I recently read a blog post written by one of my favorite photographers, regarding her styled shoots that she does with women to showcase their unique individuality, free spirited hearts, and personalities. They’ve grown in popularity substantially since her first session and now people are taking her ideas for themselves and recreating them. While imitation is the highest form of flattery, she was saddened that her idea, her baby, and what she’s poured her heart, soul, time, and emotions into, was simply being recreated for their look alone, without any meaning. Without the relationships. Without the experience, the love, the realness, the genuine part of the whole mission with these sessions.
I took a lot from this post, as I do with most things she writes about, and I resonated with her words, and wanted to express myself in my own words, on my own experiences in my own life. This is a topic I’ve been bothered by for quite some time, but I always brush it off because I don’t like confrontation and making a big deal of things, but I have to open a window into what I’m feeling so it’s truly understood.
I put a lot of importance on individuality and being your genuine self. I think it’s vital to your happiness, and it’s just an unexplainable feeling to know yourself, and who you are as a person. I’ve worked so hard to establish myself as a person in my own life. I’ve searched my own heart and soul endlessly looking for myself. It’s taken so much to get to here. To get to the person I truly am under the anxiety, love, the relationships, the daily stresses, the illnesses – I have had so many defining events in my life that I’ve had to deal with long-term, that I haven’t had the opportunity to stop and see myself in all the chaos. I’ve been through so many tearful nights, migraines, and utter emotional exhaustion to get here, which makes it a little unbearable to see others trying to be something they’re not.
Do you know what I learned about myself? My understanding of the world was so skewed. What I thought to be wasn’t and what I put on a pedestal, wasn’t meant to be there. I had it backwards. I gained a much wider picture of the world, what’s important, and what needs to be cared for in my own heart, and in my own mind. I learned that being adventurous isn’t just about traveling. It’s a mindset and a promise to explore every day. Not limited to physical exploration, but exploring inward, as well. Your soul could be as deep as the ocean if you could just open yourself up to seeing it. I’ve learned to have a deeper appreciation for my life as a whole, but also all of the little moments that make up my days, that make up my weeks, and so on. Driving around at night with Kyle and singing along to the 80’s rock pandora station at the top of our lungs. Hearing children learn to create sounds that they’ll keep with them forever. The feeling in my stomach when I find a new spot (in my small, boring, town) that brings me joy. Coming home to a house and a person that bring me comfort. Driving to the lake and just stopping for 2 seconds to breathe and surround myself in the quiet. Driving 30 minutes to just go over the bridge that I love. Watching trashy TV and eating popcorn for dinner. Seeing the sun blink through the trees on my way home. I’ll waste my gas for a fun ride and a pretty view. I’ll work a job I love even if it means I’m making half of what I used to. I mean, these are the things that I live for. I’ve met my heart. I know my soul. I know who I am and I worked so hard to have that for myself. I’m changing my own life for the sake of my happiness and sense of self. The appreciation, the need for adventure, the constant urge to be somewhere I’m not, is who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. I’m just realizing that and learning to be myself. I’m capitalizing on my creativity because that’s something I’m proud of. Making art makes me proud of myself. That’s one of the only things I know I’m good at. That’s my niche. I’m honing in on what I’m good at, and doing it.
And I took all of this, and asked myself – How I can I live the life that I want and do the things that I want, and still be in a smart, practical career? This question literally haunted me for years- I didn’t know what I wanted. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be stuck. I want freedom. An opportunity to fly if I ever got the chance. I didn’t want anything to hold me back from what I want to do. I want so badly to travel, see the world; live a life worth living. I chose my career based on the kind of life I wanted to live: a happy, free, wide open life to cater to my happy, free spirited, and wide open personality. I don’t want to be a weekend warrior. I don’t want to live for the weekend. I want to live for every day. I want to be excited about my work, and be excited about every day for everything that my days will hold. I want gratifying. I want life changing. I want to make a difference. This is all my heart ever wanted. I’ve been told so many times that the world just doesn’t work that way, and if I’ve ever had intuition about anything, it was in that moment when my heart told me they were wrong. It can work that way. I can have a career that will make me enough money and time to do all the things I’ve ever wanted. I can do it. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being near tears every time I think about the life I’m living and will be living. I feel my passion and emotions so hard, and I’ve been so in touch with my own spirit and my own heart – and the happiness that is coming out of this is overwhelming, to say the least. But I did all of this by myself. I accomplished this. I asked God and the Universe for this. I worked for this. And I found what I was looking for. I was looking for me, and my purpose; the person I was, what I was supposed to do. And I found it.
