I sat in my car, parked on the side of a residential street in Mesa, Arizona. I closed my eyes and tried to steady my breathing. My hands shook and my heart raced. I tried to calm that feeling I get when I am about to step outside of my comfort zone. The same feeling you get when you are walking down a flight of stairs and you think there is one more step than their actually is. Your foot falls and for a split second, you feel like the world dropped out from under you. For moments after, you calm the nerves, reminding yourself the ground is still beneath your feet. In this case though, the feeling wouldn’t cease.
It was the day of one of my first five weddings. The event was at a private residence and I had been there only once before with the bride. The area was desert, as to be expected in Arizona. Cacti and drought tolerant plants lined the streets and gravel lay where other states would have green grass. The entrance to the community, however, had one home that looked entirely misplaced. A white cottage farmhouse with a large, lush green yard. Vintage farm equipment decorated the property and chickens and cows wandered about. Not your typical Mesa home.
For weeks, I had gone back and forth in my head, trying to ramp up the courage to ask the home owner if I could shoot portraits on their property. I knew I had to shoot there but that would involve me knocking on a strangers door to ask a monumental favor. The thought made my palms sweat.
I sat in my car and thought it out. “This is for your bride and groom. To give them the best photos. The person who lives there can say no or they can say yes. The worst they can do is tell you you’re a terrible person for even asking and shoo you away… and they probably won’t do that. And if they do, no one ever has to know. You drive away and bear that failure alone. The best they can say is yes. Who doesn’t like a wedding after all? It’s not like you’re asking to go chicken hunting in their yard. It’s a compliment to them. Maybe they will be flattered.” And with those thoughts, I got out of my car and marched up to the front door.
The moment I knocked I almost ran for it. Then I thought how stupid I would look as a 26 year old doorbell ditcher. I stood, feet planted. The door opened only part way and an elderly lady greeted me. I explained I was a local wedding photographer and was shooting a wedding in the neighborhood that day. I asked if I could bring the bride and groom by for 30 minutes for some photos. She replied with an “absolutely!”, a smile, and an “I won’t be here so just close the gate when you’re done so the chickens don’t get out.” I managed to get out several “Thank you’s” and “Definitely’s!”, tripping over my words with relief.
Suddenly my weeks of worry felt futile. Childish even.
Later when I edited the images we captured of Morgan and Robert as husband and wife, I felt the lesson lift a weight from me. That whatever comfort zone I stepped out of for the sake of my clients and my work, only the best will come from it.
Hey. Do you mind if I tell you a story? One you might not have heard. All the elements in your body were forged many many millions of years ago in the heart of a faraway star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space. After so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets. And on and on it went. The elements came together and burst apart, forming shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings. Until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe. There is only one of you. And there will never be another.