What am I so afraid of?

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?

Photo source.

43 thoughts on “What am I so afraid of?

  1. how bout some cake

    Do we share a brain? I’m fighting the same exact battle in my head right now, except that I’m 27 and no closer to living my dream than you are. I want to write for a living and I have enough freelance work to get me through the next couple months, but then what? That rational part of me keeps saying “you need to grow up and get a corporate job with benefits and longterm payout” I think, for me, the thing holding me back is fear. What if I try to live my dream and fail? What if I can’t cut it? What’s better: to look back at life and say you never chased your dream but lived a comfortable life, or to say that you failed at it? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that having a partner who supports you along the way is an enormous blessing that can’t be taken for granted!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      We must! I think fear holds me back at times too. I’m afraid that I’ll be able to make it for a while but then what happens when I hit a slump and can’t find work? The steady income I have from my corporate job offers a lot of financial comfort, something I can’t (and won’t ever be able to) rely on with a photography career. And the question you raise is completely valid, but I guess when it comes back to it I don’t want to look back and regret not at least trying for my dream at all. Even if I fail, at least I gave it a shot…right? And to your last point I 100% agree. John is always by my side and is a huge supporter and advocate for me doing what I want, so I know that when the time comes and I can finally build up the courage, he’ll be there to help every step of the way. Knowing that makes it seem almost a little less scary. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Bree

    Wow reading this is like looking into a mirror for me, except I have yet to discover my calling. I know what I am doing right now isn’t what I am supposed to be doing, it doesn’t do anything for me but pay the bills. I want a job that excites me and challenges me, something I am constantly changing, evolving and learning in. I’m 22 and I often feel like I am lost and failing at finding something, but you really put that in perspective here – 22/23 is young, a long life to live and a long time to keep trying to succeed in our goals.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Totally! We all have to remember we’re still so young, and we don’t have to have it all figured out right this second. No career happens over night, and I think I’m a little too hard on myself sometimes. Take the time to experiment with different things while still having the financial comfort from your current job, you’ll figure it out in no time. 🙂

      Reply
  3. raychiemac

    I can definitely relate to this! I am doing great for myself in corporate america but I could not care less about the work I do. I’m proud of it, but I am in no way passionate or have a love for it. I haven’t tried my dream either, mostly because I don’t know where to start. I’m the same age as you and just have to remind myself that I am SO YOUNG and have so much time to explore and make mistakes to achieve my dream!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      I am totally the same way. I really enjoy my work in marketing and it’s fun/pretty creative, but I still feel a little unfulfilled. I don’t know where to start either, but I think the problem is that I’m only looking at the big picture. I see my end goal: successfully making a living off of being a full time photographer, but I’m looking at it as me going from a corporate job immediately into a full time photography position. Sometimes I forget that these things don’t happen overnight – there are small steps I can take to eventually get to where I want to be. I hope you have the courage to pursue your dream, you are totally capable! I have to tell myself that same thing. 🙂

      Reply
  4. recreateandrepin

    I’m so, so, so glad that you ended on a note not of failure, but of a beginning.
    I completely understand where you’re coming from. After graduating collegewho knows where you want to go next? Who at 18-21 or 25 or 30 for that matter can actually say where they want to be every day for the rest of their life? It’s hard and it’s uncomfortable to say what you said in this post, but your words resonate with hundreds of us 20-somethings and beyond. I really like the positive message that you remind yourself (and all of us) of at the end. We all have the opportunity to be where we want to be if we just go after it. -Jenn

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Definitely. I have looked at it so negatively for such a long time but that only complicates it more for me. In all honesty I haven’t failed because like I said, I haven’t given it my all and really tried yet. In order to get to where I want to be, I have to give myself a chance to do so. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  5. Rachel

    Stephanie,

    I think it’s awesome that you finally got around to writing this. I LOVE posts like this! I almost went to school for art- I loved drawing and being creative and took advanced classes in high school. Then I changed my mind and focused more on journalism and PR.

    I don’t think it’s fair to say you’ve FAILED at anything! Most people don’t end up in the field they went to school for on their first job. I’m doing something in my field, but totally different than I imagined. I know it’s not my dream job and my future career, but it pays the bills (and loans) so it’s good for now.

