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Marriage Mental Health Parenthood Photography Reflections

The Happiness Quotient – Finding Balance Amidst The Chaos

January 26, 2013
“Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.” ~ Ninon de L'Enclos

Identifying your true passion in life

Passion is defined as “a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept”.

There are things we encounter in our lives that we are inexplicably drawn to. We seek them because they provide us with an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and joy. We tend to think of a passion as something we do in our “spare time”. Something we wish we could do on a constant basis and get paid to do it. Sadly, we spend many hours of each day doing something we’ve become complacent about and that pays bills but does not bring us that innate sense of pleasure.

Eventually, something acts as the catalyst for you to pursue your passion further. After weighing the pros and cons of it all you decide to jump in, feet-first and take the plunge. You take a leap of faith, stepping away from all the self-doubt and the various scenarios of what could happen if you do decide to listen to your heart.

In that single moment you redefine yourself

You’ve placed a marker on the time line of your life where you can clearly distinguish your life “before” and your life “after” that juncture. In that instant you went from “hoping and dreaming” to “doing”. Just making that conscious decision without having even acted upon it – just the sheer thought process, has opened up a whole new world to you.

You enjoy this new found sense of euphoria – what we usually denote as being a direct result of “following your heart”. You bask in the warm rays of positivist. Your friends and family applaud the risks you’ve taken to realize this dream you’ve been consumed with for possibly many years.

They’ve always known you were talented – they’re the ones who have been encouraging you all along to cast your fears aside and “do this”. You’ve always known your inherent talent existed as well. How could it not? It has been your passion!

Word spreads quickly. Your family and friends make sure of that. You’re doing what you love and getting paid for it. Isn’t this the epitome? Isn’t this the way everyone wants to live?

You’re doing it. You’re REALLY doing it!

Success can be a blessing and a burden

Years go by. You’re more successful at this venture than you ever dreamed was possible when this all began. Your talent is appreciated and in demand. You’re reputation precedes you. People you’ve never met know your work by sight and tell you how much they love it.

You begin to wonder if any of this is truly real or if you’ve actually been living inside a very long dream! Could life get any better than this? After all, this is the success you dreamed of, the outcome you only hoped to realize and now it is your reality!

…but what happens when your passion starts feeling more like a burden?

What do you do when it no longer brings you joy?

While your passion has been evolving from a hobby into a sustainable interest, along with it comes increased responsibility. You’re no longer doing this for fun and have real clients and potential clients to answer to.

While you’re your own boss, you also know that the real bosses are the people you provide a service or product to. They’re dictating to a certain extent your time and where your energy is going in managing their requests.

With increased demand comes an increased need for output to supply the demand. The increasingly obvious challenge being faced is that we’re only afforded twenty-four hours in each day. In order to devote time to one part of our life – in this case our passion, we must simultaneously transfer that time and focus from another part.

But what happens if the cache you’re trying to siphon is no less deserving of your attention – and perhaps even more-so? What if denying those competing responsibilities for your time and devotion could have serious repercussions? What if those competing responsibilities are not tangible assets you possess but are measured in terms of people and time?

I took that leap of faith back in 2006

I daydreamed and ran scenarios through my head for years about what it would be like to put an end to the self-doubt. I finally just cut the ropes of uncertainty and let myself spread my wings to see if the wind would take me where I longed to go.

I built upon my years of scenic photography work and branched out into photographing people, doing portrait shoots and photographing weddings.

I was beyond overwhelmed at the positive response to my work…what I still considered my passion and anything but work!

I know from experience that while fulfilling it is also difficult

I was inundated with requests for sessions and meetings with brides and grooms and my spare time was quickly booked up with meetings and shoots and editing time. So much editing time!

Things chugged along beautifully (albeit busily) for three years and then I had two babies within eighteen months – I had TWO new(er) passions.

The past two years have been nothing short of a circus act when you consider the juggling I’ve been doing in trying to devote the required time to my craft while also working a full time job and raising two young children with my equally busy husband.

I still only have twenty-four hours in my day.

If anything I feel like I have a deficit in hours at the end of my day.

Everything comes at a price

There’s always far more to accomplish than I have time for.

My to do list never seems to be getting shorter but instead, longer and I can’t get excited about checking items off because I’m too busy adding new task on to the list.

I’m missing out on time with my ever-evolving and changing sons. I’m missing out on time with my husband. There’s a disconnect in our little world.

I’m physically separated from them when I’m out shooting a wedding or off in another room editing for hours on end.

I’m also mentally not available to them because I’m so caught up in stressing myself to the point of exhaustion about all the unfinished tasks at hand.

Something has to give.

Everything comes at a price

The most challenging part in this equation is that I truly am still passionate about my photography.

It is such a part of who I am. It defines me. It allows me to creatively express myself – but I can no longer allow myself to feel pulled in a million different directions.

Most of all, I cannot continue to put my family last on the list of competing priorities.

They deserve my time and undivided attention.

There’s nothing wrong with refocusing

It has taken a lot of soul searching and it is an extremely difficult decision to make but I’m officially announcing the closure of the photography business at least for 2013.

I’ll reevaluate when I feel the time is right. When I feel that I can adequately balance all of the competing demands for my time.

Until then, I will miss my clients. I will miss this outlet for creativity.

What I will gain though is priceless – time with my family.

I’m excited about capturing our moments with my camera and all the beautiful things we will experience together.

I’m not putting away my camera completely. I’m just going to have a different focus 🙂

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14 Comments

  • Reply Laurie January 26, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    I am glad to read this Tammi. I have thought a long time ago..that you took on too much and were missing out on your boys and your husband. I know you loveee your photography..but believe me..there will ALWAYS be weddings and babies and graduations etc. WHen the boys get older..and are into their own things..you can maybe start back up part time..however..you will know when the time is right. Your family is more important. Good luck..I am proud of you 🙂

    • Reply Tammi January 26, 2013 at 4:31 PM

      Thanks for supporting this tough decision Laurie. As moms we tend to fall into the trap of believing we’re Superwoman and as such, capable of accomplishing everything we set out to. Despite the best of intentions I still haven’t found a source for the elusive Kryptonite 🙂

  • Reply Kandise January 26, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    Good for you! Follow your heart. Maybe eventually this will be your passion again 🙂

    • Reply Tammi January 27, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      There’s no doubt in my mind my desire will never diminish 🙂
      What I have to keep remembering is I was a photographer long before I was compensated for my images/time. I’ll just be living vicariously through other photographers like you 🙂

  • Reply Karen Buckland January 26, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    I think it’s smart to realize which of your passions need your time and devotion most at this point in your life! It’s so hard as working Mom’s to keep a balance between family and spousal relationships and work and anything else that defines who we are….there seem to never be enough hours in the day. Being self employed and juggling that with my kids and a husband who works unusual hours and making time to take care of ME…I often feel like I am being pulled by all four limbs in different directions….

    • Reply Tammi January 27, 2013 at 3:42 PM

      I know you can relate Karen. I truly admire moms who have home businesses because they rarely have an opportunity to get out for a breather – their work and home life are entwined. Sometimes we get a moment of clarity – usually after we’ve exhausted ourselves – and realize we can’t be everything to everybody. We need to take time for ourselves too and should not feel guilty about doing so.

  • Reply Irene January 26, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    I have a friend who also has a passion, and he refused to turn it into a business. Needless to say, he could have been making a ton more money than the job he’s working at now. Not only are his skills in high demand, he is really, really good at what he was doing. Instead, he volunteers his time. One of his reasons for not making money off of his passion was because he didn’t want to start viewing it as “work” and all the stresses that go around with it. He was worried that it would stop becoming something that he would love. At least if he’s volunteering, he can walk away from it when he chooses. Sucks for those who depend on him, but at least he’s done it with a clear conscience and his passion intact.

    I don’t think you’ve shut out your passion completely; you’ve just scaled it back. There are always going to competing priorities in life. Even when your boys get older and you regain the time from having to care for them as much, there will be other things that will fill that hole. Sometime what makes you cherish things even more is the scarcity of it. You cherish your time with your kids because they won’t be at this stage for too long. Your marriage does need regular injections of attention to survive and thrive, and because time is scarce, you will cherish that time too.

    You have done something with your passion, and as hard as it was at times, I bet you didn’t regret your decision for one minute. So many people think that they’ll start something “tomorrow” and that tomorrow never comes. Don’t look at you as failed in something. You’ve lived your passion, and you’ve made provisions to keeping the passion flame alive. It’s tough to find that balance, but you’ve managed to find something that works best for you, and for many, it’s an enviable position to be in. Who needs Kryptonite!

    • Reply Tammi January 27, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      Thanks for this perspective. It is true – the camera was giving me feelings of angst instead of joy. That’s how I gauged something had to change.
      I think your friend is wise in his decision. He enjoys what he does on his own terms.
      You’re right. I don’t regret the initial decision to pursue this for one second. Likewise I don’t regret this one either.
      I can still enjoy photography but without the external pressures of timelines and deadlines and expectations 🙂

  • Reply Laura Roberts January 26, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    I admire your decision SO much!

    It’s funny that you should come to this decision and post this now because I have been flirting with the same decision for different reasons. My work load hasn’t been nearly as heavy as yours, but there have been some incidents that have made me realize that taking photos for others isn’t my passion. Taking photos for myself is and over the past year, especially my camera has also become a burden to me. So while I haven’t declared it publicly I have come to the decision that I’m no longer offering my services to others. The last wedding i shot was as a gift to our friend Rhonda and her husband and it was probably the most enjoyable, stress free of them all and it shows in the photos. All she wanted was “one good photo” of her and John and I knew I could deliver that and so much more.

    Anyway, I actually got a new camera as a belated Christmas gift. It’s not even a new DSLR, it’s an Olympus Micro Four Thirds system (Rangefinder) and I am loving it SO much and it feels good to want to pick up a camera again and take photos for no one but myself.

    • Reply Tammi January 27, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      I know you and I share this passion – you were one of the initial people I connected with who shared this same love of capturing images. I think it is rather interesting we’ve both made the same decision around the same time.
      While I love my DSLRs, I’m actually really enjoying the quick output and processing of images right from my iPhone! Who would have thought?
      I look forward to enjoying taking photos and sharing them again without strings attached.
      I also look forward to seeing many new images from you 🙂
      Thanks for the support!

  • Reply Charlene January 26, 2013 at 11:54 PM

    This.Is.Awesome.
    Good for you having the strength to really garner perspective.Your babies are babies for such a short time.You will never get that time back.Take your passion for your children& your love of photography and document THEIR childhood. Society does women such a disservice by telling them they can have it all. We can-just not all at the same time.Most of us didn’t get that memo 😉

    • Reply Tammi January 27, 2013 at 3:54 PM

      So true Charlene! We definitely think in terms of all or nothing, not some now and some later.
      Your comment was an “aha!” moment for me – I don’t have to stop doing what I love, just point my camera towards what I love most of all.
      Thanks for the support. I’ll follow along with your shoots and live vicariously 🙂

  • Reply Momma Sunshine January 27, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    It sounds like this is the right decision for you and your family. And you’re right – they’re only small once…I think it’s important to enjoy this time now, while you have it, because it will be gone faster than you think. Your photography will still be there in a few years, but your babies won’t be.

    *hugs*

    • Reply Tammi January 27, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      That’s the driving force behind this decision – the realization about how much they’ve already grown in such a short period of time and how many moments I’ve already missed because I was capturing someone else’s 🙁
      I also don’t have to put my camera away! All this time I was so consumed with the business aspects and all the things running a small business entails that I forgot I could have fun with my camera too! 🙂

    A penny for your thoughts?