Feb 282021
 

Colorado and Paria rivers

Like many young kids, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought maybe a doctor or a lawyer. Whatever it was, I intended to pick one path and stay with it until I retired, make a lot of money, and then live happily ever after…

Out of college, I landed what many would call a dream job at a dream company. One year of long hours and stress became 2, 2 became 3, 3 became almost 10—and I couldn’t sit in a windowless, grey-walled cube anymore. On February 28, 2007, I walked out of Intel to become a freelance photographer. As I wrote in my goodbye-and-thank-you letter to my friends and colleagues, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for” (a quote by John A. Shedd).

Today, I celebrate my 14th Independence Day, a day I celebrate like my birthday.

Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have believed that THIS is where I’d be. That I’d prefer sleeping in tents, under the stars, and in my camper to sleeping in my own bed. That I’d be teaching workshops, including all-women’s ones, across the U.S. That I’d be sharing the joy of photography with photographers across the country through webinars and conferences. That I’d be writing guidebooks about wildflowers and Acadia and an adventure travel memoir and running a publishing company. That I’d be writing an online column called Dear Bubbles. That I’d be serving as the Treasurer for a non-profit called the Outdoor Writers Association of America. That I’d be working with amazing partners to help progress photography and protect rivers. That I’d be prepping for a solo photography exhibit curated by a member of the Ansel Adams family. That I’d fall in love with rivers and coasts and stand-up paddleboarding and rain and ballet and BUBBLES! That the girl who grew up terrified of water when she couldn’t see her feet would be on the verge of becoming a river guide on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Someone pinch me!

In those 14 years, I am so fortunate that I have found what I’m built for…and I am grateful and thrilled that none of it went according to my original plan. I am also filled with immense gratitude for all of you and your support over these years, for it’s because of you that I am able to spend each of my days doing what I love and to live a meaningful life of adventure, wonder, and helping my community.

So ring the bell! Break out the bubbly and pie! Here’s to you and to freedom, sailing and paddling into the unknown, and going with the flow!

Feb 282013
 

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
~William Shedd

Reaching for the Stars

“Reaching for the Stars”    A shooting star falls over Thor’s Hammer and Bryce Canyon at moonrise in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.  Prints available – click on print to order!

Today, February 28th, marks my 6th anniversary of my personal Independence Day, the day I walked skipped joyously out of my grey cubicle walls of Corporate America in 2007 to begin this amazing journey as a freelance photographer and writer. 

I joined Intel in September 1997, fresh from graduating from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (“GO BLUE!”).   Brimming with excitement of “going West,” I started with the company as a software test engineer, then moved on to systems analyst and project management roles within the transportation and logistics, factory automation, and training departments.  Though I worked with so many inspirational, talented people doing remarkable things and enjoyed working for such a generous company, over the course of ten years, I realized it just wasn’t my path in life.  I was safe in the harbor, but that’s not what I was built for.

How did I know I was ready to sail my ship into somewhat unknown open water?  Almost two years of planning and preparation ensured I could make the freeing transition to freelancing.  Though scary at first, after 2190 days have passed since my escape, I still can’t believe I’m so fortunate to live such a fulfilling life.

How do you know if you’re ready to make the leap?  If the following rings true for you, it may be time to start planning your very own Independence Day:

  • Working as a one-person show in a many-ringed circus, juggling marketing, finance, human relations, manufacturing, and training tasks sounds much more appealing than staying in your current position working with clowns.
  • If the photography gig doesn’t work out, your backup plan is to serve hamburgers at a fast food restaurant, not return to your current occupation.
  • You’ve run out of dead relatives – no one honestly believes your grandmother has passed away six times since January – and vacation time.  Or perhaps you’ve used so many sick days, your co-workers think you have some highly contagious unpronounceable disease. 
  • Your desire to become a freelance photographer derives from a burning passion to inform, educate, and inspire others.  You should not make the choice to leave your current position based on lack of other employment options or the idealistic notion of what a National Geographic photographer does in the movie, The Bridges of Madison County.
  • As El Presidente of your own business, when things go right, you’re to blame.  When things go wrong, you’re to blame.  And this complete accountability and control excites you.
  • When you work for yourself, no manager will stand over your shoulder telling you what, when, and how to do your work.  Are you self-disciplined, independent, and highly motivated enough to sail your ship through the occasional fog and stormy weather?
  • Family and friends support you beyond “Wow, that’s a pretty picture, George.  You could totally sell that!”  Your moral support network willingly buys your photographic prints for the holidays, spends hours editing your articles, and cooks you dinner when you forget to eat while putting together a submission.
  • Ever heard the joke: “How do you make a million dollars as a photographer?  You start with two!”  Starting any new career, let alone one in photography, with financial debt is not a smart decision as you’ll be transitioning from a stable income to a fluctuating one.  Put off buying that expensive lens (you don’t need anyhow) and instead ensure you’re financial obligations are low.
  • You’ve already tasted the “good” life by working as a freelancer in conjunction with your current 40-hour work week and have found enough work to cut ties and independently generate income now and in the foreseeable future during self-employment.

Are you ready to sail your ship out of the harbor?  What do you feel you are built for?  Are you currently planning your own Independence Day?  

For more ideas, read my next two posts in this three-part series:

<Shameless plug> If you are seeking more guidance and help in planning a successful transition to a career in photography, please consider joining me for the Arizona Highways Photography Workshop “There’s No Business Like the Photo Business” on June 22-23, 2013.  Visit the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops website at www.ahpw.org/workshops/2013/Phoenix-Arizona-No-Business-Like-Photo-Business-Workshop-2013-06-22 for more information and to register.</Shameless plug>

Share your aspirations and success stories in the comments below, and we’ll raise a glass to you tonight as we celebrate in hopes you too overcome your fears, follow your dreams, and live the life you’ve always hoped for.  After all, Les Brown suggested, “Reach for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Thank you so much for your continued support!  Cheers to Independence Day…in February!