What do you want to be when you grow up?
To me, this is the most useless question you can ask someone. When I was young, around five or six, I really wanted to be a vet - until my Papa talked me out of it. Next, I wanted to be a lawyer, then a doctor, and then back to a lawyer. For a short time I played around with the idea of being an actress or a writer but was swayed from these dreams as well by the unsupportive words of others.
When you are young, you dream big, and the possibilities are endless. Then you grow up. You are told to be responsible, go to school and finish your degree so you can find a good paying job, and then from there everything else will fall into place. Like magic. You work hard, keep your eyes on the goal, and you will be successful and happy.
I grew up, I was responsible and kept my eyes on the 'goal', I have a degree in sociology, and a good job. I wonder why anyone bothered to ask me "What do you want to be when you grow up?" because (aside from the fact that you are not your job nor does your job encapsulate you as a person - but that's something for a different blog post) when I was dreaming, I never dreamed this.
I was so focused on the ideology of growing up and listening to those who 'know more than I do'- as you are told to do - that I stopped listening to my inner child, the dreamer in me, that wants more than job security and money direct deposited into my account every two weeks.
In the back of my mind, even when I was dead set on my responsible adult goals, I dreamed. I dreamed of photography; of travelling the world camera in one hand, pen in the other, sharing my experiences with the world. I dreamed of reporting live from hotspots around the world armed with truth, knowledge, and creativity. I dreamed of making people feel so deeply that their very soul was touched and that loneliness that exists in all of us was erased, if only for a second.
I dreamed of meeting people from all over the world and sharing our lived experiences with one another. I dreamed of taking the blinders off and opening minds, hearts, and souls. Ironically, I was the one with the blinders on.
Then something wonderful happened. While I was fighting myself and struggling with the question "What do I want to be when I grow up?" and always unhappy with the responsible answer, someone incredibly special to me, gave me a gift.
They propositioned me with a business offer. An opportunity, a chance, to do something that I had always wanted to do, but never had the guts to even contemplate taking the first step. Photography was always a dream, that stayed hidden, because I was afraid that it would not be able to stand up to the scrunity of the light of day. Dreams keep you going - the what if ideology - when everything else is falling apart. When dreams become a reality, then it is a different story.
I jumped, with no hesitation, with no thought but a song in my heart. Dreamer: 1. Responsible Adult: 0.
It didn't take long for reality to set in. I had a lot to learn. In my dreams it was as easy as picking up a camera and sharing my work with the world. The reality of it was: I was still in university finishing my degree, working 4 - 5 days at a local restaurant to pay bills and feed myself, and trying to start a photography business with my best friend. As an arts student, I did not know the first thing about starting a business other than it is recommended to have a business plan. What does that even mean?
Through trial and error we started Photo Junkies. At times it felt like we made more mistakes than home runs. Through it all, we kept shooting. Bit by bit, my dream became more of a reality than a dream. When people asked what I did for a living, instead of telling them that I was a student, or a server, or later on a Program Manager for a charity, I would say I was a photographer. Every time I said it, chills would run up and down my spine, and my heart would leap, like it was jumping out of my chest to fly away it was so happy. For the first time I wanted people to ask me what I did, nevermind the fact that I still had to work full time to pay bills and make ends meet, and at the end of every day I was so tired I couldn't be bothered to even cook dinner and would fall into an exhausted slumber.
As with all stories, the heroine eventually hits a dark patch and all light disappears. Dreams become nightmares and hope dwindles until it is almost non-existant. These are the times when you feel like giving up. I must admit, I have had more than my fair share of times when I felt like giving up and saying fuck it. I am too tired, too broke, too over everything to continue down this path. Doubts set in and began to grow like a vine that held me hostage in their thorny clutch. Each doubt cutting me deep and bleeding dry all the enthusiasm and passion that had once stoked my fires. I felt like I was trying so hard and getting nowhere. So I stopped.
I let my day job take up my time and energy and told myself that I wasn't a good photographer in the first place. Dreams should stay dreams because in the real world they don't come true. The dreamer in me didn't fight. Now when people asked what I did, I told them "I am an events coordinator for a charity." I could hear how passionless my voice sounded, because even though I liked my job, it wasn't what I dreamed about. Eventually, this got me thinking; the wheels and gears started to churn, slowly at first because I hadn't bothered to shut them down properly, I had just abandoned ship. I turned off auto pilot and started to think real long and deep about what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I want to be successful and happy. I want to be passionate and full of conviction. I want to be someone who knows that even when I fuck up, I did what I honestly felt was right for myself and those around me. I want to be someone that helps others and makes them feel good about themselves as a person. I want to be someone who enjoys all that life has to offer. I want to be the person who stands up for what they believe in. I want to be someone who never gave up on themselves and their dreams.
So here I am. Redefining what I want to be and ready to believe in dreams again, and that they really do come true.
This is an image I shot of a really good friend of mine, Kiray one week ago. I hadn't picked up my camera in over 3 months and had no desire to. I want to thank Kiray, because, without knowing it, she re-awakened the passion and drive that was dormant.