A Change of Heart AKA On Letting Go of Some Dreams for Better Ones
Originally Posted Summer 2013; Updated Summer 2018
I wrote this as we were preparing for some major changes in our lives. At the time, I had been pursuing a photography business for several years.
When Brian and I first got married, we made a list of things we would do after we had a family. We dreamed about the home we would create, the values we would instill in our children, about travels and memories we would make. We wrote them all down and put that piece of paper away. But every now and then, when I’m cleaning or daydreaming, I’ll come across that piece of paper and compare the life I’m living with what’s on the list.
You see, I had every intention of making my photography business successful. And I thought I could have both my personal and professional dreams come true. Many women do it, I reasoned. And I could too. But dreams are just dreams without actions behind them.
So I got to work. I entered into an agreement with the Landmark on the Sound. They agreed to let me rent a beautiful space in their building, and I proceeded to make that space my own. We painted, decorated, and cleaned. I met with and hired wonderful hair and makeup talent. A friend moonlighted as my assistant- reaching out to folks who would spread the word. I photographed a number of beautiful women and delighted over the results. I created lovely marketing materials that I passed out and shared. I spent many nights working, working, and working.
I laid the foundation for my photography dreams.
But as I began to build those dreams, I realized how much it was costing me. Not in money, per se, but in my personal life. Every weekend I devoted to my work. I relied heavily on my husband whenever he was home. I frequently locked my kids out of the office. I began to dread spending time with my family because every hour spent with them meant the pile of retouching or marketing tasks I had to complete would go unfinished and I would fall further behind. It put a strain on Brian and mine’s relationship. Everything felt like a battle between the business and my family. Even though I kept telling myself we needed the money and if I only I could get my butt in gear I could do it for them… But the truth is, I was doing it more for me.
I love my work. I love photographing people and creating images. I love packaging everything and presenting it in a beautiful way. I love the satisfaction I feel when a client gushes over their images. My business has at times, made me feel valued. Important. Special. And I couldn’t imagine my life without its validation.
Sometimes I would pull out the list Brian and I had made all those years ago and wonder how we would ever get there. Those dreams had never changed. I knew our values weren’t being reflected in the life we were living. I was unhappy with how things were going. And I blamed myself for not being able to figure it all out. I felt like a failure. Meanwhile, my business got busier and to be honest, I felt proud. But I couldn’t help but wonder….
Was I missing something greater because I couldn’t fathom the idea of letting go?
Was this really our dream?
I felt trapped.
And then Cousin Gale died suddenly right after Christmas. My sweet Cousin Gale; he was 80 years old, Iowa-born, lived and died. In a lot of ways, he hardly knew me. But he never let me forget we were family. He always responded to my Christmas card. He called me when we finished the WWII book. He kept asking me to bring my family out for a visit. Two summers ago, we made the trip to see him. He loved playing tour guide as he introduced us to distant relatives, the gravesite of my great grandparents, the house my grandpa grew up in, the town Grandpa came home to after the war… With Cousin Gale, I felt something so rare: my relationship with him was one of full acceptance. Perhaps because he was fully present, available and genuinely interested in my life. He loved family. It was all he ever talked about. And his life was rich because of it.
After his death in December,
I began to seriously re-evaluate my life and wonder what it was I truly wanted.
A real business takes incredible commitment. It takes so much out of you. And I decided I no longer wanted to give it so much. I wanted my weekends back with my kids. I wanted to go to church on Sundays. I wanted to enjoy evenings at home with my husband. I wanted to invest in old friendships and make new ones. I wanted to stop all the self-loathing I felt over being a distracted spouse and mother. And I decided to accept that not earning money did not make me “less than.”
I heard a saying years ago at youth group that I’ve always remembered, “the right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.” And I wondered if possibly it was simply the wrong time for me to pursue my business so wholeheartedly.
So we decided for me to back off. I didn’t make any formal announcement or declaration. But I quietly surrendered. In January, I told my husband that 2013 was his year. I wanted to support his dream of becoming a high school administrator. I wanted to help him any way I could. If I got profitable work, I took it AND I enjoyed it. But I didn’t pursue it on my own. In essence, I let go.
When people asked me how my business was going, at times, it was awkward. I felt everything I just typed out, but how do you express stuff like that in casual conversation? I had such mixed emotions. But strangely, I also felt at peace.
Then in March, we were surprised to find out we were expecting a third child in November! At that point, I felt my decision to focus more on my family was confirmed in my heart.
I have to say, I am really enjoying my time with my children. Brian and I have become more intentional with them. My relationship with Brian has been better. And my relationship with the Lord has been strengthened. The decision to step back was a personal choice. And at times, I miss the adventure of being busy.
But, in the end, what I really want is to glorify God with my life.
I want to be the type of person my Cousin Gale was- one who is fully present, loving and joyful. And I’m finding validation in who I am in Christ and not in my business.
Then last week, Brian was offered an assistant principal position at Othello High School (near Moses Lake). It’s been five years- two years of continuing education, three years of countless applications, multiple interviews, and lots of rejections- and he finally has his turn to tackle his dream. I am so proud of him.
It means we’re moving. It means big changes. It means there’s a lot up in the air. It means the pace of life may slow down even more for us. But I’m excited. I feel God’s provision already in the way my heart has been prepared over these past few months. What seemed like an impossible situation and an impression to step back earlier this year has been transformed to a new reality. And it doesn’t feel like a loss for me. It’s a gain for us as a family. My business will be taking a hiatus for the time being. I will probably cut down a lot of my overhead costs including my website and keep my blog and/or facebook going. I expect my blog will become more personal and even less photography-related. I expect I will one day go after professional dreams again. Only God knows. But in the meantime, I’m living this dream with Brian and our children. And I have to say, it’s sure to be an exciting adventure.