When you meet someone new for the first time, going through a round of the typical get to know you questions is a given. What’s your name? Stephanie. Where are you from? Columbus, Ohio. What do you do? Well…
For the most part I can navigate through these questions without hesitation, except for when it comes to the inevitable “what do you do for a living” interrogation. I obviously have a job, one that allows me to pay the bills on time and get along just fine for my age, but what you don’t know is that I’m embarrassed I’ve allowed myself to settle for a career that doesn’t involve doing what I love on a daily basis. I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time, but I’ve been avoiding it for one simple reason: writing about it means that I have to admit I’m not doing what I really want to be doing. And I’m not allowed to sugar coat it or garnish the situation with a sweet maraschino cherry on top. I can’t make any excuses for myself, and coming to terms with that is incredibly hard.
I picked up a camera for the first time when I was in high school and instantly felt as if I’d found my calling. It was my grandfather’s Minolta film camera so already it had instant significance for me. At first it was just a hobby, a high school course serving as a distraction from how terrible I was at math and science, but by my senior year I felt like pursuing a photography career was exactly where I was meant to go in life. So I listened to myself and enrolled in art school where I spent 3 years working harder than ever to make my dream come true. I had internships, I shot weddings, I networked with some professionals in the area but most importantly, I was always making pictures. Then I graduated, and I didn’t do anything. Zip. Zero. Nada.
With the impending doom of student loan payments creeping up on me, I settled for a full time corporate job. And ever since landing that job, I’ve been telling myself that I failed. I didn’t do anything with my degree when I graduated except get a job that required a high school diploma. I failed myself, and I failed the people who supported my choice to become a photographer. When I moved to Florida, John gave me the opportunity to remain jobless and really work hard to start my photography career here. He was ready to support both of us financially while I got on my feet. Did I take advantage of that? No. Failed again. Ever since then I’ve kept my passion at arm’s length, finding ways to get involved but then never following up on them. I’m too busy, I’ll check into that next month, I just don’t have the time…
In writing this, I’ve realized that I haven’t failed at all. I just haven’t tried. I’m 23. I have a long life ahead of me, one that should be filled with joy in all aspects including my career. What am I so afraid of? I still can’t answer that question. Not because I don’t know the answer, but simply because there is no answer. I have nothing to be afraid of. I know deep down that if I try hard enough and work at this, I can absolutely become a professional photographer. I’m just holding myself back – and it’s time to stop that.
As hard as it was to write this, I wanted to share it with all of you because I feel like I’m not alone in this. Being in your twenties is a confusing time. There is little transition from college to a fully independent life, and before you know it you’ve settled on a career path that has absolutely nothing to do with your college degree. Sure, that career path may offer you a comfortable lifestyle, and it may pay the bills, but at the end of the day it probably doesn’t come close to making you as happy as you know you could be. So what’s holding you back?