Have you ever felt like you were struggling to find your true calling? Have you ever wondered what you were meant to do with this life? Have you ever felt lost or like you didn't know which way to go? If any of this sounds like you, you're not alone. I spent the better part of my life trying to determine what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember in school all of my friends had high aspirations, they just knew they wanted to be a nurse, or a care worker, or a lawyer, or whatever else their hearts desired. I never had any of that. I chalked it up to a poor education system in Canada, often feeling jealous of my British counterparts who were groomed for their professions and post secondary careers long before high school was even over.
When I left high school, I knew I needed to work, and I needed to make money. I had a faint idea that I would like to do something creative, but somehow in my mind I felt like creativity did not pay the bills. So instead I took a few years off, and then went to college and took Child and Youth Care. I honestly picked my college diploma by opening up the brochure and going "eeny meeny miny mo." No, I'm not joking.
College was an interesting time. I excelled in school and made the honour roll, but I was never passionate about the program. I loved helping people, which is why I got into the career in the first place, but I am just not the kind of person who can leave work at work. So I floundered and eventually dropped out of the program, but during that time I learned some valuable lessons that I think you'll benefit from too.
The first lesson I learned is that you never, ever know where life is taking you. Had I not taken that course I would not actually have become the photographer I am today. Shout out to all my college amigo's who's weddings, engagements and family photos you allowed me to shoot! I learned through those experiences that even though we don't always know where we're going, it doesn't mean we're not travelling in the right direction.
Last night I watched this new show on Netflix called "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction" and it was an interview David Letterman did with Barack Obama. If you haven't watched it, check it out it's entirely worth it. Something Barack said really stuck out to me, he asked Dave, "Don't you say to yourself, 'Boy am I lucky?' One of the things I'm always surprised by is when I see people who have been successful in business or entertainment or politics, and they're absolutely convinced that it's all because they were so smart. And I'm always saying, well, I worked hard, and I've got some talent, but there are a lot of hardworking, talented people out there. There was this element of chance to it – this element of serendipity. And I wonder if you ever feel that sometimes?"
The thing that was striking about this statement was that there sat this man, a revered politician, 44th president of the USA, human rights activist, a super intelligent guy, and he felt luck was a driving factor in his incredible life. That statement actually left me dumbfounded, because it's true. Often times I feel as though people can look at my own life in particular, and ask how I got to where I am today. They ask how I can do this full time, and comment on how lucky I am to do something I love, and they always say they wish they could do something they love too. The truth of the matter is, you can!
I will be the first to admit that I am not the smartest person to ever walk this planet, I don't have the knowledge, and thanks to my 'fly by the seat of my pants' lifestyle, I tend to learn things the hard way. But if I can pursue this career that I love, and do something that excites me every single day then you can too. Because so much of what got me to where I am today is not being afraid to put myself out there, to put myself in a situation where luck could find me.
The second lesson I learned is that the thing that terrifies you is probably what you're meant to do. I remember going to a jewelry party many years ago, when I first had the inkling I wanted to be a photographer. I remember at that time in my life being so petrified to say this is what I want, this is the path I want to pursue. A woman was at the party and asking if the host knew anyone who could do her head shots for the University staff directory, and I so badly wanted to speak out and say, "yes, me! me!" But I was frozen in fear. Literally, frozen. Instead, a girl right next to me said that she was a photographer and would do it. They exchanged contact information, while I sat silently by.
I don't know what griped me with such fear, perhaps it was the irrationality of someone calling me out and saying, "you don't know what you're doing, you can't take photographs, you're a phoney." All I know is that I was there, in that same moment with that woman, and I did not put myself out there. That could have been a link to a totally different career path within photography, and maybe that's why it didn't happen for me then, but I will never forget the feeling of not putting my horse in the race, not standing up and saying this is who I am, and not being fearless enough to just be me.
Maybe that's what being lost in life all boils down to: the fear of being who you actually are. What if that person fails? What if that person isn't as good as another person pursuing a similar career? What if, what if, what if....? That question can plague you for the rest of your life, and in that moment with that woman, it certainly had me in it's grasp. What allowed me to remove myself from it's clutches was a much more important question I had to ask myself...
What if I never tried? What would my life look like then? But...what if I did try, and what if I succeeded? What if I got to do this as my full time job? What if I got to help people on a level that I never dreamed possible? What if I got to make a difference to women everywhere? What if I got to have a voice for those who were too afraid to speak up?... But what if I never tried?
Once that thought crossed my mind, it pretty much set fire to the whole thing. I could not imagine my life without at least trying to pursue the things that mattered to my heart. And I knew that it mattered to my heart, because nothing had ever scared me so badly in this lifetime as the thought of speaking up in that jewelry party and saying this is who I am, this is what I do, this is what I love.
So my advice for those who are lost, who are looking for their path and their passion in this life... seek out the opportunities to tell people who you are. Say out loud the thing that scares you right to your very core. Whatever that thing is, whoever that person is, whatever that career is... that's the thing that's going to set your own heart on fire with a passion like you've never known. That's the thing that you will endlessly pursue because once it is yours, once you can confidently claim "This is who I am, this is what I do" you will never be able to go back to your life before that moment.
Finding what your meant to do in this world isn't something that necessarily comes easy to anyone, but putting yourself out there, allowing some serendipity into your life, and chasing your dreams is something I know everyone can do, if they only try. And I ask you, what if you don't? But more importantly, what if you do?