3 Things 2021 Taught Me

January 8, 2022

2021. A Whirlwind after all that 2020 brought us. I’ve seen a LOT of people share how they still feel stuck in 2019- and I am so far beyond that. As crazy as the world has been the last few years, I’ve watched my life go from newly wedded chaos to settled, sure of myself and my identity, and the healthiest I’ve ever been mentally and emotionally. Which is HUGE for me personally. So, I have a few things that this past year showed me. From being so emotionally and mentally fried at the beginning of the year to who I am now, it’s such a major difference. So I’m sharing 3 things I learned this year and some of the things that I applied to my day-to-day life to get there!

How to Surrender. Throughout the year I had to surrender relationships, marriage, my body, and expectations. Relationships, both with the ‘loss’ of unhealthy friendships and with the surrendering of expectations in marriage. Learning to stop fawning over social media’s representation of others’ marriages and remembering that it’s all a highlight reel, accepting the flaws in my partner while also choosing the battles that are worth it in the end. (Therapy and counseling/a mentor helped a lot with this one 🙃) Part of surrendering meant breakdowns, and one or two months where I simply wasn’t okay- because I was fighting what I was aching and longing for.

In relationship to surrendering my body: the week after I found out I was pregnant, the morning sickness started, by week 6 I had an ER visit because I couldn’t keep anything down for two days, was monitored because I lost so much weight so fast, and spent 3 months in bed- only able to muster the energy and strength to shoot a few weddings and proposals. This happened right after we signed up with a workout program. 🤣 Go figure. I wouldn’t have made it through those 3 long months of nausea, vomiting, and being too weak to even take the dog out without surrendering myself and my body to the process. That this is only a season- even if it was the whole pregnancy- it was only a season. This body, as sick and weak as it was, continued to grow a tiny human. I’m typing this 38 weeks and 6 days pregnant- and still surrendering my body to this little girl, and will always bear the body changes to prove it. ❤️

Realizing my Why. A BIG thing that stressed me out this year. I invested in a business education course to become a power-woman business owner to crush the market. With the goals of paying off all-out debt, doubling my income from the year before, and buying us a house: I was READY for it. And right as the course started I struggled so much with imposter syndrome (feeling as though you are worthless or aren’t educated enough, aren’t creative as others, or that no one wants or needs your work or efforts.) We really discussed our ‘why’ in the course. Digging deeper than ‘I love taking pictures of people in love.’ Deeper than wanting to make money, and deeper than simply enjoying what I do. Asking WHY.

And it took me almost all winter, spring, and summer to finally get there. I remembered I’ve wanted to be a mom and raise kids since I was tiny. I grew up in a family of 8- and still want a big family 🤣 And this isn’t everyone’s dream- and that’s totally fine! I started diving into photography when my husband and I were first datings, and I remember telling him I loved the flexibility photography had- I make my own schedule, determine how much I take on, can take a break, I can dive back in at any time, and can raise little’s and still have something outside of the home to invest in- something not many moms had when I was growing up. Having something other than kids as an investment is CRUCIAL in my opinion, I’ve sensed myself getting lost in the ‘I’M A MOM’ identity and been very quick to pull myself out of that. Because no one thing should hold onto you that tighly.

So, my Why. The reason I do this. I do this to prove to my daughter (and to future babies) that you can have both. You can work, and be a great mom. Whether it’s hands-on, or have a nanny, or going to daycare a few days, whatever the dynamic: you can do both. That it’s important to not stake your whole self in ONE thing. I’ve played that in this business- it’s part of what knocked me out for the spring- not only is it terrible for you; but if you don’t reach those goals or do better, you take it personally. Because that’s your identity. And it shouldn’t be all in one thing. I do this so I can invest in my children, and give them a safe and loving home. Because not only is it something I love to do- this gets us into a house, to go on trips I only dreamt about when I was younger. I do this so I can feel like myself. So I have something other than the monotony of everyday life to be a part of- something bigger than myself and my world. To be a part of couples wedding days, to make women feel empowered in their bodies, to capture the beautiful everyday moments in others’ lives. I do this because I like something to be working towards and have the drive for, to be constantly learning and growing thrills me, and is an example to my kiddos to constantly be challenging yourself.

Photo by: The Grey Collective

This is a Business: it’s not who I am. When your business bears your name, you are the sole employee, and face and only one behind it all: it is so incredibly easy to let it become your identity. To let it consume you. And I did. It started becoming all about how many weddings I booked, how much income I made, and what it could do for me. Which is NOT what I care about ultimately. So even though it’s still my business, run by me, myself, and I- it’s a business. Of course, I pour my heart into my clients and have a longstanding relationship with many, I had to learn to separate myself from it.

Let me explain a little better: I learned to set boundaries with my time, to only take on what really thrills my heart and soul, to not compare to other photographers and what they’re doing, and think more long term. Do I want to be shooting weddings full time in 5-10 years? I started asking myself what do I want this to grow into. Long-term goals: we want to open a wedding venue. Yep, with a guesthouse for the night before, cute farm animals for photo ops, a giant chunk of land to use for photos- both curated spaces and letting it grow free, and an Iowa venue that isn’t a barn or shed. 🤣 I want to expand my brand so it’s growing and cultivating new creatives. Not just a one or two-day workshop, or an associate team- I want to grow photographers from the ground up. Teach them everything they need to know to grow their own businesses into something they’re proud of, to work alongside them until they are ready to take it on themselves. Something bigger than just hiring other people and teaching them how to do it my way- but to let them grow their skills and specialties. No one has this in the area yet- and that’s something I want to change. Because I do believe couples book for both my talent and for me. (Vain I know lol) But it’s true. Not every couple wants to work with an associate they’ve met twice, they want to work with someone they know and trust.

Good business owners don’t just start one business, and hang onto it- they grow it into something bigger than themselves, and then they start something new and do the same thing. I love what I’ve built and am dang proud of it- but I want it to be bigger than me someday, and that means letting go of myself in this and remembering this is a business. Not my identity.

And so, I leave you with my thoughts on 2021. Where I started, and where I ended up. I feel the surest in myself, my business, and the season of life I’m in than ever before. And I’m proud of that. It’s taken a year and a half of therapy, solid and encouraging friends, relearning who I am, my place in the world as an adult, good life counselors, patience and a lot of prayer to get here, and I’m proud of it and excited to see where this next chapter of life takes me! ❤️