Today, blog-a-day gets personal. I, Caroline, do solemnly swear to bare my soul in the sentences that follow. Get ready.
So, I’m a photographer. I’m an artist. By accident, really. Growing up, two words came to mind when I heard ‘artist’ — one was starving, and the other was cliche. So naturally, I had to avoid such frivolous paths. I stuck to being a classical musician, which was expressive without being unique or daring; I just played someone else’s music.
But even then … I didn’t fit in. There was this thing inside that made me a bit weird… not like the others. Most folks chalked me up to being rebellious, a provocateur, a fashion deviant. But why? I didn’t feel that way, so why was I labeled like that?
Then I met Jayden. I was 17, he was 21 and touring the world as a very, very cute red-headed Aussie musician. He was smart, had character, wasn’t starving, and was still living out his dream of being a musician! How was this possible? Jayden saw the potential in me and encouraged it. He never questioned the motives behind my strong personality, he nurtured the good and felt free to challenge the bad.
Still, I only saw myself as an appreciator of the creative. I got my degree in Art History, because the world makes sense to me when I look at it from the perspective of art. But I didn’t acknowledge the things that I could offer the creative world.
Suddenly, friends started asking us to photograph their weddings… events… families. Suddenly, our hobby turned into something we did together, something we loved, and something that was a tool for us to meet new people.
They’re really beautiful, you know. You’re really beautiful, you know. I started realizing that when I looked at someone through my lens, they were beautiful. It didn’t matter their gender, age, race, size, or fashion — I started to see their stories. The people they loved. The things that mattered to them. Their laughter, their tears. This stuff gets me… us, really. So it became our thing.
I started realizing that I had to PERMIT MYSELF to see myself as an artist. To acknowledge that the thing inside of me wasn’t bad; that the word artist didn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to eat. It didn’t mean I took daily self portraits to post on Facebook while I lived at home with my parents, who were paying off my debts from private art school. I realized that I had to permit myself to think big. To think bigger than my fears, and bigger than the path of life that is expected. To extend my imagination beyond weddings and beyond portraits, and start asking myself, “What would I do if I knew I could not fail?” … “How can I use photography / art to give back? To spark real change?!”
If you actually had a dream — no, I mean a dream. No, a dream so big your heart races when you think about it, what would that be? (Even if others thought you were crazy…) People throw around the phrase ‘chase your dream’ so often that the word has lost all meaning. It was only recently that I started realizing I had never allowed myself to dream bigger than the conventional. Hugh MacLeod says, “Admit that your own private Mount Everest exists. That’s half the battle.”
My dear friend Sarah explains such dreaming with the word audacious, which means: extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave, fearless, extremely original, without restriction to prior ideas, highly inventive; recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law or the like; insolent; brazen, lively, unrestrained, uninhibited. That’s some serious dreaming! So why not? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? How would you change the world?
Jayden + I have some pretty nuts-o ideas up our sleeves at the moment. They keep us awake at night, and when I daydream about the ideas coming to pass, I forget to breathe. But I feel more alive than ever. I love this journey we’re on — that we’re on it together, and that there are incredible people around us, supporting us, collaborating with us. Most people think we’re kinda crazy, (and we are) … but another big lesson we’ve learned is:
If your community is made up of people who understand, you waste far less time trying to explain yourself. You respect each others goals and tasks, you collaborate. When I started to realize the beauty of this, I wrote in my journal, “I’m surrounded by quirky, hilarious, eccentric, crass, honest, raw, adventurous folks and I LOVE it. We collaborate, chat, laugh and dig deeper into life quicker than most. We have a community… there’s support, there’s [creative] accountability, and healthy competition. I love not having to explain myself.” There’s so much freedom in this. Even if your community isn’t where you live, get plugged in! Between Twitter, Facebook and the blogging world, connect with like-minded creatives and be yourself. Put yourself out there, and be OK with rejection if you don’t find ‘your crowd’ the first time, or year, or decade.
And another thing:
OK, OK.. That sounds weird, I know. I’ll explain.. Envy and comparison are common pastimes in humans, but they won’t get you ANYWHERE! Don’t wish for what someone else has, they’re probably wishing they could trade with you..! Build your own perfect world. Write your own unique story. Why copy someone else when you are your own individual? Individual meaning distinguished from a group, distinct, indivisible entity.. where’s the room for homogenization in that ?!
Austin Kleon says, “Don’t wait until you know who you are to make things.” So I don’t! Admittedly, I’m still totally in the warm-up phase of my marathon. But I’m not letting that stop me anymore. My motto? Be deliberate. Simplify. If our life is cluttered, we can’t focus on what really matters to us. Our desire for success is greater than our fear of failure. How strong is your desire?
When Jayden + I were at the What If Conference earlier this year (which was amazing, by the way… and there’s another one coming up in July!), our friend Justin shared a few quotes that totally got me. I’ll wrap this up with a few of his words:
“It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are the twin thieves that would rob us of today.” -Robert J. Hastings
“It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” -Paulo Coehlo
“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are made for.” -John Shedd
And so thanks for reading, My Fellow Friend Ships (get it?).. sail on out of your personal harbor, whatever that may be. And please reach out. I’d love to hear a little about your journeys. xo