I hear the sound of my own footsteps pounding out a drum beat on the great grayscale of concrete below. They're coming faster now. Louder. Like my feet and my heart are in a race of their own. Running towards something. Away from something. And like they just might leave the rest of me, in pieces, behind. They know what they want, and they know where they're headed. The rest of me just hasn't caught up to figure it out yet. And in that moment, I fear that I never will.
To my right, the water stretches on in pale blue paradox: calm on the surface, but just underneath a constant struggle of rip tides and torn currents. The silver light from a gray sky dances across it and never quite lands. As if it is buoyed up on some unseen, just out of reach tight rope. It plies & pirouettes without once fear of falling- the steady confidence that only comes of knowing what it is you were born to do. And over the sound of my own racing footsteps & racing heartbeat, I can't help but find myself envious of its fearless endeavor.
A little while back I wrote about the promise of giving up on someone else's dream. And the big blank slate that it opens up for you to be able to pen your own. The only problem, of course, comes when you haven't a clue what that should be. Lately, I've been feeling....restless. Agitated. Stirred up. Like that dream you have where that one thing you've been looking for is always just on the other side of the door, but every time you open it you just find another, more tightly locked door.
It's the hunger that inevitably follows, when you remove all the other voices you've been listening to...and realize you've forgotten what it is to hear your own. So you sit in the emptiness, (or as my friend Anne likes to say) sit through the edginess. And learn to love the silence again. You listen to the sound of your own footsteps and pray that they might one day lead you back. Or lead you forward. But that wherever they lead, it will be a path and a drumbeat of your own making.
I sit in the uncomfortable in between that resides & lives between what the world says you ought to do and figuring out what it is you were born to do. And I don't like it one bit. It's frustrating. It's frightening. And it makes you feel lost.
So I write this post to remember, because I never want to forget. Never want to forget how it feels to chase a dream, because the key word there is chase. Never want to forget what it is to wait and wish and work. Because it is the waiting and the wishing and the working that makes it all worth it. Never want to forget that if this dream were handed to me tomorrow it wouldn't mean a thing...because it's the journey in getting there that makes the finish worthwhile.
And so I start with the sound of my own footsteps, because they keep moving me forward.
The "Huh..." still hung in the air between us as it filled every inch of space in the car and tempted me to put my window down. So that it could roll on out into the world and reverberate the very passing hillsides with its benign rebuke.
But instead it just sat there. Between us. The pink elephant in the room of monosyllabic sentences that said whole weeks of conversations worth. It had said everything, and yet nothing. And I needed to know more. So...I pushed.
I was in the car with my good friend Tiffany, when she asked the inevitable questions that now comes up after the tour..."So....What's Next for Mary?"
I blinked. Squinted my eyes the way you do when you're really thinking hard about something....or buying time. Started and stopped a few times. And then ultimately rattled off a list of seemingly rather worthy goals & accolades compiled from my notes on watching this industry for the past few years.
And that's when the "Huh..." came.
"What?" I asked, already afraid to know the answer.
"Oh it's nothing," she said, " I just, I dunno, those just don't seem like Mary goals to me. When I think of you guys, I think of you going out and doing the big things in this world that will actually help people. Those just seem like prizes. Like wedding photography industry prizes, and they just seem like somebody else's goals. I guess I just see you guys doing something bigger with your work. Something with more impact in other people's live and not just yours. It feels like you might be playing small."
And then it was my turn to say "Huh..."
I sat and let her words sink in, the way that a concrete building settles into the ground beneath it. With a lot of weight and the force of gravity. And the funny thing is, I wasn't mad at all. I was grateful. If there is one thing that has made all the difference for us, it has been surrounding ourselves with friends who aren't afraid to give it to us straight. To tell it like it is. And...I knew she was right.
A few years ago, when Justin & I went to our first conference and saw all the speakers walking around and sitting at the same table together, I made a promise to myself that one day I would sit where they were sitting. And that we would have what they had. So I made a mental list of what I thought it was to be successful in this industry. It went something like this:
Speak at WPPI, host a sold out workshop, get featured in Rangefinder, teach internationally, book a $10k package, have 10,000 likes on Facebook.
And being the good, Rachel Berry-on-crack, type A, over-achiever that I am, I set my sights on each goal, went after it with a gazelle like intensity, and saw myself check-mark each one off along the way. Accompanied as always, of course, with a gold star.
