To "Four-Years-Ago" Me | Dear Photographer

dearphotographerDear Four-Years-Ago Me, I have such a fondness for you. You don't yet know what you are doing, my dear four-years-ago self. You think you do, but like all children who think they are more mature than they are, you have no idea what you are capable of - but let's also be honest and say that you have no idea how much work it will take to get there. In the past few years, you've done a lot of good work in learning how to use your camera, and for a short period of time you were encouraged by the sessions you were booking and the kind words those clients had about your work. But let's be honest - you have no idea what you are doing, and you struggled to translate that into a sustainable business of any kind.

But, I know that the fire in your belly is true and the only thing holding you back is your fear.

I also know that you think you've given up. That you've tried and tried for what felt like so many years, but yet nothing really happens, and you've all but written your dreams off. In fact, I don't think you've hardly picked up your camera at all in recent days. Do you even still qualify as a hobbyist, if that poor little Rebel has dust on it?

I wish I could remember exactly what would change for us, dear four-years-ago me. Maybe the shock of suddenly being a stay at home mother, and having endless hours in a day stretched out before you is what spurred you to try again? Maybe it was the loneliness that came from living in such a remote place, with no one but your baby and your husband to talk to? Or maybe a part of you knew even then that your story wasn't yet over when it came to photography. That there was something more in you, somewhere deep, that just need the time and the nurturing to come out.

Darling four-years-ago me, if I were to tell you that in a few short months you were going to join an online community of female photographers, would you think I was crazy? The same exact community that you saw a few years ago and thought, "who'd ever pay to be part of some online forum?". And if were to tell you that a year after joining, you'd find some of the very best friends you'd never met, who would intimidate the crap out of you at first, but with whom you'd grow and get better and chip away at all those goals?

The rest of your story is too far in the distance to tell you right now. I want you to focus just on where you are, but I also want to offer you this promise: you have more than you know inside of you.

In order for you to become me, dear four-years-ago self, I need you to be brave.

You are going to want to hold back and be shy, and that's okay at first - there isn't much point in asking you to change your very nature. But promise me you'll start making connections. Promise me you'll try. I wish I could tell you that this part gets easier, that you'll get less shy over time, but you are who you are, and there is nothing that will change that. Even now, I worry about being somewhere I "don't belong".

But the secret I am starting to realize, is that bravery is when you are scared, and you do it anyways.

So do it anyway, for both of our sakes.

In order for you to become me, darling four-years-ago self, I need you to make peace with rejection.

There are going to be some things you apply for or pursue that will come easily. Enjoy the heck out of those moments, for they are not the norm. It's easy to forget that rejection usually comes more often, when you experience a success or two. But don't let those successes make you too weak to handle rejection. And never forget that the very act of rejection is a valuable experience.

You'll learn how badly you want something, when you are told you can't have it. You may discover that it really doesn't bother you, and that will teach you how to shape you own unique path in this world.

Or that very sense of rejection may eat at you until you have no other choice but to address it.

And in doing so, you may learn some ugly truths. Like maybe you didn't work as hard as you could have. Or maybe your work is in fact not nearly as good as you want it to be. This is why rejection is so very hard to handle, because it shines a light on the things we don't want to think about. But that light is a gift: if you choose to learn from it and grow from it.

Take those rejections personally enough that they motivate you to keep on, but not so personally that you quit or become a victim.

In order for you to become me, darling four-years-ago self, I need you to find humility.

When you discover this community of photographers, you are going to have your entire world rocked with what is possible in this craft. I hate to admit it, but you are going to be one of the ones who sees the Pro program, and think you can totally get in - but darling girl, you need to trust me when I say that you have no idea what you don't know.

So I want you to hold onto that drive and the spirit of thinking you can do anything, but stay humble and open to learning and growth. Understand that though you aren't ready yet, you will be, someday. And when you do finally apply, you're going to knock it out of the park because you stayed open and kept growing.

You don't yet know the things you don't know. But you will, I promise.

And if it's any comfort, know that even now I feel this way: like I'm ready for something, I want some things so badly, but the hard truth is that I am not ready. And that's okay.

Because I don't yet know the things I don't know, too. 

Darling photographer, more than anything, for you to become me, I need you to not give up.

It's a lesson I am still struggling with, and one that I think we will always struggle with. Learn to enjoy the struggle, since it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. But always rise up again, and meet the work with a joyful smile. You are so incredibly lucky to be on the path you are on. To have the time and the energy to pursue this craft is such a gift. Use it wisely.

Until we chat again, Me {October 2015}

Kate Densmore1 Comment