    You work in marketing, right? I say keep searching for your dream job always- and maybe start doing more photography and art-related things on the side. I started blogging “on the side” in addition to my 9-to-5 and it’s offered me so many opportunities!

    Sorry for the novel, but I can just relate 100%! As far as what’s holding me back? Well, money is holding me back from relocating. and the job market SUCKS so that’s not helping either. But I’m on the same page, you’re not alone!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Rachel, thank you so much for all of your encouragement! I think you are totally right, and I realize that it’s so silly of me to view myself as a failure just because I’m out of college and not working in my field yet. I think part of me just expected it to happen overnight, I’d graduate and voila, I’d be a photographer. I like what you brought up about blogging too, I started it on the side from my 9-5 and it’s been such an amazing creative outlet for me. Why can’t I do the same thing with my photography? I don’t know why I never really thought of it like that. Thanks for reading and commenting, I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this way.

      Reply
  6. Gma max

    Take a deep breath and realize that a career is a process, not something that arrives in full bloom at the beginning. It took me lots of years to arrive at a position that I felt made best use of my skills and passions. Each job you have builds skills and confidence. You will grow with each. That said, I think I told you when we talked about you current job, this is a time in your life to take risks and maybe now you are ready to take another one. You are never a ” failure” when you are growing, contributing to a relationship, enjoying family, and…..having fun! Love you, Gma Max

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Thank you grandma 🙂 I needed to hear that! I waste a lot of time beating myself up about it when I should just be out taking pictures and having a good time. It’s going to take a lot of work to get there but sometimes I forget that.

      Reply
  7. Leah

    Stephanie, as always I can completely relate to this! I went to undergrad & grad school for finance and now I work in Corporate America as a financial analyst. Although it’s what I went to school for, I’m not necessarily in the industry I originally wanted to be in. This is just one way that starting a blog has been a way to pursue hobbies that really interest me (cooking, crafting, social media) – Jon even just bought me my first ‘real’ camera (Nikon L810) so I’m SUPER excited to learn some [extremely] amateur photography. Any tips? 😉

    Your posts are always an inspiration. You have such a level head and a clear vision for being only 23. Although you may not be where you want to be, I have complete confidence that in due time, you will be EXACTLY where you dream to be.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Leah, I appreciate your comment SO much…thank you for reading and I’m always so happy to hear that you can relate to what I’m writing about. I started my blog for the same reasons and it’s been such a fun thing for me to do on the side. I don’t know why I haven’t just done the same thing with my photography! When I first started shooting, my camera was a permanent accessory. Now it gets neglected…I think I just need to start shooting without worrying so much and remember why I LOVE doing it. Maybe that will give me the kick in the butt I need. 🙂 And if you have any photography questions, don’t hesitate to email me!! twentysomethingsteph@gmail.com I can definitely help with basics and any questions you might have. Thank you for all the kind words.

      Reply
  8. charminglystyled

    Oh Stephanie, you are the loveliest, and there’s no way you’ve failed at all! I know the feeling of “selling out”, or not being happy where you’re at. I took a job I thought was a dream job, and it turned out to be a disaster. And while I still have it to pay the bills and make ends meet for right now – I’m also working as a photographer’s assistant to get more experience in other things I might eventually pursue a career in {and I started this whole blogging thing – what a journey!}. Plus, the photographer I work with didn’t start until she was 32 – and she’s been incredibly successful!

    The point is, you have so much of your life ahead of you – and you’re already a success. Whatever it is you want to do – do it full force, you have nothing but love and support from John and all of us too!

    Can’t wait to see some photography on the blog soon! Go for it girl!!!

    xo,
    Maya

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Maya, this is such a good reminder! There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to pursue my dream and I need to stop holding myself back. I think I get so hung up on age sometimes, thinking oh well if it hasn’t happened yet then it just isn’t ever going to happen, but that’s so untrue. It’s never too late or too soon to get started doing what you love. I’d love to incorporate some more of my photography onto the blog, and I think it would definitely be a step in the right direction. Thank you so much for your support!

