Last week I received an email from a loyal blog reader...and friend. Her words hit me hard because, maybe, I hadn't done the best at explaining my approach to life...and then I felt like I was speaking from both sides of my mouth. Which is so not a good look for me. In light of this (and with her permission), I'm responding to her email publicly to clarify any miscommunication...
Quitting and following your dreams is so romantic...it's so perfect that I find myself asking, "am I happy?" over and over again. I entertain the idea of quitting because what you say resonates somewhere deep inside me...but today you did the opposite. You said the journey is long....its hard....but give it one more try before you throw in the towel. So now I wonder...why didn't you keep going in law school? Why didn't you go back and give it one more try?
Clarification: I didn't go back to law school because I, instead, chose to pursue the dream of becoming a professional photographer. If things didn't work out becoming a wedding photographer, I might have gone back to law school and given it one more chance, but--thankfully--the wheels of my dream started moving.
Was law school never really a dream of yours?
To be honest, I was in love with the idea of what being a lawyer would mean...to me, to my family. I'm a first-generation Hispanic, so I held tightly to the notion that education and a healthy paycheck meant freedom...but when I got to law school, I realized I couldn't be free if I was shackled to the unhappiness of an unfulfilled life.
Were you ever confused as to what your "dreams" were?
YES! When I left law school, I felt totally and completely lost. Everything for which I worked so hard now meant so little and I clung to this harebrained idea I could pick up a camera and make it work. To be honest, my dreams--then and now--are in a constant state of recalibration, but it was just as important to know what I did not want to do. Whether I could bring myself to say I dreamt of being a photographer isn't the point...it's knowing I didn't want to be a lawyer. Knowing this, I had to make decisions to move me away from the direction I was headed.
I've heard you say...you gave yourself a year and if it didn't work out you would go back to law school...but what was your measure of "working out"? What was your milestone?
Everyone has their own measure of success/milestone/"working out" and what worked for me may not apply to anyone else. When I made the decision to not return to law school, I worked part-time three days a week. My goal in 2007 was to book 10 weddings as the lead photographer...I figured that this would be a nice jump for my first year and something I could handle. Luckily, I booked 38 weddings and I was able to pursue photography full-time, but if I hadn't set a goal, I wouldn't have anything to measure my first year success.
How do you decide whether its just a rough patch and you should battle through...or if you wave your white flag?
Every day was a rough patch in law school (here's a reminder), so I battled the best I could. When I received news of my mother's relapse with brain cancer, I held up a white flag in full surrender because I couldn't do it anymore. "It" being the ability to go through the rough patch. Sure, not everyone gets a distinct wake up call, but when I did, I left and didn't look back.
I'm just confused because you say quit. Now keep going...
In the past ten months, every ounce of me was put to the test publishing EXPOSED Magazine. In addition to travel, wedding photography, at-home work, speaking engagements, and life, I was pulled in every direction. I quit working on the magazine because I was overwhelmed, not because I didn't want to pursue it. Essentially, I sold myself short. This is completely different than when I quit law school because I knew that at the end of the day, I didn't really want to be a lawyer.
QUIT what you don't love and don't want to spend the rest of your life doing (of course, taking proper steps to protect you and your family from financial distress). And, more than anything, quitting can be a frame of mind as much as an action. You can quit believing you're destined for a cubicle for the rest of your life, quit thinking you'll never make third quarter sales projections, and quit doubting your ability to be enough.
KEEP GOING when you believe your path is what you were called to do (even if this is part-time or full-time or you're simply pursuing a passion) or simply for the reason you can look back on your life and know you gave it your all.