The truth is, up until this month, I have been incredibly unhappy. There. I said it.
The other truth is, I had no idea just how unhappy I was. I knew something wasn't right, but I just couldn't put my finger on the reasoning. Was it the weight of Marshall's deployment sinking in? Was it the stress of juggling a million "jobs" and responsibilities? Was it a combination of life and lack there of? Often I found myself saying "I just don't feel like myself. I just don't see things like I used to. I don't feel creative, but I can't figure out why." I tried countless techniques to dig out the underlying issue. I absorbed myself in health and fitness. I woke up before sunrise every morning to attend Baptiste yoga (gosh, I need to get back to class!), I bought out the self-help section, and even signed up for a"40 Days of Personal Revolution" workshop at my yoga studio (worth every penny, let me tell you). Still, my new obsessions masked my buried emotions and I knew I had to make a change. What was it that was really bothering me? It was weeks from the first of April before I knew.
I had a burning passion to be successful at a career that, at this rate, I had absolutely no time for.
I was working full-time as an Interior Designer, a position I went to school for and a field I thoroughly enjoyed. I was also booking weddings as a photographer, taking freelance jobs every week for Creative Loafing, spending Sundays shooting engagement sessions (and every other job that came my way), trying to plan a wedding, organizing Skype dates in Afghanistan at midnight, and attempting to get the dogs to the Vet, all at the same time. No wonder I was unhappy. I was pulling myself in a million directions.
I knew I wanted to make photography my career, it was just a matter of how. For months I had fantasized days filled with inspiration and shutter clicking, but financially was unsure of how to approach it. I wanted to leave my full-time job, but I just couldn't. After all, I had bills. And needs. And shoes. After one too many wishful cries, my fiance Marshall laid out a plan: "Just move in with me in Fayetteville!". Fayeteville? Was he serious? My knee-jerk reaction was to slap him the face for even thinking such a ludicrous thing, but that would have resulted in me swatting my video-chat screen via Mac desktop, so it wasn't an option. Eventually the idea grew on me and even though I wasn't sold, I knew in the back of my head I had an out.
I wanted to do it. I did. I just couldn't commit. It wasn't until after Creative Live that I realized I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I was just worried about what other people would say. What they would think. I was seeking their approval for my life. I knew some of my friends weren't crazy about the idea of me leaving Charlotte but that was going to happen in October anyway. I knew my co-workers didn't want me to leave my position because they would simply be sad without me. I knew I didn't want to leave the killer pool at my apartment complex but soon I would be living on the beach! ;) I was so wrapped up with what other people thought about my life that I was making decisions based on their thoughts, opinions, and projections and ignoring my own. I wanted to leave my job, save the teeny bit of money that I was making, and apply myself at something worthwhile, something valuable, something I had been dreaming of for years. I was ready for a change, to leave my cushy apartment (okay, maybe I'm not ready just yet), and live with "less" so that I could live with "more". I was ready to be happy again.
I left for Creative Live with these ideals in mind, not knowing what to expect, but hoping I would sort out my complacent self in-flight. The first day of the workshop, I was feverishly taking notes (more like transcribing) when Jasmine said "big changes create big results". My mind stopped. My heart skipped a beat. I put my pen down and just listened. That was it. That was just what I needed to hear. I'm doing it.
I came back and confidently put in my notice of leave from work, four months earlier then planned. I had the opportunity to set my ideas and passion into motion, I would have been a fool to not take it. The moment I spoke those words and made my thoughts a reality, my world changed. "As of June 1st, I will be a full-time photographer". It was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. The grass was greener, the sky was bluer (seriously, I said that, then felt like a drug addict), and I was happy again. Positive, talkative, annoyingly helpful, and glittery Ashley again. Once I realized I was the only person setting up road blocks for myself, my life changed drastically. I opened up, was thoughtful, even more helpful (seriously, I worry that I may bug people) and even put myself in scenarios that otherwise scared the H-E-doublehockeysticks out of me (like, offering to second shoot with one of my favorite photographers, then actually DOING it!). I felt like myself again and had the urge to tell the world!
While flying through outer space on my supernova high of glorious self-exploration, I unexpectedly bumped into resistance from several people in my life. There are the super supportive ones, like Marshall, who simply won't take me being unhappy and insist I do what I love, but several instances I've hit a few rough patches from loved ones. Taking negativity from those you are so happy to share good news with is perplexing, but sometimes it's apart of the journey. I think it happens unconsciously, but isn't reassuring none-the-less. Regardless, I have to maintain my self-exploration theories and values and realize no one else is responsible for my happiness but me. Everyone can be happy for me, or no one can, and that shouldn't change a thing because I am in control of my life. "You do you." The day I decided to stop worrying about other's opinions & to focus on my own was a monumental turning point. If I wanted to be happy, I would have to work for it. I couldn't take the easy way out. I couldn't accept the resistance and I damn sure wasn't going to continue to be misreble. With my decisions to take action and set my plan into motion, the Universe pulled through.
"Run. Fast. Don't ever look back. You got this."
Special thanks to the J*Jets (blog coming soon!). Seriously, without them to encourage, motivate, and call every night I would not have fought through as strongly as I have. They're with me on this adventure too, whether they like it or not. I love you guys with all of my heart. & you too, Marshall, for letting me turn your post-deployment apartment into a pink-haven. I just may be saving my sanity but stealing yours. ;)
Me, being me in Seattle & employing some of those learned yoga poses via Candice Benjamin. Comes in handy while shooting brick walls, you know.