Over time, as things got marked off and new definitions of success emerged in this industry, I added to that list. And what I realized, staring into the "objects may be closer than they might appear" mirror of the passenger side, was that what I had just rattled off at 65mph on the southbound lane of Interstate 91 were the remnants and broken remains of the six-year journey... of chasing someone else's dreams.
Had we been successful? Sure. But by whose definition of success?
Were these accomplishments impressive? Maybe. But would I rather leave an impression....or an impact?
And wasn't the real problem with more....that it's never enough?
What I realized that day sitting in Tiffany's car, was that I was holding on to that list of old goals that I'd written for myself like a lifeline. Stitched together from the patch-work pattern of what an industry had said it is to be successful, rather than the voice in my own head. And the truth is, I was terrified that if I walked away from that list before every last one of them was completed, then it all would have been for nothing. And I would have ultimately failed.
And what I'm continuing to realize even now, is that when I hold on so tightly to those small, "supposed to" dreams penned by somebody else's hands....it's only blocking the way to those really BIG things that I've been called to. And that each one of us has been called to. Because how could we possibly see the bigger picture, when we're so blinded by the checklist that we keep right in front of our eyes. We have to learn to let go. Let go of what is important to somebody else. Let go of selfish pursuits. Let go of what is so fleetingly rewarded in a broken world. Let go of following so carefully, step by step, in the footprints of somebody else.
And for once, ONCE, in our one wild & precious lives...be willing to be brave enough to step out ahead, alone, and on our own two feet. And to feel what it's like to be the one blazing the trail.
Whatever you do today, I hope you set fire to it.
The hardest part about sending that email that could change everything is not pressing send...it's writing the first line.
The hardest part about branding (or rebranding!) your business is not picking out fonts and colors....it's taking the time sit down and actually figure out who you are first.
The hardest part about going full time is not the day you leave your day job....it's the day, months before then, when you decide to leave your day job and start putting in the work to make it happen.
Anytime you're starting that new project, writing that article, launching that new line, the hard part isn't the launching. The launching is the fun part. The launching comes with balloons, champagne, and funfetti.
The hard part is starting.
It's putting pen to paper. It's sketching out ideas. It's being willing to sit down and write that outline. Or blog post. Or business plan.
It's the day you're willing to stop talking about it (trust me, everyone has already heard you talk about it) and to take one step, no matter how small, to actually doing it.
To be able to resist the resistance, lean in to the fear, and sit through the edginess. To push past that uncomfortable feeling that comes every time you tip toe at the borders of your comfort zone and for once not go running back into the shelter of what has always been. To take that step out. Into the uncertain. And into the unknown.
Be willing to decide. Be willing to begin. Be willing to try.
Because what we know is life doesn't begin when you're finished.
Life begins when you start.
**Can't wait to show more of Jojo & Todd's gorgeous wedding soon!
A few days ago, my new friend (and I'm convinced soul mate), Hannah, wrote this post on her blog: 25 Things Every Woman Needs to Know. It's one of those kinds of posts that smoke-billows its way into your soul and winds its extra long fingers around your heart, until you find yourself crying inexplicably in the morning lamp light of a Dominican hotel room because it's just. that. good.
Go ahead, go read it now. I'll wait. Or read this first and then go read it. But either way, you must promise me this...you must promise me that you won't let darkness fall on another day without having this post in your life. You need it. I need it. Trust me, we all need it. And we're just lucky that it's out there.
Reading Hannah's post got me inspired. And...it got me thinking. Just like there are these immutable self truths that every woman should know, isn't the same true for every dreamer? Didn't we too get lost somewhere along the way? Somewhere in the distance between dreaming and doing, didn't our once warm, basking bright lamp light start to go a little dimmer? Or for some of us, doesn't it feel like it's gone out completely? Don't we know what it feels like to feel like we're just playing pretend at being a dreamer? While all the real dreamers are out meeting somewhere for chai tea lattes without us. Comparing trophies and throwing victory parties. With their perfectly manicured nails. Don't we know what it feels like to have our hearts ache at the emptiness of chasing someone else's dream, and to buckle under the weight of that moment when we realize that we may just never get there?
And how do we go about finding our way back?
I won't pretend to have all the answers. Or that I too haven't found myself lost when the light is growing dim. But out of that darkness, I have learned a thing or two about dreaming. So I thought I'd put them all together here for you now.
Here's to the dreamers.
