Going Full Time Month 12

Happy November 1st!

On the 4th, it will officially be a full year since I left my full time job to pursue photography full time.

I can’t believe it’s been a year.

If I’m being honest, I have been avoiding writing this post. Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself to write some epic, “What I learned from the first year” post or maybe it’s just that this month has been insanely busy.

The other night however, I wrote a few sentences down in the journal I keep by my nightstand. I think I might share those sentences with you today because they truly do speak to this last year and how I plan to shape my life.

Every self help guru out there has some gimmick they outline for us and a few nights ago, I discovered mine. I call it:


Ooooooooooh, Denise, stahp, this is too much!

I should also probably pause right here and let you in on a super crazy secret: I’m totally not a mental health professional. Or a self help guru for that matter. So for the real stuff, I’m completely supportive of everyone seeing a therapist at some point in their lives.

My friends and I get together sometimes and do budget therapy… we all relay what our therapists have told us in the past or what they’re telling us now and then we collectively learn from those things. It’s hilarious and weird and this is kind of like that.

SO at this stage of my life, it is my belief that in order to walk a path that is fulfilling and successful and satisfying, you have to:

Learn who you are.
Love who you are.
Lean into who you are.

So, true to any book format, we’re going to outline those things right now.

Learn who you are.
This is harder than it sounds! We all have different versions of ourselves and sometimes that version you’re pretending to be and who you actually are blend together. It takes a lot to start practicing self awareness and even more to delve into who you are and what those elements were that shaped you.

To start: Sit down and write out seven core memories. Yep! Just like in Inside Out! Seven memories that stick out in your life. Then write down how they shape your current thoughts and behavior. Just knowing the “why” of your life is a massive step towards self awareness.

Pro Tip: You can use these stories to shape who you are. For example, having a parent who wasn’t supportive might shape you to also not be supportive of your children OR it can shape you into someone who says, “I’m always supportive of my children because my own parent wasn’t supportive of me.” You can harness your story and use it to shape who you want to be.

Love who you are.
Something wild happened along this “Learn who you are” process and that was that I really started to love who I am. The most painful parts of my past only made me more empathetic and I wouldn’t trade my empathy for anything. The parts of my life where I felt rejected only made me more accepting of others. My bad decisions only helped me learn and grow and then extend grace to those who need it. Sometimes I cringe wondering who I would be if I was doused in popularity through High School or if I grew up with wildly wealthy parents. The truth is, I like that I’m a Hufflepuff with an overactive imagination. I like that I was super weird until I was like, 27. I like that I’m a photographer who is growing slow enough to document each step and connect with those who also are seeing slow growth in their business.

To start: Play the “What are you really buying” game. Have you heard of this? Not the game, but just the idea that for example, Hello Fresh isn’t really selling food. They’re selling time. They’re selling less stress to a working parent. Or when you buy a vase for your entryway, you’re really buying a way to welcome people into your home.

There’s a quote out there that says, “If you want to learn what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph.” I’ve learned that a similar principle applies for money. You spend your money on the things you value… and it’s not always straight forward. If you were to look at my bank account, you’d see a charge at FatCats. I was buying movie tickets I guess but really, I was buying an outing with my family. And I value time with my family. You’d see a charge at Hobby Lobby where I was buying ribbon. But really, I was buying an element for a gift I was giving and I wanted it to look as beautiful as possible.

Those two things, gift giving and time with my loved ones, those speak very loud and clear to who I am and what I value. As you learn about yourself, I want you to start to love who you are because that’s when other people will start to love who you are.

Pro Tip: Not everyone who knows you will love you and that’s okay. You have to decide who the most important people are up front and decide that if they love you, then that’s all that matters. Myself, my mom, my brother, Raffi, Kayden, Erika and a few friends are in my group. As long as they love me, I’m set. Some people don’t understand me. Some people think the worst of me and that’s okay because I am secure with the people who think the best of me.

Lean into who you are:
If you got through the first two, this one is easy. Just be who you are. For so many years I was stuck trying to be someone I wasn’t. I was stuck thinking I had to be Jasmine Star or Jenna Kutcher in order for people to like me or in order for me to be successful. I was willing to try to be anybody but myself and in the end, I only needed to be me. That was the one requirement and I was avoiding it at all costs.

I wrote a blog post last month about how Raffi recently commented that he wished he was more like me in my imagination. While I’m a whimsical dreamer with my head in the clouds, he’s a meticulous builder with his head in math equations. The whole sentiment that “The world needs you to be exactly who you are” finally clicked into place as I told Raffi that I needed him to be a meticulous builder who understood math equations. Those things are wildly important and the same applies to you.

Are you an outgoing violist who loves animals and day dreams about surfing? DO THAT! Play the viola! Volunteer at the animal shelter! Plan a trip to the beach! And post about it because we all want to see!

Are you a vivacious baker with an awesome kitchen? Do that!!! Start a YouTube channel showing us how to make cakes! We all want to see where you shine.

We all want to see where you shine!

To Start: Write down the three things you really love about yourself. Make it a point to do and post about one of those things each week.  I love Jenna Kutcher because she is confident and body positive. I also love that she is generous with her knowledge on business and marketing. And how often do we see her being those things? ALL THE TIME.

I love Gary Vee because he is no nonsense, tough love and sincere with the advice he gives us. And how often do we see him being those things? ALL THE TIME. ALL the time.

Pro Tip: Don’t feel pressure to share everything with everyone. Boundaries are important and sharing online doesn’t have to include all the bad and ugly from your personal life. It’s okay for things to remain personal and private. You get to decide that part. Don’t feel pressure in this new world of authenticity to share things you don’t feel comfortable sharing. For example, there have been times I’ve felt pressure to share some body positive underwear shot and in the end, I decided that I’ll pass on that one. I think it’s gorgeous and inspiring when other people do it but it’s not me. You get to decide what is and isn’t you and it has nothing to do with approval or disapproval for what others are doing. It’s just you.

Do you remember Gelly Roll pens? They were a huge thing when I was in Junior High and the company had a contest when I was in 8th grade. It was to write a quote about a certain topic and the winner would get one of each Gelly Roll pen out there. It was somewhere around 120 pens. So I looked through the topics and saw the expected: Love, Growth, Happiness… and then I saw Intimacy. I’m gonna be real, I decided to enter that one because I figured it would be the least competitive. I submitted the quote:

“First know yourself. All your flaws, likes, dislikes, and attributes. Then get ready to share them with someone.”

It won and I got 120 Gelly Roll pens. It was awesome.

So now, twenty something years later and my biggest lesson of year one is to Learn who you are. Then love who you are. Then lean into who you are.

In the spirit of leaning into who I am, from now until November 4th you can enter for a change to win one of nine art prints (One for every year it took for me to leave my full time job) over on Instagram. Click here to enter and wish me luck for year #2!

Lastly, thank you for being here. I realize blogs are not “the thing” nowadays so if you’ve read this entire post, then you actually mean the world to me. Sincerely, holy cow, I can’t believe you’re here for my journey. I hope our stories continue to intertwine over the years and that our paths cross frequently. Thank you thank you thank you.

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

Thanks to TwinsFisch, Wout Vanacker, photos by Lanty, and Amy Shamblen via Unsplash for the one year photos.