Five years ago, working for myself was something I never thought about. Not only did it seem unrealistic, but I never even entertained the thought. What would I do? Where would I even start? For the most part, I’ve taken the safe route my entire life. My mission was always the same, get good grades, do well in sports, work hard and get a good job. I took courses full time in the summer so I could graduate from college early and start applying for jobs sooner. As a journalism major my dream was to work at a magazine. Lucky for me I graduated in December of 2008, when our entire economy went to hell in a handbasket. So the magazine dream was pushed aside and I was lucky enough to get a job with a small consulting firm in New York City. I started a few weeks after graduating. Two years later we were acquired by a much larger firm. A lot changed and it was a very rocky transition, but I managed to keep my job. I was moving up the ladder, getting promotions, doing the corporate thing. There was only one thing missing, my happiness. My general lack of enthusiasm for my career path was nagging at me.
Find What You Love
I moved around a few times during the time at my consulting job. In between our move from Los Angeles back to New York we lived in Newport for a few months while we looked for a new apartment in the city. During that time I took advantage of being home and seeing family. Once a week I would have dinner at my Great Aunt’s house (Aunnie). During one of our dinners we started chatting about my job, I generally tried not to discuss work, and I spent most of the night complaining about all the things I didn’t like. Aunnie said to me “you have to find what you love, and do that.” I sort of laughed it off, must be nice, I thought. To think that I could just do something I wanted or enjoyed. It’s not that easy, I wish.
Craig and I found a place in New York and moved back there in February. Neither of us were happy. We weren’t happy in New York and we weren’t happy at our jobs. It wasn’t the same anymore. When we first moved to Brooklyn four years prior we were on a high. Living in the city, it was like nothing we had ever experienced, coming from a small beach town in the smallest state in the country. If you can make it in New York City you can make it anywhere, there’s definitely truth to that. But now it just felt loud and claustrophobic and expensive. In March during the vacation my family makes every year to the Bahamas, Aunnie passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Everything changed. I was devastated. I was so mad at myself that I had moved back to New York for a job I didn’t even like. I missed the last month of her life because I had to take the promotion, it was so much more money, I couldn’t say no. The only thing I realized was that the sentiment money doesn’t buy happiness couldn’t be more true. And what she had said just a month prior “Find what you love and do that” kept running through my mind. It seemed ridiculous and trivial that first time she said it, now it was real.
Aside from being in a general sad fog for a few months after Aunnie passed away, I spent a lot of time in reflection. Thinking about my life and what I was going to do with it. I felt a sense of urgency. I didn’t want to let my life pass by, staying on the hamster wheel. I thought about how I always wanted to work in fashion and my dreams of working at a magazine. I had heard of blogs and seen a few, so I thought if I started one and used it as a resume builder, it would be a good way to get a foot in the door somewhere. So I bought the domain and a camera and started a blog. How naive of me. It did absolutely nothing for my chances at getting a job in fashion, except maybe an unpaid internship, and even that was unlikely.
Starting the blog was exhilarating. It was all I could think about. Any free second I wasn’t working at my day job I spent working on it. It was creative and new and fun. Shortly after Aunnie’s death I told my boss I wanted to leave New York and move home. I figured I would have to find a new job and I was terrified. Turns out they needed me, and allowed me to work remotely and move back to Newport. We were so happy and relieved to finally be going home. Blogging back in Rhode Island felt amazing. It was a turning point. I realized what a unique opportunity I had to share the incredibly gorgeous place I call home with people around the world. There couldn’t be a better backdrop to my photos than the beautiful island where I grew up. After working from home and blogging for about a year I decided to quit. I don’t think I slept for two weeks. It was one of the most difficult and scary things I’ve ever done. Nothing prepares you for quitting a job and starting something on your own. But I did it. I quit.
I anticipated quitting being harder than it was. That was the easy part. Figuring out what to do afterwards was not. I wasn’t prepared for the financial or emotional difficulty. I blew through the money I had saved in 6 months. I had only been blogging for about a year when I quit my job and was definitely not in a position to be living off of the money I was making from it. I started a small digital consulting business to help supplement my income. The first year was incredibly stressful. I was navigating unknown territory. There was no handbook, no step by step guide and being in Newport I wasn’t near other bloggers nor did I think to reach out to any and ask for advice or help. It was a rollercoaster but I was so happy. I couldn’t believe I was doing something I genuinely loved, every single day.
The Journey to Now
That first year (or really two years) there were a lot of growing pains. Craig was learning the ins and outs of photography and I was learning everything I could about blogging. I went to every event I could, sometimes taking the train into the city just for a brunch hosted by a brand. Meeting people, bloggers and brands, was invaluable. I learned about photo editing and Craig learned about lighting and lenses. We spent hours experimenting with angles and settings. During the coldest winter we’ve ever had, we shot photos outside almost every, single day. Now we are coming up on our third year this Fall. This blog has become our business. To think that we have our own company that is our vision, where we make the rules and we set the schedule is still crazy to me. We work our asses off. We work non-stop. I often get comments from people like “it must be nice” or “wow you guys have the life” and we do, we absolutely do. I wouldn’t change what we have and what we are doing for a second, but having your own business is so much more work than I ever imagined. We haven’t taken a real vacation since we started three years ago. I work most days from 8am-10pm. We work weekends and we work holidays. I’m never not thinking about our business, new ideas, new content, what we can do to make it better. But I’ve never been happier. I love what I do. I love the people I get to work with and the friends I’ve made. I love that I can go walk my dog in the middle of the day or spend a weekday at the beach in the summer just because. I still can’t believe I collaborate with brands I’ve loved for years. Finding new places to shoot and coming up with new content ideas is so much fun. Every time I get an email from a brand or company I get excited, it never gets old.
So what’s the lesson here? I think for me, the lesson is that life is short but it’s also long. And at the end of the day you have to find what you love and do it. Maybe it’s an art class, or learning how to knit. I’m not here to tell you to quit your job or switch careers, unless of course you want to. But do something for yourself that gives you joy and lights a fire inside of you. It’s amazing what can happen when you get out of your comfort zone. Life is messy and hard and complicated, but it’s also beautiful and fun and worth taking chances once in while. You might surprise yourself.