These are my real, unedited thoughts and struggles for the past 3 years. I'm not the type of person who shares things like this through my business, but I feel a pull to be transparent about my current situation.
It’s 10:14 PM on a Thursday night and I’m sitting at my desk. I can barely see underneath all of the camera equipment, books, and various other items. My desk is as cluttered as my mind. I was preparing a completely different blog post when I realized how overwhelmed and busy I have become.
I’ve always been the type of person who didn’t want to miss out on anything. In high school, I was involved in almost every organization you could be a part of. I enjoy staying busy and I made sure that I did the same as soon as I entered my freshman year of college. I joined an organization and got a job before the first day even rolled around…
By the second semester of my freshman year, I joined 4 prominent organizations on campus and also held a job. By my sophomore year, I knew I didn’t want to miss out on anything else. I decided to study abroad and got an on-campus job. I also joined a few other organizations and served on various executive boards and committees.
Half way through my sophomore year, I knew that something was wrong. I was on track to become a Physical Therapist and was on a safe route. I was going to be making money, have the title of a doctor and had the otion to travel. I took the intro class and I realized how WRONG I was. Nothing about physical therapy satisfied my creative needs. I needed something different. Not just different, but different every day. I knew how much I loved photography, but I was too scared to take the risk. I then researched and finally changed my major to communication with a concentration on public relations.
By the end of my sophomore year, I’m happier. I have a new major. It’s something different. I’m inspired. Then, I knew I had to figure out what was important to me. I looked at my involvement and I chose my top 5 things (jobs, organizations, family, friends, etc.) to focus on.
I enter my junior year of college. I can’t believe it. I’m finally a junior. I’m taking a class called introduction to public relations. I once again begin to realize that maybe this isn’t the best major for me. Public relations is far more interesting than physical therapy, but I wasn’t getting the inspiration I needed.
Rewind a bit to the summer right before my junior year. I take a trip to where I was born (New Smyrna Beach, Florida) to visit some family and friends. We stayed a week and a few days before we left, I shot a 6 AM sunrise session with my cousin’s daughter at the beach. I had this sudden realization about my life. I get so much inspiration and excitement when I’m making photos. I get to document human lives and forever freeze that moment for someone to cherish. I make history. I remind people of their past. I get to show people how beautiful they are. I have the power to make people cry with happiness and good memories. I can touch people’s hearts without ever meeting in person. I have the ability to create and inspire people through my work.
I could go on and on.
I struggled with figuring out who I needed to be.
Fast forward to now.
I am about to be a senior in college. I was so close to not coming back this semester (Spring 2016). Right before the semester began, I joined as a student member of PPA and decided to go to Imaging USA in Atlanta. Imaging USA is a massive photography conference and expo held in different states each year. I met so many photographers who were like minded. They are doing this thing full time. They are living their dream. Why couldn’t I do the same thing?
Before, I always thought of doing photography on the side. I made excuses: “I don’t want to burn out” or “I’ll do it on the side and if it kicks off I can make it a career”.
Why can’t I make it a career now? There’s NO reason why I can’t follow my dream now!
I quickly reevaluate the way I am running my website and social media. I completely revamp my Instagram to be more focused on photography. I add onto my client experience in a huge way.
Again, boom. A few changes and I’m beginning to get inquiries daily. I set up sessions and I’m becoming more confident with my ability to run a business. I’m SO CLOSE to focusing on photography full time and officially saying bye to college.
I decide to stay.
I don’t know if I made the best decision.
Balancing college full time with heavy involvement, while trying to focus on my business has become immensely difficult. Not only has it become difficult, but I knew either one or the other was going to suffer.
I didn’t realize that both would. I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t have time to edit photos or respond to emails in a timely manner. I didn’t realize that some nights I would be up so late that I would oversleep and miss classes. I didn’t realize the stress I would go through in classes I didn’t want to be in when all I could think about was my next new business venture and even remembering to email back my clients. I didn’t realize that I would fail to remember simple class assignments or what day it was. I didn’t realize that I would be potentially losing business because I couldn’t provide the best customer service possible. I didn’t realize that I was going to have hundreds of passion-driven ideas on a notepad that I can’t even begin to put into action. I didn’t realize that all aspects of my life would suffer because I was spreading myself to a level of thinness I didn’t know was possible. I didn’t realize that my grades would suffer. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t a super human.
I didn’t realize any of these things because I didn’t have time to think.
Today, I’m finally slowing down to THINK.
I firmly believe in going confidently in the direction of your dreams and never looking back. If you look back, you might trip and fall. Falling hurts. I’ve not only looked back, but I’ve looked all around me. I’ve fallen so many times.
I’m thankful for falling. You might ask - who wants to fall? Luckily, when I fell tonight, I slowly got back to my feet. I dusted off my skinned knees and elbows and sat down in the green chair at my computer desk to write this blog. I let the words flow from my brain and through my fingertips onto the keyboard. I didn’t hold back and I wrote whatever came to mind. I’m finally able to slow down. I’m finally able to think.
I’m going to take my past 3 years of college and learn from them.
I’m going to finish out my last year of college and only focus on the things most important to me.
In the midst of all this, there is so so much to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for God, for allowing me to pray even when I’ve given him so many reasons to ignore me
I’m thankful for my family, for always being a part of my life, loving, and supporting me
I’m thankful for my dog, my best friend, who is always there for me and is sitting next to me right now
I’m thankful for life and the ability to inspire and empower someone else
I’m thankful for opportunity because I am in a position to help others
I’m thankful for various teachers and mentors who have taken the time to care
I’m thankful for those people who smile and open the door for me
I’m thankful for music and its uncanny ability to evoke emotion
I’m thankful for photography and its magical ability to uncover beauty in every part of the universe – its overwhelming sense of realness – its release of personal emotion – its powerful connection – everything
Lastly, I’m thankful for the individual who took the time to read my struggle. As a business, it’s easy to seem like everything is perfect with a beautiful brand and well-curated social media pages. I’m thankful that you read all the way to the bottom of a 1400 word blog post. My whole heart goes out to you.
Thank you for allowing me to share my life with you.
- Nathan Wingate