      Reply
  9. Erin

    Thank you for writing this. I am 24, just finished college, took a break from everything having to do with being responsible since June, and now I’m applying for jobs! Applying for jobs is a whole can of worms in and of itself, but feeling lost and looking for my “dream job” where I use my college degree and follow my passion is a feeling that is not new to me! Ahh life! Again, thank you for writing this. I’m glad I’m not alone.

    xx

    Erin @ http://www.truffles-ruffles.com/

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      I’m so glad you can relate Erin! The transition from college to full time work is a bumpy one, and I can totally relate to that “lost” feeling. I feel like I’m getting closer each day to being on the right track but it has definitely been a journey. Good luck with the job hunt 🙂

      Reply
  10. albucco10

    Steph, you have not failed at ANYTHING! I think we’re constantly changing, and because of that our passions and ideas of what we want to do with our lives are constantly evolving. The fact that you recognize that you want more out of your career is already a huge step, and you’re so talented that you can do anything you set your mind to. There is absolutely no shame is taking a job that pays the bills, but I know you have enough courage to do that and work towards your dream career. I was lucky enough to land a job in the magazine industry, which is what I’ve always dreamed of doing. However, the uncertainty of the industry and changing field sometimes make me worry that I need a backup plan. I think we never really know where life and our careers are going to take us, but I know you’re going to be crazy successful. I just know it!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Thank you so much Alyssa, you always have the best advice and input! I’ve only been on the job scene a few years but I still just feel a bit unfulfilled career wise. I’m happy to pay the bills on time and live comfortably, but I know there’s more out there for me. It’s just getting there that’s the hard part, but I’ll never get there if I don’t start. I think it’s so awesome that you’re doing what you love, and YOU will be incredibly successful too (you already are). There is always going to be some level of uncertainty with any creative/art career path, but in a way I think that makes it even more exciting at times. Thanks for all the encouragement 🙂 xo

      Reply
  11. Megan

    This post really hit home with me. In high school, I became really involved in photography. I had a darkroom set up in our garage, worked in a photo lab spotting photos with a paintbrush (so fun!), and I absolutely wanted to make it my career. I got scared off eventually for fear of failing or not making enough money, and I went a different route. Now I work for a website, and while I love my job I still dream about photography and often do not feel fulfilled. One reason I started Feathers & Freckles was to get my camera back out again. I’ve loved taking self-portraits, editing the photos, finding cool backgrounds, etc, but it’s made me crave photography even more! I dream about opening up my own photography business, even if it’s just something I do on the side or on weekends. You’re absolutely right, you’re young and nothing should hold you back. The hardest part is taking the plunge and telling yourself YOU CAN. And you can 🙂 I’d love to chat more about this as it seems we’ve taken similar paths! Feel free to email me if you want, freckled [at] gmail.

    Have a great weekend 🙂

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Megan, thank you SO much! Reading your comment was like looking in a mirror, seriously we are experiencing the exact same things. I had a novel of a response to your comment, so I emailed it to you instead. Have an amazing weekend and thank you so much for taking the time to comment. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Always Maylee

    This is what your 20s is for, to transition, to make mistakes, to try new things, and more. It’s not a failure at all. And honestly, most people are not doing their ‘dream job’ or what they studied in school. Sometimes your path in life changes and sometimes you don’t discover things until later. You are still so young, you’ll get there! 🙂

    xo, Yi-chia
    Always Maylee

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Yi-chia, you are absolutely right. I’m not perfect, nobody is, but that doesn’t mean I’ve failed at anything. Sometimes I forget how young I am and forget that I don’t have to have it all figured out yet. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Erica

    I say… Go for your dream!!. You’ll always wonder what could have been if you don’t try. Like you said you are young and the only thing that is holding yourself back is yourself. You can do this, so take the leap. We’re all rooting for you. 🙂

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Erica, thank you so much for commenting! I truly am the only one holding myself back and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t pursue my dream. Thanks for your support 🙂

      Reply
  14. creamyclothes

    What a wonderful dream. I also adore photography and just do it for fun, but I wish I had your skill and education. There is nothing stopping you, you have all you need now go for it!
    Good luck!

    creamyclothes.blogspot.com

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Emily, thank you so much! I am hoping to start implementing my photography into my blog more because it’s a big part of my life and something I want to share more. Thank you so much for your kind words.

