How do you choose between two things you love so much?
That’s the question I kept asking myself nearly 6 months ago as the time to start putting my application in neared.
It was May and I had just attended a really inspiring workshop when the call to pursue my photography full-time had grown stronger than ever. Photography has been my passion from the time I could hold a camera… There was no denying that I had always hoped and prayed I could make a career out of that passion someday.
But what about my love for teaching art?
A little background info…
During my time at WVU, I studied both Photography and Art Education in the College of Creative Arts. Originally, obtaining my certification in Art Education was something I chose to do as a plan B to give my parents some peace of mind. I knew it scared them a bit when I said I was going to be an art major, but they always trusted me to make smart decisions and supported me.
It’s a good thing I was so sure about my passion for photography and art in general, because I miserably failed the math placement test on freshman orientation day… I mean, I did so badly that I did not place into a math class. It was always my hardest subject throughout school, so failing that test came as no surprise to me. I would like to add that I have never failed a math class or even come close, but I was just not designed to do well on standardized tests… (I still have nightmares about the ACT.)
As I sat there with an advisor, overwhelmed and tears welling up in my eyes, he said, “What is it that you are interested in?” I replied while trying my hardest not to let the tears fall, “I really love art, especially photography.” He looked at me, well aware of the defeat I was feeling and smiled before saying, “Good news! You don’t need Math to major in Art!”
What a relief…
Anyhow, I never imagined I would love Art Ed. as much as I did. During my time student teaching, I was placed with two really amazing teachers who I admire so much. One of those teachers is also a photographer, wife, and mom — so kind of a superhero in my book! I still to this day don’t know how she manages to excel at all of those jobs!
As student teaching came to an end and graduation neared, my photography business continued to grow. I would rush home on the weekends to shoot weddings and portrait sessions… and that was really exciting for me! With every new session and wedding inquiry, (which were pretty few and far between back then) I felt hopeful.
I quickly became obsessed with figuring out ways to better my business and to better my work. When I began this journey I knew very little about running a business, but I have learned SO much just from doing and experiencing and from a few really great friends who were willing to share advice! (Not going to lie, I secretly love talking about business strategies…) I watched other people who were thriving and longed for that same level of success… constantly comparing myself to each new photographer I came across on social media.
Years later, I know that success looks completely different for everyone and that comparison is a thief. It can steal away your joy and your authenticity. And it will if you let it.
I spent the year after graduation substitute teaching and running my photography business at the same time. This worked out pretty well, but I didn’t love substitute teaching because I wasn’t always teaching art. Sometimes, I was even teaching MATH. Ahhhhhhhhhh! Not good!
My business continued to grow during that year, but I never dreamed I’d be able to take it on full-time so soon. The plan was to keep subbing and apply for art teacher jobs as they opened up and I was okay with that. I had just barely hit my goal number of wedding bookings for last year, so the thought of self-employment scared me. Really scared me. There’s all this stuff you have to think about like taxes and insurance and benefits… yikes.
Still, I put my whole heart and soul into the business. And at some point in the next 6 months following, things really began to change. Bookings started to pick up, a lot. I was able to raise my prices to a place I felt good about! I started to substitute teach less and less. My photography business was growing faster than ever. And the possibility of going full-time creeped back into my mind little by little.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how I attended a workshop in May that really inspired me. Honestly, I left that workshop feeling like I could conquer the world! Silly as that may sound, it’s the truth. Of course I still had reservations about attempting photography full-time, but was much less scared of the idea. Other people could do it, so why couldn’t I? I was, however, beginning to feel torn because it was getting close to time to begin fine tuning my resume and filling out job applications for the following school year.
Throughout the summer, I was booking weddings for the 2018 season. And the inquiries just kept on coming. Something inside me told me that if going full-time was what I really wanted, I could do it. Another something inside of me felt like that was irresponsible to think at my age. Apply for jobs. Have something that’s stable, without question. Have security.
“You’d be crazy not to do both.”
“You’d be crazy not to take a job.”
“You can teach throughout the school year and just do photography during the summer!”
“Weddings only take up your Saturdays, right? So, you definitely have time for both!”
All things I kept hearing over and over, but that’s not really how it works or how I wanted it to work. I won’t get too into it, but if you’re a photographer or business owner in general, then you know that’s not how it works. Wedding season isn’t just June-August and the amount of work that happens Monday-Friday to book those Saturdays and make them run smoothly would blow the non-photographer’s mind.
“And that’s all I have to say about that.” – Forrest Gump
I knew that if I chose to pursue a career in teaching, my business would suffer. Either that or I would nearly kill myself trying to do it all and do it all to the best of my ability. I would not allow myself to be a crappy teacher or a crappy photographer in the mix of trying to juggle both. Neither my clients nor the kids that would be sitting in my classroom deserved a halfway version of me. I knew I didn’t HAVE to choose one, but I know myself and I knew I wouldn’t like the outcome of choosing both.
So where did that leave me?
I love to travel. And often. I crave it. I would have to give that up. You can’t take off in the middle of the week when you’re a teacher. And you can’t take on destination weddings. I won’t lie. The freedom of self-employment was something I dreamed of. Working from my own space at home, creating my own workload and schedule, being in charge of my own income…
On the other hand, I thought about a day a few years ago when I stood in front of a Claude Monet at the Cleveland Museum of Art in awe and thought to myself, “I can’t wait to be the reason someone feels this way when they look at a masterpiece someday.” I wanted to be that influence the way my teachers had influenced me. I just couldn’t decide if I wanted that as badly as I wanted a career as a photographer.
Both are so important to me.
My photography is my art. Doesn’t matter if I’m shooting portraits at a wedding or landscapes on film in Savannah, I’m in a happy place and doing what I love to do. There’s always been something inside of me that wanted to preserve life — whether it be a breath taking sight, a special moment in someone’s life/my life, or a simple moment of clarity.
I’m almost 25. Not married yet. No kids. With my whole life ahead of me. Those three things played over and over in my head. I can always pursue teaching at a later time in my life and maybe one day I will wake up and want to, but the time was now to give my photography career a fighting chance. I knew there would be no better time than now…
July was here and a few jobs opened up. I couldn’t bring myself to apply. The online applications were complete, but I couldn’t press submit. I was called for a second interview, but I couldn’t go. Trying to listen to what my heart was telling me.
Last month I was going through old grade school papers, the school year had begun and I had been wondering if I made the right choice… I stumbled upon something I had written as an 11 year old and a feeling of peace came over me. One of those moments of clarity.
When I grow up I want to: “be a photographer”
As of this month, I have already surpassed my goal number of wedding bookings for 2018 and I could not be more thankful. But mostly, I’m happy.
Happy to be doing something I really love. Happy to be meeting a lot of really amazing people in the process.
Just happy to be alive and to be living my grade school/adult dreams. <3