I've been struggling with these thoughts for months, and I've realized over the past few months what needed to come out of this personal struggle of mine. 

I don't feel like there's many people that "look up" to me, however I'm sure there's plenty of people that don't realize I "look up" to them, so in an attempt to break this vicious cycle, I'm coming clean. So, here it goes: transparency. 

You see, I'm 26 trying to build a self-sustaining photography business. I'm single and also working another full-time job. I'm a college graduate $30k in debt. What you don't know is there was a time when I didn't want to finish school. I bounced around from degree to degree, school to school, and finally graduated six years later with a bachelor's in communications with a minor in design. I landed a full-time job before even graduating and absolutely HATED IT.

So I said "screw corporate America" and went on pursuing my main passion in the first place: photography. But first, I had to muster up enough courage to tell that to my parents... and that's why this time is so different. I should've done this years ago (ya know, when I had the financial flexibility), but I didn't have the guts. I do now, because I've worked jobs in my degree field, and hated them. This is what I want to do, and this is what I was made for. And I'm comfortable if no one believes in my dreams, because at least this time I do. 

For the longest time, I was so proud of doing something non-traditional - something my peers weren't doing. Something that was scary and risky and unknown (because who wants to take the hard path in life?). I was proud I had the courage to say "yes" to what I knew God was calling me to do, despite the really REALLY hard road it is. Please note I'm writing in present tense because my walk isn't over. I haven't "made it." I'm not "out of the woods" of entrepreneurship yet. So enter the evil, discouraging voice of comparison.

While I compare myself to my peers, I think I'm doing okay, until I realize about half of the people I graduated high school with are happily married, starting families, excelling in their corporate America jobs, buying their first (and second) homes, and taking lavish vacations what seems like every other weekend. Talk about feeling behind the curve... 

Then I compare myself to people in the same "career" as me, and I think "why am I treading water while people are building an empire?" So many other photographers are booking way more clients than I am. They are younger than me, and doing it faster than me. They are blogging consistently. They're traveling all over the country and world for weddings and sessions. They look like they're booking their "ideal clients." They are doing so well that they are leaving their full-time careers to do photography full time. Like how in the world do these people do it?! What's their secret? What am I missing here?

But I remind myself: what you don't see is their tears behind closed doors. You don't see where they started off, and how they worked up to where they are. You don't see their struggles off of social media. You don't hear about the years they spent financially upside down. You don't see their failing marriages. You don't see their health scares. You don't see their infertility struggles. You don't see their abusive childhood. You don't see their debt. THERE IS ALWAYS A STRUGGLE BEHIND WHAT YOU SEE IN PEOPLE YOU ENVY.

Social media can be such a curse. It curates this perfect life; the users get to share what part of their lives they share with the world. And while I appreciate perfectly curated profiles (because I love looking at pretty), I appreciate transparency more. Do you have any idea how much more comfortable I'd be with my life if I knew other people were struggling just as much? Or had walked the same path I'm walking now? What if someone I knew could stand at the end of the road and say "keep going, you're almost there! I know where you are and how you're feeling, but don't quit now." How many people walked in my shoes that I don't know about? How many people don't have the successful business that they show off to the world? How many people embellish or even lie a little to make their lives look more glamorous to others?

I wish I didn't have to pay $220/month for independent healthcare since I don't have a "career" that pays for it. I wish my car didn't just kick the bucket at literally the worst possible time. I wish I had a salary with a consistent paycheck, instead of praying to God someone books me as their wedding photographer and leaves me a decent tip on their bill at work. I wish I didn't have to explain to people why I'm moving to [keep reading], so I can pay down debt and save money. I wish I owned my own house so I could have a working in-home studio. I wish I didn't owe $5,000 in taxes every year for being self-employed and an hourly restaurant employee. I wish I didn't have to live paycheck to paycheck. I wish I had more money in savings. I wish I had more than two weddings booked for 2018. 

But that's my reality, guys. And it's hard to admit I'm nowhere close to where I want to be. Even when I make a plan for myself and my business for growth, it's entirely dictated by people booking or not booking me. I could do everything right and be exactly what they're looking for, and still not get the job. And it's the MOST FRUSTRATING thing in the world, both mentally, emotionally, and most of all financially. 

My parents always taught me I can do anything I put my mind to. My parents always taught me to follow my gut. My parents always taught me to never settle. So that's what I'm doing. I'm doing what I believe to my core to be what I'm meant to do. I'm avoiding corporate America because, to me, that's settling. I have more to offer this world than that. But throw money into that mix and all of those clichés fly out the window. Because at the end of the day, money is the bottom line. And if you're not making money, then what ARE you doing? Passion isn't enough anymore. Loving what you do carries no weight. Providing a stellar experience to couples on their wedding day doesn't change the world. 

So why transparency? I need the reminder that despite where I'm at, I'm so much further than where I was, even though I'm nowhere close to where I want to be. I also realize that there is a reason why I am where I am. God is faithful, and His timing is perfect. I'm sure he's teaching me something in this season of life... maybe patience, maybe transparency for the good of other people, maybe to trust in Him? All I know is I'm chasing photography, and I've never been so sure of anything in my life. 

So I would love to hear from you if you've ever felt like this. I want you to tell me a struggle you're having, or something you wouldn't normally share on social media. Share something that you feel makes you "unsuccessful" right now. And if you're feeling really bold, tag someone you've always felt envious off, and my hope is that they have the courage to share something with you that makes you realize everyone struggles, and no one's life is ever what it seems. I'll start...

I'm 26 and moving back in with my parents because I'm so far in debt, I can't afford my bills. I'm working a full time job while trying to a build a business, which is EXHAUSTING. I constantly find myself doubting where I am and what I'm doing. And I've barely started booking weddings for 2018 yet. I had a cancer scare about a year ago, I struggle daily with my weight and self-image, and my anxiety contributes significantly to my trichotillomania (just look it up). My dating life is in the trash, and I constantly beat myself up over failed relationships.

THIS IS MY REALITY, and I'm finally learning to be okay with it ♡