A few years ago I came across a promotional post from a brand that I follow on Instagram. It was offering an opportunity to followers who were looking for a chance to jumpstart their dream career endeavors. It included a cash prize and a week in New York, shadowing an industry professional. I immediately clicked through. The company was asking for a brief essay on what passion in the form of a career you were chasing, including some photo examples of your “work.” The answer to a dream career has always been easy for me: photography.
Even before having kids I spent many years learning my way around a camera. I often say it’s my favorite place to be. I spend hours online learning new techniques and editing tips, and I will travel to locations specifically to capture beautiful moments and spaces. It’s my true passion and creative outlet.
On Instagram I follow fashion bloggers in their 20s who are are pulling in six figures, and DIY addicts who’ve signed contracts with HGTV. It’s safe to say that I’ve always been more than ready to join the lucky few who’ve turned a casual hobby into something more. I immediately threw together a short essay and attached some of my favorite images.
As I went to hit send, however, something held me back. I started to glance over the other entries included in the bunch:
“I’m a sophomore at…”
“While studying fashion merchandising at…”
“I’ve been an intern with…”
Suddenly it hit me. This opportunity was focused on attracting college-aged girls, standing at the cusp of their careers – not moms in their 30s. For the first time ever, I felt (dare I say it) old. I felt many feelings rush over me all at once, and delusion was front and center. My cursor went from hovering over send to exiting alogether. I sat for a moment as I pushed around a difficult question in my brain:
Does there come a point in which you have to ask yourself — am I getting too old to still be chasing my dreams?
The answer to that is easy- of course not. Life is obviously too short to think in those limited terms. But I can’t say feeling old, or out of touch, or (tragically) unhip were the things that bothered me most about sending in my application. Perhaps as a woman of a certain age, with young kids, and many financial responsibilities, I am starting to realize that chasing my dreams will come with certain…limitations.
In my early 20s, I used to dream about moving to a big city and working in the fashion industry. I would fantasize about surrounding myself with artists and people who would inspire me creatively. When I met my husband, my plans changed. I stayed in Michigan, graduated from culinary school, and quickly transitioned into a full-time hospitality career. The hours were long, the money was great, but the work in itself never seemed to fulfill me. I didn’t wake up every day bursting at the opportunity to handle customer complaints or discuss menu options with gluten-free brides. I lacked passion. My restaurant jobs were always meant to be a placeholder for a time in which I was financially stable enough to re-focus on what I really wanted in a career. By the time we welcomed our first child, however, my plans were once again put on pause.
I learned soon enough that the transition to becoming a stay-at-home mom came with its own set of challenges. Adjusting to becoming a one income family in a world where child care can be costly was one of them. Through the last several years, however, we’ve found our stride and balance. I’m proud to say now that I’ve begun the process of starting my own social media marketing and photography business. It may be a far cry from working in editorial photography in New York City, but I’m a far cry from the girl I was in my early 20s.
The process of starting up has brought about many challenges along the way. Every day I push aside the negative thoughts of failure. Thoughts of doubt. When I can’t find the motivation, I like to seek out those around me who are reaching their goals as a way to remind myself that all things are possible. Don’t have the time? Make time. Don’t have the drive? Find it. There will never be the perfect time to take a risk or take a chance on yourself. So I’m doing this now, for me and for who I was before I became “Mom.”
Perhaps the high stakes dreams of my twenties have long been taken off the table. Spending a week in New York, for example, would require more hoop jumping and scheduling than I’m comfortable with. For now, I’m just content with the fact that the dream of getting back to work- on my own terms- is still alive and well.