Own your story. Wear it like a badge of honor.
For the longest time I didn’t want to share mine for fear of judgment. My story didn’t just happen from point A to point B. It looks more like a squiggly line X 100. Haha And it took many stepping stones to figure out what I wanted to do. For whatever reason, I was ashamed because I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t have things figured out yet (still don’t…haha).
If I could give advice to my 20 something year old self I would say: That It’s okay to wander + not know where you’re going sometimes. Learn to appreciate the beauty in the unknown + the unwritten part of your journey because that is where you’ll find your magic + power. Own it + experiment + play around. Most importantly, don’t let others dim your light + rush your process. THIS IS YOUR JOURNEY. Learn to enjoy the discovery phase + lean in hard into your fears. That’s where you will find courage. Be brave my dear, be brave!
Well, today I’m sharing my story because I realized I never did (I’ve only told those closest to me – like a handful of people). While I get asked this question a lot in person: “So how did you get started in photography?”. It was the dreaded question because I didn’t have a straight forward answer: “I knew right away that I wanted to be a photographer”. Nope, that wasn’t my story and I cringed every time someone would ask me because it was a long story that had many bumps and turns in the road and I didn’t know how to give a simple answer because it wasn’t a simple story. But I will try and make it as “simple” as I can in this post.
For as long as I can remember, I knew (or thought) I wanted to be a Pediatrician. My little brother was born a premi and almost didn’t survive. So, growing up, that was my “why” for wanting to go to Med School. After high school, I went to UCLA and graduated with a Biology degree. If I’m being honest, I had a gut feeling even during the first year of college that perhaps this wasn’t the career choice for me. But I ignored it because I wanted to make my parents happy at the cost of my own happiness. I finished college and ended up working for a biotech company. My goal was to work for a little while + gain some experience in the work field. Then try to get into the Biology department at my job + possibly do research before applying to Med School. When the time came, I decided ultimately that Med school was not for me and that I could not make that a priority in my life. That choice did not come easy because I knew I would be letting a lot of people down which is why I kept it a secret for some time. Despite all of that, I knew that I finally needed to listen to my gut feeling this time around and make the right choice for me and not for anyone else.
So where to do I go from here? I had to go back to the drawing board. At the time, I was in my early 20’s feeling stuck in a job that I hated + completely lost because I went to school for something I decided not to pursue. My boyfriend (now fiancé, Dave) suggested that I start with what I know.
Okay, so what do I know? Well, I knew that I loved the arts + I’ve always been a little artsy fartsy. Hey! What about event planning!? So, I did some research, ordered some books, reached out to some friends and fam and started event planning for a year (while still working my full-time job at the time). I planned small events (i.e. birthday’s, baby shower’s) which led me to wanting to plan weddings. Shortly after planning my first styled shoot, I realized that it was not for me! While I loved the creative aspect, I absolutely hated everything else about being a coordinator/planner. It was an overwhelming process for me (yes, I’ll definitely be hiring a wedding planner for my own wedding. haha) and while I can appreciate + respect those who are wedding planners, it was just not for me!
Alright, so back to the drawing board again. I decided perhaps I will try being a graphic designer + design logos for people. Why not? I was already learning about photoshop + how to design invitation suites from my side hustle working as an event planner. Sure, I loved typography + the design aspect and still apply those skills to my work today. But after giving that a try, I just knew that there had to have been something more. So, that wasn’t it either. I’m sure my friends and family are getting confused at this point after seeing my posts on Facebook + promoting my different businesses. Like, what is she doing + going to do with her life? Haha
After doing event planning, I got obsessed with looking at wedding photos online and thought, well maybe? I purchased my first camera: a Rebel t3i and got to work. Not before finding out that the company I had been working for, for the last 3-4 years just got bought out by a big pharmaceutical company + that our entire department was getting laid off in 3-6 months.
Naturally, I panicked at first and thought, well what am I going to do now? But, I realized that perhaps this was the biggest blessing + my way out since I hated my job. I decided to commit fully to photography for the next few months. I would go to work during the day and worked hours after I got home. I devoted every weekend + evenings to photography from the time I got the news that I was going to get laid off to the next year when I finally got laid off. I wanted to make sure I would be ready when the time came to transition from my old job to my new job as a photographer. Still, no one really knew my intentions at the time + what I was up to really besides my fiancé, Dave. I think the few times I did open up to a few friends and family it was met with negative feedback (from some) and so I decided moving forward that I would just do me for the mean time. It took a lot of hustle + grit the first 2-3 years (story for another post) but it was all so worth it!
Luckily, it would be a whole year before the company let us go (which means I had a little bit more time to prepare to make that transition from office job to solopreneur – so scary at first!!) + we ended getting a really nice severance + bonus which helped me get started with my photography business the first year I got laid off. When I say, this was the biggest blessing ever, it truly was! And here I am now, almost 7 years later, still pursuing a career that I love.
I summarized a lot of what happened but my whole point in sharing this is that if you’re uncertain + questioning your journey right now, I just want you to know that everything is going to be okay. You will figure it out. You are enough.
While my story isn’t one of certainty or one that’s all that exciting, it’s still my story. And the beauty of it, is that it’s still not finished yet. I feel like I have so much more I want to do and photography was only another stepping stone. So crazy to think because I thought that this was it. I’m still going to be shooting (don’t worry) because it will forever be a part of me. But I have plans to extend beyond + still incorporate my love for photography (which I will hopefully share more of my journey with you soon).
I hope that that by sharing my story that it will inspire someone to just start. Start where you are. You don’t have to have it all figured out yet. The universe will reveal things to you in time. Whatever you do, let your heart lead the way and everything else will follow.
So now, when someone asks me how I started my journey with photography, I ask them if they have time because I have a lot to share. If you’re still here reading, thank you! 😊
Everyone has a story to tell, including you. So, won’t you share your story with the world? You never know who it will inspire. ♡