My business was built on the foundation of happiness. I’ve spoken about this before on Promoting Passion, especially since joy is the foundation on which our lives should be built. When I started photography I had no desire to make it a career. Only when the realization presented itself that it could be what sustains my life did I intentionally begin to pursue it. I was “naïve” and “young” and “didn’t know better” – all of these descriptions that those “older” and “wiser” and more “experienced” used to describe me (and still do).
I didn’t approach business traditionally. I rarely asked myself “What will make money?” and then decide to pursue that. I did it backwards in a way that made others uncomfortable, perhaps because they never took that risk themselves, or because it was a truly risky thing to do. Instead of seeking money, I sought joy. I asked myself what I would do every day if I could, and I devised plans to make that type of work benefit me.
I had no idea if it would be good or terrible or really horrible. It was all of the above at different points. But mostly it was good, and sometimes great, and often very blissful. I am not motivated by money – I never have been and daresay never will be. I judge my wealth by my happiness. Thank. Goodness.
I do, sometimes, need a reminder to stay on that happiness track. Sometimes I veer off. We all do. We often don’t even realize it. We say yes to a few too many things our hearts aren’t in and then we find ourselves side-tracked and unhappy.
This year I’ve spent 100 days at home and 81 on the road, if I’m doing the math correctly at the time of writing this. That means that almost half of my time has been spent away. I love what I do, but I don’t always love how it takes me away from home. I am very attached to the sense of home and a feeling of closeness to my love and my space and my down time and my cats. It is more a part of me than you will ever know. So this year has been hard in that regard. I said last year I wanted to travel less. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. I can’t simply say I want to stop and then stop. I took more and more jobs because they seemed so lovely at the time, but now that I’m booked through November I’m feeling pangs of regret at my constant YES-ing.
I had a real breakthrough a couple of weeks ago when a friend said “I thought you said you were going to travel less!” – a phrase I hear all the time. But for some reason, hearing it that time, I changed my response. Usually I’d start to unintentionally place blame elsewhere – “Oh, yes, but then X came up and I’m doing that…”, or “It’s just so hard to say no!” or “I’ve always wanted to visit X place!”
All of those responses are perfectly suited to place myself out of control of my own life. I wanted to take it back and make decision for myself.
The next day I got an email: a convention I was meant to speak at changed dates suddenly and they wanted me to confirm my attendance, even though it was smack in the middle of two other huge trips. I wanted to say yes so badly. I felt physically sick at saying no. I love the people running it so much. But another part of me, the part that I don’t let come out very often (and the part my friends are always telling me to nurture) jumped out. That part took care of me and looked ahead at my happiness. She said no. She said she had to take care of herself.
Suddenly another email came the very next day, and again I said no to the opportunity. I’m not turning everything down, but I am making sure that I don’t suffer next year. My experiences are rich, much richer than I ever would have imagined they could be. But they are draining, and my joy fades, and while I can keep a smile on my face while I travel 40+ hours alone in one go, frequently, and I so truly see the light in all things, I suffer. My body hurts, I feel less sharp, I miss home. I miss home. I miss it so much.
This is the year of taking back my life. Of saying yes when I feel that glow of inspiration well inside of me, and of saying no when the opportunity doesn’t make me soar. That is so hard. I am a people pleaser. One of my biggest flaws is my constant desire for affections. But sometimes personal health comes from social sacrifices and telling people no when you want to give them a big hug and say yes.
You will understand. I know it because I know us, this amazing community, and no matter if you are introverted or extroverted, shy or not, physically ill or mentally, we all have something we need to tend to. We all have moments we should have said no, or wish we said yes. Or, that we wish we had said yes to different things and no to others.