I don’t do this for show. I don’t say these things because they contribute to some facade I want to create for myself. This is real. This is my heart; I dug it out of myself and this is what it is. And it honestly hurts when people take things that I do, say, and feel, and make it theirs in an attempt to be seen a certain way by other people. I’m not the only one who says or does the things that I do creatively, I understand that. I’m not the only one who enjoys traveling and doing new things, I understand that, too. And I’m not assuming that I’m the only one on this journey toward self-discovery. But there’s a difference between truly feeling appreciation and beauty for a particular moment and just saying so. There’s a difference between feeling connected to nature, and feeling connected to your soul and just saying so. It’s not fair to someone who has worked so hard, emotionally and mentally, to get to a point of understanding and connection with their own selves. It’s not fair to take those words and use them because they’re pretty. They’re not your thoughts. They’re not from your heart. As someone who has worked so hard for so long to be that, to be true, to be genuine, to myself, it hurts. Being a free spirit in today’s world isn’t all fun, being connected isn’t always a good thing, and knowing your soul isn’t easy. It isn’t just being adventurous and having a good time. It’s the pain you feel when you to drive to work because you know deep down, this isn’t for you. It’s tossing and turning at night because you don’t know if you’ll ever figure it all out. It’s acknowledging your downfalls as a person, and embracing the bad parts about you. It’s being a disorganized mess, but smiling anyway. It’s being humble and knowing that you’re not that great, but also knowing that you’re strong and able. It’s being fearless of the World’s dangers because the beauty is worth so much more. It’s moving with the breeze. It’s going where the Universe points you. It’s trusting your own decisions and knowing you’ll be okay.
I am one with my soul. I know myself. I can tell you where my weaknesses lie. I embrace them. I can tell you about my strengths with confidence, not arrogance. I am connected to my world, and I see what’s important. I am constantly asking myself, how can I use my creative talents and platforms to bring awareness to certain issues and change the world? How can my travels have a real purpose other than for my own entertainment and personal growth? That’s connection. That’s my soul. That’s who I am.
Please don’t take that from me.
I know lives are busy and things are constantly happening, I’ve been there, and I spent so much time trying to create myself with pieces of other people that I admired, and I couldn’t ever figure out why it felt wrong. It was wrong because it wasn’t me. I encourage anyone looking into their future and seeing haze, or looking inward with confusion, to start their own journey to clarity. Find yourself. Where are your strengths? Your weaknesses? What are you good at? Are you living an authentic life and being true to yourself? Who are you? What are your aspirations? Do you value materialistic possessions? Where does your happiness lie? What can you do to shape your life around your desires and ambitions? What’s holding you back? How can you tackle these obstacles? Ask yourself these questions. Pray. Run. Listen. Be alone with your thoughts. Be okay with being alone. Cry. Feel guilt. Feel overwhelmed. Feel terrified. Analyze your actions and emotions. Ask yourself why. Figure yourself out. Your motives and reasoning. Admit your faults. I’m not saying you’ll have all the answers, but you’re worth knowing – and once you begin to understand, know, and love yourself, you’ll be free to be your own person. One of the most freeing things in life is being your damn self and knowing and believing and saying with confidence, This is who I know I am. And it’s so much more satisfying than trying to be someone else.