their own dreams on a strong foundation. I also want to continue capturing moments of people’s lives that they will cherish for years to come. I am 100% me. Finally. My heart on my sleeve.
From the outside, it might seem obvious that this was a natural step or not a large leap from one to the other or that big of a risk. Because, I’m still practicing law, and yeah, it seems obvious to me too. Now. But it wasn’t obvious until I finally made the decision, and since then it’s felt so right. The pain and discomfort of trying to find myself through all these years has simply melted away . . . If photography hadn’t come into my life, had I not seen a whole other world of possibilities, had I not become familiar with the local and online photography communities and the photography industry, had I not followed my heart, I’m not sure I ever would have made the connection between practicing law AND creativity. I see a need and I’m going to fill it. I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise. And I’ve realized that I don’t need to be defined by any one thing. I can do both, and I will do both.
Now that I have taken the plunge, I am not scared of taking risk. I am creating the life that I want for myself and my family, personally and professionally and no one can stop me. I refuse to live a life dictated to me by others, or dictated by my own fear. I know I am exactly where I am meant to be. And it is the best feeling in the world that I literally want to burst.
I cannot wait to see how productive I will be and what I will accomplish when I’m not wasting so much energy being lost. The world is full of endless possibilities.
So I leave you with the great words of The Avett Brothers . . . “Decide what to be and go be it.”
Ps. I have to give a shout out to “Uncertainty” by Jonathan Fields, for helping clear my mental fog and giving me the focus to move forward. Fantastic read 🙂 Jonathan Fields