Going Full Time Month 13

I sat in my little cube the last day of my full time job talking to a co-worker via chat. She said, “My friend went full time in photography a year ago and now he’s absolutely killing it! You’ll be fine!” She went on to say her other friend also did the same thing and she was ALSO killing it after a year. She said, “AND they’re both Sagittarius and YOU’RE a Sagittarius so I’m positive you’re going to be amazing!”

I’ve remembered that conversation over the last year several times and each time I think, “But what does ‘Killing It’ actually mean?” Like, what does that look like? Are they flying off to Paris and Italy every other weekend? Making twenty grand a day photographing celebrities for the cover of Vogue? Are they making six figures with a 3,000 square foot studio in Downtown Phoenix? Or are they just getting by? Maybe they’re just posting awesome highlight reels online so the world thinks they’re killing it. Maybe they’re fighting tooth and nail to get their next client so they can keep afloat for the next month.

My business has changed a lot since June and one thing I hear often from friends who I get together with is: (say it with me) “You’re killing it.”

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t feel like it. Like, at all.

Last week, Raffi and I watched the AMA’s where Halsey gave a mildly awkward speech where she talked about watching award shows as a kid and dreaming of being on stage…and then she ended by saying that the awards were “not what they seemed.”

Raffi and I squinted at the TV like, “Wait, what now?” But I think I knew what she meant…

I have this fantasy where I unplug for an entire month. Maybe even two months. I pack up and I go live in a lakeside cabin. Just me, the lake, and a pile of books. The property has a hammock I can take afternoon naps in, and somehow I know how to fish. The cabin has a crackling fireplace and I read, I swim, I hike, I take beautiful photos and I connect with nature.

In reality, though, what would it look like? I’d have bug bites all over my legs. I’d spend my nights absolutely terrified that someone might be out in the woods. Or I’d freak out swimming in the lake when a plant touched my leg. I’d hate the smell of animal poop. The crickets would drive me nuts. I really don’t like hiking at all. I’d miss the internet. I’d miss Italian food.

For every fantasy, there are a million hidden realities waiting just under the surface.

Have you had something like that happen to you? Maybe you dreamed about moving to that magical department at your company. You worked and applied several times and kept thinking, “Once I get to that department, I’ll be so happy.” Then you got to that department and realized it was nothing like what you thought. You actually made less money because the bonus structure was different. It was a smaller team so days off were harder to get. The metrics were really rigid and you found yourself working overtime just to keep up.

Do you guys remember Ron? (*Harry Potter Spoiler Alert*) For seven years he dreamed about doing something wildly heroic like Harry got to do every year. Finally, he got to destroy a dang Horcrux with the sword of Gryffindor after saving Harry’s life! That’s epic as heck right there! And immediately, Ron said that the whole thing sounded way cooler than it actually was. Because the reality was, their camping in the woods wasn’t glamorous. It was discouraging. It was exhausting. They were at each other’s throats. They were terrified for their families. Ron straight up abandoned them.

You might be thinking, “Okay, Denise, so what? You’re trying to tell us that we’re just not supposed to dream and have goals because the reality might be different from the fantasy? Nice message.”

No, I’m definitely not saying that.

Do you remember that scripture that says, “The truth will set you free.”? I used to shake my head at this because I usually remembered it when I was trying not to get caught for something I did when I was in High School. Like, actually, the truth is gonna mess me the heck up with my mom so SHUSH! But my mom told me that it actually meant that when you know the truth, you don’t have to be a slave to the lies anymore.

Maybe you are obsessed with looking perfect on Instagram. You take 100 selfies to find that one where your arm doesn’t look fat, your eyes are perfectly made up, and all those little tiny things are perfectly in place. You’re afraid people are going to judge you by how you look. You’re afraid people are going to size up how expensive the sweater is that you’re wearing. You’re worried your High School boyfriend is snooping on your page thinking awful things about you. But when you realize the truth that no one really cares about a dumb armpit bulge, no one knows how to tell the difference between an expensive sweater and one off of Amazon, and your ex has never even been to your page, you can be released from that obsession that’s been stressing you out for years.

For years I thought I wanted to be one of those fine art film photographers. I thought I wanted to set off to Greece and France to photograph amazingly expensive weddings. I thought that was the only way I’d be happy being a photographer. But the truth? I’m not a big traveler. I like being home with my son. I’d hate whatever paperwork would be associated with shooting out of the country.

We get into a cycle, don’t we? We fantasize about this one big thing and we think we’re going to be so incredibly happy and fulfilled and endlessly satisfied once we get it. Then we get that thing and it isn’t what we thought. So we’re disappointed and we pick something else to wrap our dreams around. There’s a new carrot waiting to be chased right at the finish line of the last race.

Not allowing my reality to be dependent on a fantasy has been one of the most important things I’ve learned to do. It has set me free to be happy with exactly what I have and where I am while working on projects that I love and that I’m passionate about.

Friend, that was month 13… I’m officially in my second year! Let’s see how this goes! 😉

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

For the full directory of all 13 months of “Going Full Time”, click here! 

Special thanks to Dzmitry Tselabionak, Nicola Ricca and Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash for the dreamy photos!