Day 23: Is Following Your Dreams Worth It?

I got my first camera in 2007. That same year I bookmarked a list of amazing photographers that I wanted to be like. One photographer who was also very new was Jasmine Star.

Nine years later I sat in my friend’s kitchen and cried. “Photographers who started nine years ago are teaching sold-out workshops, they’re shooting at the Four Seasons, they have thousands of followers, THEY’VE ALREADY RETIRED FROM WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY and I still can’t figure out how to quit my day job!”

I thought, maybe this isn’t for me.

Maybe I don’t fit in in this industry.

Maybe I need to take a break from photography.

Maybe it’s not worth it.

“Or maybe,” my friend suggested, “Your story looks different from theirs. Maybe you are only comparing yourself to them because theirs are the only stories you actually hear about. You don’t hear about the five thousand other single moms who have to let their dreams crawl at a snail’s pace while they also work a ten hour shift, come home exhausted, help with homework, make dinner, and read bedtime stories.”

So maybe I needed to give myself a little grace. Were my dreams flying fast? Falling into my lap with each fabulous selfie I posted on Instagram? No. But were they still alive? Yes. Were my photographs getting better over the years? Yes. Was my client experience amazing compared to nine years before? Absolutely.

Mark Manson writes a fantastic article about dreams that shouldn’t be pursued. He says that his dream of being a rock star wasn’t one that should have been pursued simply because he wasn’t interested in the steps it takes to get onto a stage with twenty thousand screaming fans: The daily practice, the nightly rehearsals with the band, and finding small-time gigs for years until you gain a following. He loved imagining the end result, but the process to get there wasn’t part of his dream.

Meanwhile, there are people who love that process. They love playing open mic nights at the coffee house, rehearsing day and night, and developing calluses on their fingers.

So what is your dream? What are the steps to get there and are you willing to walk them? Are you in love with the process as much as you are in love with the result? If so, you might be in the exact right industry, in which case, I encourage you to keep going. Make goals and pursue them. Take small steps, as slow as you need to go, but keep yourself on that road.

So if you’re like me, you’re waiting for those moments you get to work on your passion. Those few hours a week I get to myself are always spent on photography. My legacy is the photos I create for the start of a new family, for them to be passed on as heirlooms to future generations. Everything else is fluff. The Instagram likes, the speaking engagements, the popularity and industry fame, that isn’t what I need to live my dream. I get that we all want validation and God it must be nice to post a selfie and get 4,000 comments telling you how beautiful you are, but what is REALLY your dream? If we’re being honest, what is your dream?

What are your goals? Write them down and get specific.

Then write down the steps you need to take to get there.

Those are the two first steps anyone will tell you. But what comes next is less commonly outlined: Write down your responsibilities. Do you have kids? Are you supporting someone other than yourself? Know that you can maintain your responsibilities while you’re following your dream, it just might take a little longer. But that’s okay, because you’re in love with the process as much as you are with the end goal.

There are thousands on the slow road. We are just less vocal about it. It seems like we are on the lonely road… crawling while others sprint by, but the truth is, success and the road there looks different for everybody. Our lives are complicated, our days are largely already claimed by work, family, health, and bills, but our dreams are worth the time it takes to meet them.

Thanks for being here for day 23! Keep chasing, friends!

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the next 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!¬† If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris