**Warning: This is epic - but I hope you'll find it honest & open & give you food for thought**
Have you ever set aside time to be by yourself? I mean more than just an hour with a good book or the tv remote in hand. Have you ever really gone away with only yourself? Gone to dinner on a busy Friday night alone and been completely okay with it? Given yourself the time and space away from everybody else in your life, away from facebook and instagram, away from your home environment to REALLY reflect and look inward at who you are, where you are, what your passions are, and where you want to be? Late last month I did just that. I rented a hotel room in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood (a neighborhood I completely adore) for two nights. I left my laptop at home, but I packed a few notebooks and some activities I found online to help guide my reflection. I left after work on a Friday night, checked into the hotel, and went out to eat all by myself at a crowded restaurant. I had a delicious meal and a glass of wine and I deliberately did NOT pull my cell phone out while I ate. I kept my head up, I looked around me, and I let my mind wander while I did some serious people watching. It was a perfect start to my weekend of self-exploration.
The next morning I got up and wrote, a lot. Since my move to Boston last summer from Hartford I have been grappling with the changes in my life. I left a city where I had a successful career as a classroom teacher. But more importantly, I left a huge network of people I loved: my friends and colleagues in education and photography, as well as years of students who I taught and grew to care so deeply for. The move to Boston gave me the chance to leave the classroom for my next adventure, but I also lost part of my identity when I decided to take the leap out of teaching. Then I had a whole new city, neighborhood, school, and career to acclimate to. And then there was my business. What do I want for it? Do I want to go full time? Stay part time? Try to join a studio as an associate? So I had lots of things to think about, but life always seemed to just fly by and I never had the space or time to clear my head and focus on all of these questions and what my answers to them might be.
So, I embarked upon my “weekend away” in my new hometown. I spent a few hours in the Boston Public Library with my notebook and activities for reflection. I started by listing out all the blessings in my life. It was important to me to take stock of all the ways I was truly lucky and blessed and to frame my reflection in a positive light. And boy am I blessed! I am surrounded by love. My husband, my family, and my friends all love and support me always. Next, I moved on to listing my fears for my business, my job, my future, my marriage… you get the idea. These took many forms and there were some that got onto the paper that I had never fully acknowledged before. I had several “ah-ha” moments as I made this list of fears. It was such a cathartic experience to list out and give light to the things that frightened me. I was able to admit them to myself fully and then focus on moving on from them and conquering them. A lot of those fears aren’t going away over night, but I feel like I have taken back some form of control now that I know what they are and where they come from. And within that list of fears, all my deepest hopes and dreams were hiding.
This is the point where I decided to turn to the activities I had printed off and brought with me about finding your passion and turning your passions into a career. Here is the thing, I know myself pretty well and I figured there would not be any surprises here, and there weren’t really. I adore photography and I am passionate about teaching/mentoring urban youth. Duh. But what I also solidified were the other great passions and pastimes that round out my life and make me feel rich and full. Family is at the top of that list. So is travel and adventure and shoot – so is enjoying good food and wine with good friends. So how do I make these things happen while also trying to give a voice to the more altruistic side of me and to the photographer I know I want to become? This goes right back to my fears. What kind of person am I if one part of me wants to truly be invested in a community where I can make an impact on urban youth, while the other part of me wants to eat out and back pack across Europe trying every new kind of cheese that I discover along the way? Is it disingenuous of me to want to live in a neighborhood that is nothing like the one I want to work in? Am I walking away from a real calling if I turn my back on education completely to solely pursue photography?
Obviously, I still have a lot to figure out, but I made one great big start that Saturday sitting in the library, listening to classical music, and pouring my heart out onto the sheets of a spiral notebook. I reached a point where I was just “done”. I had nothing left to say or to write. I didn’t have any answers, but I had reconfirmed my passions and given voice to my fears and dreams alike. So naturally, I decided to take a break and go shopping. And really, I didn’t need to buy anything, but I needed to give myself space to lighten up a bit and focus on something that wasn’t of brutal importance to my ultimate happiness. To that end, I also brought along and read a ton of the latest book I had started. It was an engaging and dreamy fictional story and it helped me to truly shift my focus and give my brain and my heart a break.
On Saturday night, sitting out at a crowded sushi bar, eating alone again, I was able to start to make sense of everything I had written down. Again I sat alone and again I made a point of NOT pulling out my phone. I thought. I let my mind wander over the day I had just had, over the lists I had made for myself, over the passions I had reconfirmed. But it was not until Sunday morning over breakfast in a perfectly quiet sunroom in the hotel that I really came to some decisions about what it was I truly wanted. My path is still very much undetermined and is still dependent upon a number of factors I have no control over. But I know that what I really want. I want to launch my photography business full time. I want to continue to hone my craft, I want to focus my efforts on my business, and eventually, I want to be a photographer – all the time. My path is a long and unclear one any way you slice it, but I have time. And now I have a clear vision of what I want. And each day I will continue to work on giving myself the permission to pursue this path.
AND a little Spring photo inspiration for you - since we can't seem to shake the snow these days