      Reply
  15. tracy

    I relate to your post so much. Since graduating law school I have been stuck in jobs where I have been taken advantage of and jobs that under pay me. I left my last job because I had a boss that often degraded me and said inappropriate remarks to me. I have since started working at another law office which barely pays me enough to stay afloat with all of my student loan bills. Although there are a few aspects of my job I enjoy I am not passionate about this job. I don’t think I ever actually wanted to be a lawyer. I live in a small town without very many job opportunities, I cannot afford to really move without finding a job first that would pay very well, I am kind of clueless about how to transition my job skills and my education into another field. And to be honest I have no idea what I really want to be doing with my life. I just know that right now I kind of feel like I am wasting it. To top it off, my family does not support me being anything but a lawyer, because of how much it costs going to law school and how much time I had to put into it.

    I hope you get to follow your dream and that it makes you extremely happy.

    Tracy @ Sunny Days and Starry Nights

    P.S. Stop by and enter my giveaway for a pair of Crystal Stud Earrings.

    We are also hosting a Christmas Card Exchange that we would love for you to join.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Hi Tracy, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to read this post and comment. I’m truly sorry to hear that you’ve had such negative experiences in the workplace thus far, nobody should have to experience those things. After my first job, I felt that transitioning into a new field would be really difficult. My skills learned from my first job in merchandising were very specific and my job applications got turned down or ignored time and time again. The best advice I can give you is to just keep searching. Experience and try new things and eventually you’ll begin finding things you are really passionate about. It’s never too soon or too late to start pursuing your dream and what makes you happy/fulfilled. Not everyone is going to support it and that is unfortunate, but in the end it is YOUR life, so you might as well be able to enjoy it!! xo

      Reply
  16. arayofsun

    What an inspiring post. It’s amazing that you can recognize that the only thing holding you back is you. You are the only one who can change what you do, therefore the power is in your hands! Go for what you want and take risks! I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed! Whats the worst that could happen?
    xoxo
    Megan
    http://www.arayofsunblog.com

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Megan, thank you so much! Sometimes it’s still hard to admit and accept that I’m the one holding myself back from what I love, but it’s the first step in moving forward and making things happen, so that’s the positive side of it! I took a huge risk moving 1,000 miles to live with my boyfriend and it ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made. There’s no reason I shouldn’t take the same risk with my photography career, I’m positive I will be 100% happy as a result.

      Reply
  17. jennacwest

    Thank you so much for writing this, because I am absolutely in the same boat as you. I also am not using my college degree in my every day job and like you mentioned, as hard as it is to admit it, I feel like haven’t tried. But I feel at a loss because to be honest I have no idea what I am to do. So that’s what I am afraid of trying at something that may not be my callig. But I think what we may be afraid of is failing. We either have to play it safe or take a chance! But you are not alone!! We are only 23 and we have time to take these chances

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Jenna, it’s always nice to know I’m not alone 🙂 I love what you said about playing it safe or taking a chance, because it’s so true! Sometimes I like to think I can play it safe while still taking a bit of a chance (like starting my photography business on the side and then still maintaining full time work) but in reality it has to be one or the other. I can’t devote enough time to photography by only doing it on weekends, so it’s kind of all or nothing. Taking the plunge is the hardest part!

      Reply
  18. Lily

    I’m in that position right now. I’ve been putting so much pressure on me all this year, It has been terrible. I have my corporate job too, but don’t have passion for it, it pays the bills. I’ve always wanted to start my own company but I still haven’t found that right idea yet but hopefully I will someday. What I have come to analize is that we torture ourselves with all this and we never start living life and be aware of the opportunities that come to us. We focus on the wrong when we should be focusing on the positive things and in trying to make our dreams come true. I’m 26 already so consider yourself lucky hehe. Never think of yourself as a failure as we always learn from every experience and if your dream is to be a photographer then you should go for it. Let’s lose our fears. Have you heard of ”The Secret”? I recommend it, helps me a lot. It’s about the law of attraction and how our thoughts can materialize, ” you receive what you think ”. Hope it helps you 🙂

    I’m following you now on Bloglovin’ , great blog !

    http://www.the-sunnylist.blogspot.com

    Reply

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