LAUNCH DAY: The Gift of Time, PT. II
Almost three years ago, on July 30, 2015, my website for this business officially went live. My first blog post was titled, "Launch Day & The Gift of Time". I was 31 and had been married nine years. Justice, my oldest son, had recently turned 10, and my youngest, Gibson, was about to turn 8. I was in my second year of business.
When I finally decided to go for it, to forge my way forward as a small business owner, I didn't think it would be easy per se, but I was so pumped on my new venture that I didn't concern myself with the possible (or probable) difficulties I could face.
I didn't consider how to obtain the elusive "work/life balance", or all the hours I would be sitting at my desk and what I could do to stay healthy. I never stopped to think about how not to bury myself in work, what I was willing to sacrifice for my dream job, and what, exactly, the definition of patience really is. (Among many, many other things).
When I look back on the [almost] three years since Launch Day, I see a completely different woman with entirely different dreams, goals, and mindset. I see a woman who was trying to "make it" in a heavily saturated field without much confidence, lacking a clear idea of who she is and what she stands for, and someone wanting to simultaneously stand out and fade into the background. That woman was in a place where hustle, get ahead, and successful were constantly peppering her speech.
Don't worry-- this isn't a pity post. I'm not going to beat myself up for any of those things. That is who I was at that time in my life, and now, a few years later, I'm able to recognize them and understand those things with better clarity.
One beautiful aspect of keeping a blog (or, in "real life", a journal) is the ability to easily (and tangibly) see how much changes, and how much growth has occurred from one period of time to the next.
Last year, if you had asked me how I was doing and how business was going, I would've told you I felt that my year had started off strong. I was feeling upbeat, motivated, and ready to conquer all that was to come. I would then confess that a few months in, I lost my footing. More often than not I was irritable, and I found that I had completely lost interest in the things that had previously lit a fire in my belly; I was stuck in a negative mindset. I most likely would continue sharing how the second half of the year gained momentum downhill, resulting in an entire year--12 months-- of some of the greatest personal hardships I've ever experienced. I felt hopelessly lost, adrift in a sea of loneliness, insecurity, pain, and anger.
After taking time to feel the pain I was in, to lean into it and find my way out of it-- because what else can you do?-- I can now say that I am mentally, emotionally, and spiritually far better off than ever before. I feel great. It took a lot of time, wading through the proverbial mud and tears. So very many tears.
When you find yourself in a new situation, a new circumstance, a new life experience, everything that requires healing is going to rush to the surface. And if you don't take a minute to breathe, to gather yourself, to pray, you will do what you've always done. So, you've got to be clear enough, grounded enough, centered enough to say, 'How am I going to handle it this time?' So the lesson is: PAUSE.
Today, if I was asked how the past three years were, I would be honest. I would admit that it was indeed very challenging for me-- there's no denying that. However, with the wisdom of hindsight, and a much-needed shift in my perspective, I can see it for what it truly was: a season of exponential personal growth, especially the past year.
I can say that when I started this business I didn't give myself time to pause, to figure out how I was going to handle not only the things I listed above but so many more aspects of being a creative entrepreneur as well as a wife, mother, and friend. No matter what amount of "success" I thought I would have or how hard I hustled, I never would have satiated what was inside me that needed healing without taking a break to pause. In my case, life forced me into it.
I'm so grateful that I have been granted the gift of time to see it through and look back upon.
Last year was also a year for business growth, as the two are closely related. I realized that I needed to make some changes if I wanted to continue to have a business. Growing up, to my great annoyance, my dad often repeated, If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. (Little did I know how that became ingrained in me, and how it would become a personal mantra-- one that I annoy my own kids with today! It's also why I believe that the Inyala Vanzant quote hit me so hard). I took some time to pinpoint what had changed since I first launched, and what needed to change moving forward. The four most significant changes came down to: remembering where I started, staying honest with myself even when I didn't particularly want to, practice self-love, and to summon courage consistently.
1. Remember Where I Started
At some point since beginning my business, I began walking down a path I wasn't happy going down. I wasn't looking inward, focusing on my walk. Instead, I was focusing on everyone else; what they were doing, how they were acting, where they were going. I don't really like admitting this, but seeing as though I've chosen to be unapologetically authentic, this means allowing myself to be vulnerable. And to me, being vulnerable means admitting my mistakes.
Putting the focus on others instead of myself has been my Number One Mistake--both in business and in my personal life. It has cost me time, headspace, and energy. While I was so focused on what everyone else was doing/saying/etc., I grew more and more tired, felt more depressed because I was playing a never-ending game of comparison, and lonely. I found that I had no time to focus on me, and what I wanted to do/say, and where I wanted to go because I had already spent so much of time/energy on others-- and not in a good way. The good things in my life weren't as clear or didn't seem to matter as much, which was a direct result of wallowing in what didn't matter. Additionally, my productivity and creativity ground to a halt.
I thought back to when I began my business. I had put blinders on. I had to have them because if I didn't, I would have never left the gate. I was confident, and on fire with purpose! Thinking back on that focus I had when I began this journey almost four years ago has helped me to remember the reasons I left my "9 to 5" to pursue photography full time in the first place, and how blessed I was to be able to do so. I don't want to take that for granted. It brought to the forefront of my mind what I want out of my life, the work I want to create, and the person I want to become. It has allowed me to concentrate on the road ahead, to stay in my own lane, and was the first change that had to be made in order for me to move forward.
