Updated: Jan 6, 2019
Living Without Regret
If I was given a dime every time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew older, I am certain my collection would be around $100. I feel like I have heard the question 1000 times! From dreaming of sitting in the driver's seat of a big rig, to pretending I was counting down the final seconds of game seven of the NBA finals in my driveway while putting up what I thought was the game winning shot, I believed that adulthood was going to be the fulfillment of all my dreams. I believed, without a doubt, that anything was possible. You grow old and live life exactly how you imagined, doing what you love... at least that is what I believed at the time.
Though not certain of the age or time when I began to lay my dreams aside, I do know the things I believed to be true at age 9 or 10 completely died out by the time I graduated high school and completed some time in college. You believe the "impossible" is possible as a child, but life has a sad way of stripping us of that belief as we grow older. We hear the stories told by people who have gone before us and somehow their doubts become our doubts, and their fears become our fears. At some point we seem to just accept this idea that what we desire out of life is impossible and we find ourselves settling. I am not qualified by any means to diagnose any problems, but my guess is that many of us are sad and even depressed because we have settled for a version of life that we are dissatisfied with.
Okay, so what? Nothing new here. You have heard it a million times from a million people, right? Pursue your dreams and do what you love! Chase your passions and watch life brighten up! Classic motivational talk from self-help gurus all around the world. I used to get tired of hearing it and thought it was only for some elite group of people with strength I did not posses. But guess what? I'm doing it right now and I find it to be everything I read about. I'm not a rich author with a top selling book about the steps to achieve greatness. I am not a rich photographer with 100 thousand subscribers on a YouTube channel.. yet. I'm just a regular guy who decided that life had to be a bit more meaningful than clocking into my job every day and living for the weekends.
I graduated high school in 2007, and about three weeks later I was sitting on the bed in my first college dorm room with tears in my eyes. I was several states away from home with little to no desire to pursue a college degree. But, that is the norm, right? Though a lover of the arts at that time, I did not believe it to be a realistic career path. You go to college, you get a job, you buy a house, start a family and live a perfect life. We don't believe that, do we? I did not then and I don't now(however, it does work GREAT for many people though). About 50 credits and a few transfers later, I decided to put college on hold and focus totally on my professional career. Prior to withdrawing from college, I had moved back home to Pennsylvania and was working as a Bank Teller. I hated every minute of it. New bank, new job.. same hatred. Why don't I give the mortgage industry a try? Need I say more? It was the same cycle over and over. I would get a new job hoping that it would bring new happiness.
In February of 2017, I landed at the top property insurer in the world. They boasted about the work-life balance, benefits, pay, average length of employment, and so on and so forth. I found it all to be true and could not imagine a better company to spend 30 years with. But guess what? I hated it. Not because of horrible bosses or a terrible workload, but because I was dying inside. There was a world outside of our office that I felt needed to be explored with my camera. In one powerful conversation with my mother, I told her I would rather die than spend 30 or 40 years sitting behind the same desk.
In February of 2018, I woke up on a sunny and cold Tuesday morning and decided I had enough. I sent an email to my supervisor and let him know that effective immediately I would not be returning to work. I felt incredibly liberated, but also terrified. There was not a million dollars in the bank to pay bills or a stack of clients to carry me through the coming months. The only thing I held was a burning desire to make life more than paperwork and emails, phones calls and insurance claims. There was a need to live life in a way that would lead me to a place of no regrets. I often envisioned myself sitting on a porch as an old man, telling my story, sharing my successes and failures. Though not close to that point, I could feel the regret of not pursuing what I love and it was something I was unwilling to live with.
So here I am. Almost one year under my belt as a full-time photographer. I have flown to Los Angeles to photograph budding fashion lines and have flown states away to photograph legendary basketball players. I have developed relationships and friendships with people all over the world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have suffered great loss. I have needed more help than ever, from family and friends. I have looked at empty bank accounts more than I care to admit. I have been overlooked, taken for granted, underpaid, and lied to. I have contemplated quitting and selling my camera equipment. Despite all of the gut wrenching pain of first year entrepreneurship, guess what? I HAVE NO REGRETS!
I have NO regrets. I am doing what I love and I would suffer the same losses all over again and make the exact same decision if I had to. That is the message I want to drive home. Doing what you love may not be quitting your job and opening your own business, but it may be going back to school to change your career. Doing what you love may be learning to paint or learning how to publish children's books. Doing what you love may be going to nursing school and finally getting a job where you can help people. Doing what you love may be traveling abroad and spending time with other people and learning about their lifestyle. Doing what you love may be moving across the country to pursue a career in acting or singing. What we love comes in many shapes and sizes, and it changes from person to person. There is no one size fits all for finding happiness when pursuing your dreams. But I do know this much, fear and doubt causes many of us to push the brakes when we should be pressing the gas!
If anything can be taken away from this, I hope that you gain a sense of belief again. I hope that your childhood belief that anything is possible begins to live again. The only thing standing in your way, is you! I know, you have a family. You have responsibilities. You don't know where to start. I get all of that, trust me! But you NEED to do this for yourself.. It is NEVER too late to take the first step on a journey. You may not reach the peak of the mountain, but at least you put one foot in front of the other and tried your best! I may never reach the pinnacles I dream of, but I sure am going to try with every ounce of my body. I hope you do the same. Life is too short to lay aside what you love.
I love y'all..