I was once given an amazing opportunity to photograph my first wedding; the wedding of a dear friend back in Portland. It was one of those “holy shit” opportunities. The kind that could have unlocked doors and maybe could have served as a stepping stone to a life I’ve always dreamed of. It was the chance to pursue my ultimate passion as more than just a hobby. I could have used the photos to build a solid portfolio and maybe, just maybe, leveraged the experience to start my own photography business. Do you want to know what I did with this opportunity?
Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
At first, I was onboard with the idea. But after spending a few weeks of picturing the worst-case scenarios and considering my possible ineptitude, failure, and the idea of producing disappointing images, I swiftly turned that potentially life-changing opportunity down.
But hey, I was free! The weight of the challenge; the feelings of fear and anxiety that I’d felt plop onto my shoulders the moment I received the offer, lifted immediately. Peace out, suckers! I felt an amazing sense of relief; the kind that makes you audibly sigh and thank the heavens that it won’t be your problem anymore. No more worrying about practice, contracts, equipment. It was awesome.
For a few weeks.
And then, it wasn’t. Suddenly, all I could think about was how I had not only let a friend down but also myself. The self who has dreams and desires beyond spreadsheets and memorizing billing codes. The self who sat on the couch with her dad fourteen years ago, watching intently as he showed her how to load film into his old Canon A-1. The self who wants nothing more than to live an authentic, creative, wholehearted life.
Who knew if this kind of opportunity would come along again? Author Katherine Paterson once wrote “To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.” Yep. By refusing this opportunity, I’d officially let fear swing me around by my tail, and I knew it. And regretted it. I swallowed my guilt and tried to bury the shame I felt for not having faith in myself or my abilities. I knew, deep down, that I could shoot this wedding, and capture beautiful photographs, even if it wasn’t easy. I knew my friend had put her trust in my abilities for a reason, and had more faith in me than even I did. I tried not to think about the huge mistake I’d just made. I told myself that I’d chase that dream another day, and dove into starting this blog as a focus for my creative energy and proof to myself that I could still challenge myself and do things that make me uncomfortable.
Can you believe there’s a but in this sob story? Somehow, even though I 100% did not deserve it, I received a second chance. Texting with my friend last week, she told me that some of her wedding plans had changed. The wedding would now take place in September in one the dreamiest wedding locations imaginable – Glacier National Park. My eyes widened as I read the text and then, another came through. She asked if I was sure I didn’t want to photograph the wedding. UM NO, I AM NOT SURE, my heart screamed. I thought of the amazing photos I might take, the fun I might have, celebrating my friends and preserving this special day with and for them. Still, I hesitated, asking if the wedding would be smaller than the original plan. I’d feel less intimidated that way, albeit still terrified of not being good enough or creative enough or WITH IT enough. Yes, it would be, she replied. Much smaller and more intimate. Okay, okay, okay. We agreed that I’d think on it (fear, get out of the car). And so I did, for a few days, even though I already knew what I had to do.
Yesterday afternoon, I sent the scariest text of my life.
I’m shooting a wedding in September, even if I want to back out a hundred more times. Even if I am trembling and feel like I want to curl up into a little ball on the morning of the wedding, I’m showing up, and doing my best, and vowing to have fun as the day unfolds. Even if I feel like I’ll never be good enough, I’m clicking the shutter button over and over and over. I’m ready to do this, whether my fear tries to sabotage it or not. Doing something that scares the shit out of yourself is the only way to break through the paralysis of living a mediocre life. It’s so easy to say “no” to opportunities that scare you, isn’t it? Watch the anxiety melt away – it’s like magic! But what are you really saying no to? What doors are you closing? You have to challenge yourself, push yourself, terrify yourself, to become something great.