Taking a Leap at 35
I have been drawn to the art of photography for as long as I can remember. My parents always encouraged me to play around with our family's point-and-shoot film cameras; when I hit middle school they gave me a badass Polaroid camera with the most expensive film I could have ever imagined at the time. I loved going off by myself and falling into the trance of capturing unique and visually appealing images. I was lucky enough to have been raised in the beautiful town of Littleton, NH, and even more so because my family owned a 52-acre horse farm. The horses, sheep, and a few highland cattle gave me plenty of subjects to stalk and capture from behind my lens. When I was in high school, my parents helped to foster my photography education even further; I spent two amazing semesters studying film photography while attending the outdoor-focused prep school, The White Mountain School in Bethlehem, NH. Armed with my beloved 1980's Olympus OM-1 35mm film camera, the world of photography became my new passion in life.
Now let's skip forward a bit to the University of New Hampshire where I had to make the big choice of what I was going to do when I entered the "real world (whatever that means!).” You would think I would have surely jumped right into photography or photojournalism, but no; I was sure I wanted to be a lawyer. If you know me at all, you are probably laughing to yourself, as my temperament, anxiety, and finding-the-positive mindset in all things would have made me one stressed-out child-rights lawyer. Well, luckily my adviser at UNH saw this and strongly suggested I enter the field of helping children from the preventative side instead of trying to save each child after the fact. So I dove into another lifelong passion, working with children, and I worked towards becoming a young child advocate and early childhood educator/director.
So what happened with photography? Nothing, really; at least for a little while. The passion was still there, but as cliché, as it sounds, we all have different paths we need to explore in life and finding what fits best usually changes over time. While photography was a huge part of my life, I wanted to keep it just for me; plus, I felt that working with children offered more financial stability while I started to build my life away from my family's farm. In 2012 after my first couple of years teaching, I opened my photography business. This was my part-time passion project and I kept my focus on my students, their families, and their community. I full-heartedly feel my first career was the best path for me: I enjoyed the comfort of having routine schedules, summers off, great benefits (and holy guacamole, do I miss my old healthcare coverage!), and a steady salary. I was able to meet and help hundreds of kids and parents, and teaching gave me the opportunity to travel and relocate since districts everywhere are always looking for great teachers. In 2015, I married my amazing husband Erik (well, technically we eloped in 2014, but I will get into our unique story of our marriage in blog post number two). My focus on teaching allowed him to explore what career was best for him, and it also gave us the opportunity to build enough steady income to purchase a house, a necessity for our growing family. In 2017, Erik and I were blessed with our first daughter, and our two-bedroom duplex was just a little too small for the three of us, our two dogs, and our cat.
You may now be asking, if teaching was so wonderful, why leave the field and enter the financially unsure world of career photography? Well, first and foremost, in 2019 I became pregnant with our second beautiful child, and the cost of childcare for two kids was something that was going to take a big chunk out of my stable pay as a teacher. We did the math and found that having me stay home and raising the girls (especially equipped with my vast knowledge of early childhood development) would actually save us money in the long run. Crazy, right? I would get into how nuts it is that it is more cost-effective for a teacher of ten years to stay home because the cost of childcare for two kids essentially eats the entire paycheck, but that is definitely a rant for another blog.
Once our little family decided to make the big move of me staying home with the girls, my life started to change in ways that I could not have imagined. The first thing that took hold was the realization that I was not being watched and coached about how I should act, talk, and dress; I could actually go out into the world without worrying that I may be cornered at the store in my sweatpants, case of White Claw in hand, talking to a concerned parent about how their child was progressing in my class (no fault to the parent, here; we all become a bit blind to social situations when it comes to our kids). This discovery of "freedom" from the pervasive stress of early education (so often overlooked) gave me permission to dig deep and really become the creative artist that has been pushed aside for years. Yes, I had opened my business in 2012, and I had continued to practice and refine my craft, but I didn’t feel I was able to build my true self as an artist until I had finally let the world of education go.
Now it’s 2020, and in this year of upheaval, some of the biggest changes have occurred. My teaching license finally lapsed, meaning that if I was ever going to teach again, it would be a long and arduous process to get it back. So Erik and I sat down and really talked about my future as a financial contributor to our family. Like so many, our family was impacted by the Covid19 pandemic the hardest when Erik was let go from his job, and no one was sure how long the unemployment benefits would last. I had a couple of weddings on the books, as I typically booked or was a second shooter in 2-4 weddings a year. With Erik out of work, even temporarily, it occurred to us that now was the time to take the leap and relaunch my business, full-time.
It was a risk, but somehow through all of the unknown and unforgivable loss that so many people had endured, my tiny little business started to grow, and my creative talent and technical skills continued to reach whole new levels. We had found that for all the terrible things that have happened this year, there are blessings to be found as well. Being forced to stay home has given me ample time to take virtual workshops, build connections with other vendors in the industry, and do some deep self-reflection to hone my style and create a brand that is all my own. It also gave me time to finally share my work and become published not just once, but multiple times by different magazines that saw the great style and artistry I had to offer. I had stressed about relaunching my business during a time when so many people are hesitant to have face-to-face interaction (rightfully so, and especially with someone they did not already know); but through careful and thoughtful planning, it’s happening, and my business is beginning to thrive.
Starting a new career path at thirty-five was once the most dreaded task I could have ever imagined. It kept me awake at night and brought more stress than I like to admit before I finally took hold of that dream and made it my own. Now, it has pushed me to search deep within myself and share the passion I had kept to myself for so long with the world (a brief aside: I will get more into the steps I took to make this leap happen successfully in a different set of blog posts for those who are looking to break into the industry). I have learned that taking a leap into another career can be totally terrifying, but it is that fear that it won’t work out that makes the challenges even more enjoyable when you succeed. I know I have made and will make more changes throughout my life; but none have ever been so satisfying as this, even in the midst of the unknown and the challenges it has added to my life. Here’s to the future memories we will make together.
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."
- e. e. cummings -
One last note before I send you off. I want to give a big shoutout to one of the most beautiful women I know. Thank you Marjanna for being my copy editor for my very first blog post! Check out her AMAZING work on her blog Queer Mama Rising.