Once upon a time I let my job run my life. There. I said it. I don’t in any way feel alone in that… I think all too often the appeal of more financial security or simply the love of what they do is a catalyst people choosing to prioritize their job over other things in their lives. For me, it wasn’t even a conscious decision. Back when my job was dictating my day-to-day life, I would have told you emphatically that I’d chosen my job in part because of the freedom it allowed… But what was disguised as freedom was basically running our lives.
I’m a photographer… and that’s more of a statement of who I am than it is a confirmation that I’ve been taking various types of photo and video work for over 10 years now. When I say that I’m a photographer, it’s much more about something that lives in my soul. It’s that constant awareness of the way that light dances across the face of a mountain or catches in my daughter’s eyelashes. It’s the fact that (like it or not) I can’t help but constantly be aware of how I would frame something. Photos that live only in my mind can find me in the long grass of a meadow, that smile my son has when he knows he’s cute, the bright green of a door against a muted building, or a deserted alley of a new city. I’ve taken a million photos with both film and digital cameras over the years, but I have a billion more unsnapped photographs tucked away tenderly in my heart. I think it’s because as a kid I was blessed with a deep wonder of the people, places, and things that make up the world combined with a bittersweet awareness of how fleeting it all is. There’s pure magic in being able to capture the beauty that unfolds before all of us every day – whether that is a photo of how the sun shines through the leaves or a photo that catches a tiny glimpse of the love that my parents shared. That, to me, is the heart of photography.
The thing I didn’t understand when Toby and I started our photography business way back when was how much time and energy it would take. Sure, I got to work from home, but most of our weekends were gone so the kids were at various places most Saturdays and Sundays, which meant family time was extremely limited. Communication with clients was time-consuming and editing took me forever because I want perfection in every single image. So my time with the kids suffered as I spent day after day on the computer and my time with Toby was nonexistent. We were spending the time together shooting weddings, but working together isn’t the same thing as building into our marriage.
I don’t even think I realized how much of my emotional tank was being used for my clients instead of my family until Toby and I separated. It stopped me in my tracks and all of a sudden I had nothing to give my clients. The stress and devastation of home was so acute that it was taking a physical toll on me and I just couldn’t do anything about it. For all of the clients who stuck by me through that time… I don’t even have the words to tell you how much it still means to me. Truly. In my darkest hour, you met me with grace and understanding. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Now that life has seemingly come full circle and my adventure in healthcare is at an end, I’m back to a place that would allow me to take on a bunch of photography clients again. And to be honest, the photographer heart in me is jumping for joy. I’ve so missed filling my days with witnessing and documenting the love and relationships of my clients. But, as my dad would remind me, all things need balance. My priorities are something I actively choose and my family comes first. It’s already brought me a great deal of joy to take on more photography work this year than I’ve been able to in the last few. I love what I do. I intend to continue because when God blesses you with a gift that coincides with a passion, you should absolutely do that thing. And I am… and I will. But placing my family above all else means being a little more relaxed. I don’t need to focus my energy, time, and money on outsourced branding or a custom website. At this point, my work can speak for itself, my brand is the imperfect lover of love that I am, and my advertising is my passion for what I do or the recommendation of my sweet clients who have become friends.
Being published in big magazines or speaking at photography conferences isn’t in the cards for me. And that’s ok. (Which is a big statement coming from a girl who has a little bit of Monica Gellar in her…) What matters most to me is that I’ve been able to strike a balance between family and photography. My kids and my husband know that they come first. And now that I don’t take as many clients, the ones I do take know that they’re a top priority and that they won’t have to wait as long for emails, messages, or finished photos.
This all hit me this week when I met a mom from our new neighborhood. We were chatting as people do when they first meet and in the course of our conversation, she asked me what I do. When people used to ask me what I did, I used to say “I’m a photographer” in the hope of booking something and furthering a career that I loved. But when she asked me this week, I didn’t even think about my answer. Without skipping a beat, the words just flowed. “I’m taking some time to be with my kids,” I said with a smile. “And I’m also a photographer.” I asked Toby as we were walking home from our neighbor’s house if he thought I’d answered correctly – I felt a blip of worry that I’d misrepresented things. “I think that was perfect,” he said. Me too, I thought. Me too.