1. Sometimes the brick walls aren't there to keep you out, they're there to give you a chance to show just how bad you really want it. But sometimes the brick walls are there to show you that you're on the wrong path altogether. They're like those talking door knockers in the movie the Labrynth....they'll say a lot if you'll only listen. And they've been put there to point out just how off course you've gotten while you were off chasing after someone else's version of success. To tell you that if you would just stay on your path, run the race that's been charted for you...you would find out just how short-sighted those other goals were, compared to what's been planned for you. Sometimes the brick walls are there because they are the only thing strong enough to keep you from going the wrong way.
2. Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. When in doubt, chocolate is always part of the solution.
3. Dreaming is a verb. It requires action, effort, work. Don't mistake it with that other kind of dreaming. The one where you get to just lay around and wait to fly.
4. There will be days, weeks, even months that go by when you feel like nothing is happening. These are the moments when you're growing your roots. And the longer it takes, the stronger the roots. Sure, a weed may shoot up over night, but it takes nothing to knock it back down again. And let's be honest, nobody likes the weeds anyway.
5. I need you to agree with me to stop doubting your voice. And while we're at it, agree to stop doing backbends too. No, not the cheerleader, yogi master sort of backbends. If you can do those, good for you. I'd like to see that sometime. I'm talking about how you keep bending over backwards to mold and conform yourself to what you think you're supposed to do. How you're supposed to write. Or how you're supposed to shoot. How you're supposed to market your business. And how in the process, you hide & put away all the parts that make you interesting & beautiful in the first place. The only thing you're supposed to do is be you. After all, if God had wanted you to be an exact duplicate of everyone else, he would have just made you a copy machine. Be grateful that you're not a copy machine.
6. There are a surprising number of Taylor Swift break up songs that also work equally well for those days when the dream just isn't working. Listen to them. Dance around in your yoga pants that you haven't done yoga in for a good six months. Refer to rule #2. Now tell me you don't feel better.
7. Speaking of which, there will be people out there who are just Mean. They won't know you & they won't be bothered to get to know you. Feel sorry for them. And forgive them. After all, a nasty blog or facebook comment lasts thirty seconds before you delete it. But frosty, bitter & ugly....that lasts a lifetime.
8. If you were handed everything you ever wanted tomorrow no questions asked, you would be psyched about it for about an hour. And then you would realize that it doesn't mean anything because you didn't do any of it. Repeat this to yourself as many times as it takes: It's the work that makes it worth it.
9. You have to take time to dream. Dreaming doesn't live on your to do list in between picking up groceries and dropping off the dry cleaning. It doesn't happen in between emails either. Dreams are like the Dixie Chicks. They need wide open spaces....and room to make a few mistakes. A cowboy to take you away doesn't hurt either.
10. Dreams are messy. They're 37 books piled on your desk and 100 scratched out words before you find the right one. They are drawing on a chalkboard. Typing, deleting and then typing again. They are tears. And balled up fists. And cursing the people who have it so easy. Don't spend too much time listening to the people who have to always look like they have it together. Real dreamers are messy people. But they know that in the mess, there is beauty.
11. On those days when you feel like every last ounce of inspiration in the well spring of your creativity has run dry and you will never have a beautiful or creative thought again, sit down and spend five minutes reading something from F.Scott Fitzgerald. You'll find that there are new wells. And they're all around you.
12. Which brings me to a big one. In everything that you do, try to make sure that your dreams are never ever (evan, evah!) just about you. Running in pursuit of these selfish dreams is the lowest form of dreaming. Sure you may achieve a lot. And others may even look to you as an example of "success." But on the inside, you will rage an ongoing battle against emptiness with the constant pursuit of more. What you do for yourself is fleeting. What you do for others is a legacy.
13. I'm just going to say it. Miley Cyrus's The Climb.
14. Do it because you love it. Do it because it sets you on fire. Do it because when you're doing that thing you love...time stands still. Or goes in super fast-forward. Or both somehow. Do it because you were born to do it. Because it's in your blood. And because you feel like the truest version of yourself when you are. But for goodness sake, do NOT do it for the blog comments, facebook likes, or Twitter followers. Nothing will kill your dream faster. And let's be honest, our grandkids are going to make fun of us for Twitter one day.
15. Do not be tempted to take short cuts. As you pursue these dreams you will encounter a parade of false leaders who will promise you the dreamer's equivalent of "losing 10 pounds by the weekend." They will tell you that mediocre is good enough and it's all about how you present it. About how you sell it. Don't buy into it. Seek out real teachers. The ones who will push you to never stop learning and falling in love with your craft. To have a life long love affair with this thing that you do. And to create the kind of body of work that you can be proud of when you exhale the last your precious breaths. Remember, it's the work that makes it worth it. Don't short cut yourself out of what makes it worth it.
