On letting go.
When deciding on what to write about this week, I honestly had trouble deciding what I wanted to write about first; in my mind, there are a plethora of topics close enough to my heart to write a blog post about. Especially considering I have about almost 10,000 photos from my recent travels, I could have written about those first. But I decided to stick with something a little bit more relatable to the current condition of my heart, because all exciting photos and travels aside, I wouldn't have travelled if I didn't let go of so many things holding me back from exactly where I knew I was meant to be.
When I was 11, it was put on my heart that I wanted to be a photographer - I picked up a camera in primary school to document the last days I would have with the people I grew up with, since I was going to a completely different school to them all. I fell in love with photography and I hadn't even known anything about it yet - all I knew how to do, was to press the shutter and take the photo, yet deep in my heart I knew I wanted to continue that for as long as possible. For the last 7 years of my life, I have battled with that fear in my heart - do I pursue photography or do I stick to my comfort zone, follow everyone else's decisions for me and go and get a stable job, study something where I'm guaranteed work, and be "safe" with my life. I went back and forth for years and when I was 14 and halfway through my 365 project, I decided to chase my dream and that I wasn't going to let anyone tell me otherwise; until I hit yet another wall, and the discouragement from people around me, lead to me the thought that photography could only ever be a hobby for me. The fear sheltered me and led me to believe I had to live a small life in the small world I was building in my mind.
This is what I have had to balance - deciding whether or not it was worth the risk, to give up and let go of what I would consider safe and reliable, and go for what I knew my heart desired for, and that was to be a full-time photographer. Great things can not be achieved from your comfort zones, and I only learnt that fully myself this year. I am now a full time photographer, and there is no way that it is easy, but it is so worthwhile.
In very early January, when I was analysing what I wanted to achieve this year, I wrote down a list that was approximately two pages long - putting heavy expectations on myself to get them all done. On that list included things that were totally unachievable for me at that stage in my life, because I was scared, filled with fear, insecure, dependant on security and afraid I wouldn't be anyone unless I fit into the criteria that society had told me I had to fit in order to be successful. I graduated high school late last year, and the pressure of "getting a good mark" and "going to uni" fell on to me and I caved and gave up the vision for what I wanted to do in 2015. I went about my final year of high school thinking I was going to do photography and travel the following year, and last minute fell in to the pressure and applied for university, colleges and applied for a ton of jobs. Everyone was unintentionally competing with each other for the approval of their peers: "Which university are you going to?", "What mark did you get for your HSC?", I lost myself in that too and who could blame me? I grew up in the school system that deciding everything for me.
Something on my list of goals for 2015 was that I wanted to move out of home. I had a lot of trouble in the home I lived in, because of space and I felt incredibly limited to flourish as an individual while I was living there. I had decided that would be something I worked on for the year, would be to find a new place to call home. On January 17th of this year, after coming back from a shoot with some friend, I left home, on circumstances that weren't ideal. That immediately shocked me into the real world and I snapped myself out of the mind-set I was in. Quickly I learnt that school had not taught me how to prepare for what I was dealing with, nor did it prepare me emotionally for the real world.
I started college in the beginning of the year, and for that season in my life, I believe it was the best place for me to be, yet it wasn't meant to last. Being in college taught me how much I didn't want to be in college. In April of this year, after 12 weeks of struggling to balance a full time internship + college, being a photographer with an increasing amount of work coming in, trying to see my family, maintaining two additional jobs, and being physically and emotionally well, I left college. My heart had won again: I wanted to be a photographer and I knew that this was the time to give it all I had. Yet, everything was against me quitting college, before quitting I had felt like I failed because I wanted to give up and that I caved under pressure. It took a step of courage to finally quit and the moment that I quit, I felt like there was a huge weight lifted off my chest, and everything felt right.
I quit both jobs that week, moved to a different place than where I was living for those 12 weeks, and put my head down to make photography all I had wanted it to be, knowing that it was all or nothing. I changed more in that week than I think I ever had. I developed courage, confidence and a new worldly understanding of how to live and live with success.
You see, success to me has never been how much money you can bring in - success is a journey and not a destination. It's how closely you can live in your dream and how excited you get to wake up every single day and do what you love, and call it work.
A month later, I was getting on an international plane to travel to a destination I have wanted to travel to since I was 14 and for a time frame of 6.5 weeks. Not only was that my first solo trip, but it was a long one, and it was so last minute that I didn't tell anyone. I needed to prove to myself that my life was all I could make it to be, and I wouldn't settle for anything less.
I truly believe that the last 3 months of my life, have served me the biggest blessing in growth and maturity, and although I have so much learning to do and I will always have learning to do, I am not the person I was when the year started. I had to learn to let go of all of the things that made me less than what I knew I was capable of being. I had to prove to the people in my life, that photography could be MORE than just a hobby and that I was willing to do anything I could to make it my job, yet I didn't realise that I had to prove that to myself before I could convince anyone else, and I wasn't yet convinced, as much as I believed I was.
Living out your dream is not a final place, it is not the finish line in a race, it's not even a race! It's creating beautiful things out of the world around you and surrounding yourself with them and ultimately, making your life beautiful. I want to make my life beautiful. That starts with giving myself the opportunity to fall down, to scrape my elbows and bruise my knees, and then to pick myself back up again and let myself heal, before I can start moving again. I have never been more inspired to fail - because if I'm failing, it means I'm making progress, and I'm trying, and it's okay if I don't get it first time around.
If there is any advice I could give to myself when I started 2015, it would be to take every opportunity with arms wide open and be prepared for discomfort. If there is a dream placed on your heart, you need to follow it - it's cliche, I totally get it! But it's cliche for a reason. We can never live our lives in the confines of fear, because if I had done that, I would still be in college, working jobs that made me miserable, living in an unhealthy environment, no doubt I would be making great money and studying a wonderful course, but I would be so unhappy.
And my happiness is more valuable to me than the amount in my bank account. I can't inspire others with my finances as much as I can with the gift I have been given to create magic with my camera.
I still battle every day with the urge to throw in the towel, get a part-time job, make a proper income and fit photography in when it's convenient for me, except, that's not what I'm meant to do and I would again, come full circle and quit that job realising it's not where I want to be.
This is where I'm meant to be and the truth on letting go is that it's like getting stitches over a deep wound - it's going to hurt a lot, more than putting a band-aid on it, and although you could put a band-aid over it, it's not going to heal properly, and would require another band-aid, and another, and another. The stitches will hurt, but they will heal you and soon you will be back to your best self.
This week, I challenge you: do one thing that you don't have the courage for; quit a job that's been weighing you down, let go of a relationship or friendship that has discouraged you, take up a hobby passionately that you've been lightly considering for a long time, book a plane ticket to a different country, take a solo camping trip in the depths of the mountains, jump in freezing cold water, buy yourself something you've been wanting for a long time. Just do it!
That is your first step to letting go of the fear that holds you back from being your greatest self.
Images of David Talley at White Rock Beach, in Vancouver, BC. A place I would have never imagined myself to be in January when the year began, especially not with this man and the amazing Lizzy Gadd.
Next blog post will be the story of David and I, and our incredibly intricate relationship; How we waited four years to be together and how worthwhile it is to wait for the partner God has for you. I'm so excited to write that post and to share the beauty of the story with the world.