Growing up if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I usually said something like a dancer, youth leader, drama coach but what was always in the back of my head was that I just wanted to be normal. To me, if I could be normal, if I could be successful at being normal, I would be ok. There was all this pressure inside of me to fit in these molds, to this normal, good, sweet person, but I never knew what that looked like.
When I found photography, I fell in love. For the first time in my life, I knew this was what I wanted to do, what I wanted to leave behind but around the same time I also found well known photographers in the industry who all had this beautiful, light airy style. And to me, that was what I wanted to be. I wanted to learn how to create bokeh like that, dreamy colors like they did, be normal and have a spouse and a little house and charge 4000+ for a weddings and make it. And I have spent years hustling toward that dream.
What's funny about life is that we sometimes don't realize that what we want and who we are, aren't in line with each other. We see everything and everyone else out there living this particular version or dream of what life can be and then our lives? They look nothing like that.
I remember the day my college friends realized that my "best friend" was really my girlfriend. There was this moment where time started to move in slow motion and they looked at us and then at each other and then back at us and I could see the realization all over their faces. As I stood there in my friends living room, I felt panic set in. They couldn't know. No one could know. My whole dream had been built on this idea that I could be the real me in some private stored away place, but for everyone else, I was exactly who those other photographers were. Wholesome. The picture of Christ like. Light and airy. Sweet. Perfect. That was goal. To live two lives so that I might have it all.
Eventually I broke up with that girlfriend and also broke up with the idea that I had to embody who all of these photographers were, but the chase toward being seen as normal never went away. I got married and learned a lot about this industry from that wedding. It created in me a passion to give my clients the kind of experience that makes them feel seen, that shows them the most beautiful version of themselves. But in it all, I still felt this need to chase after someone else's idea of what success was, to be some picture perfect idea of what "making it" looks like.
This past weekend I shot a beautiful wedding in Philadelphia and after sharing one of my clients favorite images on instagram, Offbeat Bride reshared it to their account. The moment I saw it, my whole face scrunched up, I started to squeal and Jordan looked at me like I had lost my mind. HOW WAS THIS HAPPENING?!?!?! This wasn't even my favorite image! I don't do offbeat weddings! This isn't the plan! But almost immediately there was this huge smile that overtook my face. This wasn't the plan, but it was every bit my couple. It wasn't my favorite image, but somehow they found it worthy to share anyways. I actually really do do offbeat weddings.
And suddenly, the truth hit me in the face like a train rushing through the station. I am not everyone else. And while I am ever working to improve my craft and offer more to my clients and be better at what I do, there is value in who I am RIGHT NOW. I am fun and creative and silly and passionate and real and my clients love this about me. It just took a lot longer for me to love it about myself. I am not everyone else. And I don't need to be. Who I am is someone people want to hire, people want to share my work, want to collaborate with and who they turn to when they need advice. And this business about "making it?" Its bull. We make it over and over again, every time we step out and try something new. Every time we push the envelope or care for a client or are featured somewhere or jump into a new market. You don't stop living when you make it and life doesn't look like a certain way when you do.
So for anyone out there, photographer or creative or just someone who feels the pressure to be normal, to be life everyone else, hear me and say it with me. I am not everyone else. I don't need to be normal. I need to be me. And as one of my favorite college professors said to me, give yourself the grace to f*ck it up. You've got this, just so long as you don't loose sight of the love and worth that is wrapped up in yourself. You don't have to live two lives, you don't have to be anyone else, you don't have to hustle toward someone else's life or dream. Just be you.
Your fellow traveler of the not-so-normal-path,