16. There will be times when it's not right, not fair, and not how you want it to be. That doesn't mean you can stop it from happening. In those moments, use your energy on being the kind of person you wish they would be. If nothing else, you might change the outcome for someone else.
17. I'm just going to say it. Jordin Sparks' One Step At a Time.
18. That light in you, as completely out as it may seem right now, was never really gone. It was just buried under a bunch of stuff that doesn't matter. If you want to find that light again....get back to the things that do.
19. Dreaming is a group sport. You need people to bounce ideas around with. Just make sure you choose the kind of people who are willing to tell you when an idea is bad, off, or just plain not BIG enough.
20. Twelve publishing houses turned down Harry Potter before someone finally picked it up. Just because the world is telling you "no" right now doesn't mean that it's not their loss.
21. I'm just going to say it. Justin Bieber's Never Say Never.
22. If you're having one of those days and you really just need a good laugh, I recommend the "Pocket Full of Sunshine" scene from Easy A. Annnnnd you're welcome.
23. If Lance Armstrong has taught us one thing, it's don't cheat to get there. Because no matter how high you climb, no matter how much you achieve....sooner or later, what's in darkness always comes to light. And everything you've gained can be taken away in a second. Plus, the race is always more satisfying when you know you've run it with integrity.
24. But rest assured, there is going to come a day when you're going to win. When you're going to have trophies to show and victory parties to throw. When that happens. just make sure you pick a table that has room there for everyone.
25. Above all else, just remember that you're out there getting to do what you love to do. And isn't that the real dream in and of itself?
Today we are SO honored to have guest blogger & one of our dearest friends, Leslie Kerrigan, here to talk to you! Leslie is the founder of the Seniorologie blog & was the genius organizer behind The What's Next Tour. So every killer venue we had, every parking spot for the bus, every extra fun lighting package is all because of her & her tireless efforts to go above & beyond and make it happen. Leslie is just the kind of person who gets stuff done. In a BIG way. So when it came time for someone to write a guest post on kicking fear in the behind, I knew she was the very first person I wanted to ask. We are SO lucky to have her as a friend.....may I now introduce to you MS. LESLIE KERRIGAN!! *********************
When Mary first asked me to guest post for them, I was ecstatic! It was something I had hoped they would ask me to do for a long time. And that dream was coming true!
But as quickly as the feeling of excitement came, the feeling of fear quickly followed. What if I let them down? What if my style of writing was not good enough? What if no one wanted to read what I had to say?
Fear. Itís an ugly emotion. It is one that can literally stop us in our tracks and keep us from doing the one thing we have been dying to do. And the one thing I have been dying to do, writing a blog post for two of my favorite people, was the one thing that terrified me the most.
So how do you fight through the fear? How do you keep fear from letting you live out your dreams? Or in the words of Mary herself, how do you punch fear in the face?
When it came to writing this post, one of my biggest fears was not having the words. Not having the ability to write what I feel when it comes to fear and not being able to help others who are fearful. So I immediately looked for quotes about fear, figuring the writers of these quotes could inspire me. Hoping these quotes could put into words what I was trying to say. Hoping by reading these quotes about fear, I could find my voice and my words for this post.
Just reading these quotes gave me courage and I hope that they give you courage as well.
I think of fear in child-like terms. As I watch my children grow, I realize that when they are young they arenít as afraid because they donít know what to be afraid of. They live life as if nothing is out there to be afraid of. They donít know to be scared of doing something because you might fail. They donít know that excuses equal fear.
When they grow and start to realize this, it makes me sad. The innocence they once had leaves little by little and they start to realize the same thing we, as adults, realize. That sometimes life is a bit scary. And to do something you want to do is scary.
So when you look at that big dream you want to achieve, think of yourself as a child. Remember what it is like to just go and do because you can. Donít stop and think of all the what-ifís and consequences and failures because they will hold you back.
Be curious like a child. So curious that it out-weighs the fear. Want so badly to see the outcome of something, rather than fearing that outcome. Be more curious of what will happen if you live your dream than fearful of what might happen if you donít.
So how do I punch fear in the face? I push through the fear and DO. I sit down and write the post I was asked to write. I put the fear out of my head. I ignore the doubt. I ignore the voice in my head that says, ďWhat if it is not good enough?Ē
I let my desire to live out one of my dreams win over the fear of failing. I take action because one thing I have learned from Mary isÖ
ACTION TRUMPS FEAR!
So tell me, how will you punch fear in the face today?