If you haven't noticed, we got a little makeover the last few weeks and the results are exactly what I was hoping for. While the point of the refresh was the update our home page with some of our new images, we also wanted to allow our lives to be reflected in the new look and feel of Swiger Photography. A lot has changed for Jordan and I the last 2-3 months and more and more I felt like who I was as a business owner, photographer and writer begin to shift too. I oddly feel older. Ok, maybe not older, but a bit like I have more wisdom and and focus that I did several months ago. My "why" for life has changed and with it, so did everything else.
It wasn't that I was unhappy. In fact the very opposite could be said. The last year has been full of me putting myself out there, trying new things, creating a group of friends I adore and shooting some of the most amazing people on the planet. I did feel a little stuck though. In an industry obsessed with pretty and perfect, its hard to not focus on what others are doing, charging and photographing. There is so much pressure that comes when you own your own business and that pressure is magnified when you start seeing what others are doing or have or are getting to do. There is also the pressure from the world around you to do life the way they did. Parents can push you to spend money or save it the way they did. Siblings can push you to make the choices they did. Friends can push you forgo responsibilities or make bad decisions. So when you find yourself staring at a crossroads, wondering which way to go, suddenly, you aren't thinking about what you want, you are thinking about all of those other voices shouting at you which way to go. And let's be honest, that is one of the most stressful feelings in the world.
Amidst the start of the 2017 wedding season, Jordan and I also realized we'd need one, if not two, new cars which somehow sparked us looking at our lives in a totally new way. I wish I could tell you what exactly it was...a book I read, a quote I heard, a conversation with a friend...but honestly, one morning I woke up and I wanted - no- I had to - change everything. I moved my desk from the living room to our guest bedroom, began throwing away things that took up space and I began dreaming of what I wanted my next ten years to look like. We bought a truck, decided to pursue buying a house and I booked a few weddings a cheaper price point simply because I adored the couple. I stopped telling myself I was too busy or unworthy to dream and began dreaming not just for the right now, but for the rest of my life too. I stopped telling myself it was my place to settle. How I viewed everything from what to eat for dinner to decision making for my business to what I wanted my life to look like from here on out could be defined by one three letter word. Joy.
When I finally started articulating what was happening in my heart out loud, I remember saying to Jordan...."do I sound too churchy or crazy?" After attending Bible college and experiencing first hand how cruel the church can be, it is safe to say that "churchy" isn't something I ever want to be. Joy was a word that felt tied to that and yet it was the only word that encompassed this shift in my life. Joy to me was different than happy....a lot of things make me happy. But there are far fewer things that give me joy. And when I choose those things, the things that give me joy, the fork in the road becomes easier. The confusing signs get reduced to a quiet voice in my mind that asks, "which way feels more like choosing joy?"
For me, choosing joy means giving myself freedom. Choosing joy means giving of myself even when others say I shouldn't. Choosing joy means saying no or saying yes and not feeling guilty either way. Choosing joy means letting my wife have a giant new truck that I might never feel good driving simply because of how happy it makes her. Choosing joy means working long hours, saving money, and taking on jobs that might not be as fun. Choosing joy is late night conversations instead of sleep, dreaming of what life could be like. Choosing joy means taking care of my clients like family. Choosing joy is letting go of people, expectations and pressures, even when its really really hard. Choosing joy means working toward having a life I love, even though the stakes feel really high and the tasks ahead feel impossible.
I don't know where you are in life. I don't know what you do or who you are or what brought you to my website, but if you find yourself looking toward the future with panic and worry in your heart, let me encourage you to choose joy. Choose to make the tough decisions that lead you toward a life that is full of things and people and experiences that make you feel alive and worthy and joyful. Stop holding on to things, stop looking at other peoples lives to measure how successful you are in yours, and stop believing you are to busy to dream. Choose joy. Choose to live a life defined by what gives you joy and watch what happens. While life might not get any less challenging, the way you see it def changes and for me, that's made all the difference.