2. Be Completely Honest With Myself (At All Times)
Honesty, authenticity, and integrity are three of the four values I hold in the highest regard. They are right next to Family, which is number one for me. However, in the last twelve months, I realized I wasn't being honest with myself. In turn, I was dishonest with others. (Ugh, another thing I hate to admit). I was feeling "off" for quite some time, and it was because I wasn't in line with my personal and professional values of honesty and integrity. Being out of alignment with these values was most likely the main culprit of my feeling depressed, lonely, and fraudulent for so much of the year.
I had to turn around or trek a new path. Continuing to go downhill was out of the question, so beginning a new direction was my only option.
The truth is, I am not the same person as I was when I started my business. If I want to continue to grow, to still be in business, I need to be honest with what I really, genuinely want... and be unapologetic in my pursuit of that. There were aspects of my business that were causing me to burn out, and feel plain unhappy. I ignored the stirrings in my gut trying to get my attention. After a few months of getting down to the essential, of being honest with who I am and what I want, I'm back to a place where I feel proud of what I'm doing, and where I'm heading. I can say no to the things that don't matter, which allows me much more time for the things that do.
3. Practice Self Love
Since I launched my company in 2014, I have learned a ton about who I am, my work ethic, and what is most important to me. I've been challenged countless ways, and have said, "I didn't sign up for this!" about as many times.
One of the hardest truths I've come to terms with is my insecurity. Being insecure led me down the path above-- the one I didn't want to go down. It led me to lose focus on who I am, what I love, what I want from my life.
I'm going to confess--I wish everyone would like me. I thought this would eventually fade, but the feelings I have of wanting to belong, to be well liked, loved, and wanted, are deeply rooted. I've had to dig deep-- WAY DEEP-- to work my way around these feelings. Early last year I began meditating to help me manage my emotions, but I also established a more consistent gratitude practice and began journaling even more regularly, which has helped a whole lot.
The word I assigned to 2017 was "Wellness". At first, I have to admit, losing weight was where the spotlight was. In the course of the year, in my most unwell, I came to understand that Wellness is so much more than a number on the scale, or inside your waistband. In fact, I gained weight. Yep. Weight I didn't "need" to gain. But I also gained a new perspective, one of love, gratitude, and positivity. I learned to stand taller, and know that I. AM. ENOUGH. I have some great qualities, and it really doesn't matter who likes me. The right people will. All of it has been a significant challenge for me, but what else is new? Another personality trait I've come to terms with myself is that I am a bit of perfectionist, and letting on that I have these "flaws" is hard to do. Ultimately, being a perfectionist isn't going to prevent people from disliking me. The only thing that matters is that I can look in the mirror and like what I see. If that isn't a definition of wellness, I'm not sure what is.
4. Continually Summon Courage
Being an entrepreneur has not come easy to me, in fact, I refer to myself as an "Accidental Business Owner". I never wanted to be a photographer because it was a good business venture, and had no previous aspirations of being a Boss Babe. In fact, making photography my profession was a decision I struggled with. A few years ago, in the kitchen of a friend's house, I had a conversation that shifted my perspective on pursuing photography as a business. It basically boiled down to: I could seek a job where I wasn't doing something I love and be unhappy anyways, or I could try--really try--to make a living as a photographer; to pursue my dream job. If it didn't work out, at least I tried.
It took a lot of courage, a lot of psyching myself up to make those first steps to be a legitimate business owner. (As it does for anyone). I remember feeling so pumped, ready to kick fear in the teeth, repeating mantras that made me feel like Wonder Woman. I'm not sure when--probably when I started down that downhill path--I not only forgot why I started, but I lost courage. I heard fear knocking, and I invited it in for dinner, to stay for tea.
I had to snatch the cup from fear and kick it out of my house. I had to go back to beating my chest, telling myself that I can do this over and over again; I had to suck it up and be brave. I needed to remind myself that having courage isn't a one-time thing. It's a choice to make, each day, sometimes multiple times an hour, and one I would need to be consistent with.
Sometimes life presents "AHA!" moments to you, and they're incredible. Other times, you're given "Oh yeah" moments, and these can be just as powerful, if not more so.
Owning a business is about so much more than the product or service you're selling. It's a near-constant experiment in personal growth. These four changes needed to be made. On July 30, 2018, I celebrate my launch anniversary. I knew that I couldn't properly celebrate the occasion if I were to continue being stagnant. As with most things in life, it's easy to get set in motion, autopilot, and it's not always easy to hit the reset button.
So what better time than now, in light of these changes, to debut a fresh-faced website?
One of the best decisions I made very early on in my business was investing in beautiful brand materials made by Creme. They have kept me grounded, and have served as a beacon to remind me of what I love to shoot: images that stand the test of time. I didn't need a rebrand, but I did need to make a few adjustments in my business, my brand, and myself to make it more authentic, to redirect me.
This updated version of my website, my online home, is a reflection of those changes, my reset. It marks a turn on the path, the creation of a new way, and an acknowledgment of all that has come before.
I'm ready! Let's go!