There’s a song that no matter how many times I hear it, I cry. Tears streaming. CRY. It’s what I like to call an ass kicker. It kicks me in proverbial emotional rear end, every time. I’ll even inflict self torture by playing it if I need a good reminder.

There's a fight to be won
For the love you find at home.
There is work to be done
Before you rest your weary bones.

I'm finding peace don't come
To everyone I know,
So I will love in this life
Til I finally have to go.

Growing up child
Is just a matter of time,
For giving all you've got,
So won't you dance under the sun.

Growing old
Feels like you're giving up your soul.
I'd rather give it freely
To the ones that I call home.

Now maybe you can see where I’m going with this post. I’m growing older, and if I’m growing older, that means my children are growing older, my parents are growing older. I keep searching relentlessly for this peace I so desperately want. I realized earlier this year that the peace I wanted doesn’t exist. So I settled for “seasons”. Seasons where my career thrives and my family had to wait, and seasons where my family came first, and my career had to wait. As you can imagine, there is no peace there. I’m continually in a state of letting someone down: My precious husband and kids, or clients who I love like family.



DISCLAIMER:

I AM NOT QUItTING! I will still be shooting, and focusing on education/mentoring.




One of my birth photography peers recently wrote about Birth Photography not being just a career, but a lifestyle. In the past I relished in that lifestyle. I prided myself in the hustle. Even boasting about how many births I’ve shot, or how many hours without sleep I had gone, how many consecutive days I had spent at the hospital. And in some warped way, I prided myself in the amount of sacrifice that comes with this job (ie. missing my child’s birthday, and staying home while my family goes on vacation). While yes, that does show the dedication of a job that I’ve loved for a decade, but it’s a difficult lifestyle to sustain. So while I love the work… I love my clients… I love watching new life come into this world time and time again, literally hundreds of times. And I love KNOWING that I make a difference in these women’s lives. I KNOW my being there matters, to them and their family. I KNOW my work influences other communities and countries to educate/inspire women, and encourage other hospitals to think outside their boxes. I KNOW there is more work to be done. But I KNOW this line of work has become detrimental to my happiness, my family, my physical and mental wellbeing. I love this work, but I can no longer carry the burden of the lifestyle that goes with it.

I have wanted to show my kids that women can be strong and fierce business owners. I know what I’ve accomplished so far in my career as a birth photographer will impress them as they get older. Hell, I’m impressed with myself (only took 10 years to be comfortable openly being proud of what I’ve done). But just as I want to have inspired them to aim for the stars, I also want them to slow down, be present, and admire the stars. I want them to know it’s ok to walk away from success. That there is strength in that. Beautiful strength in our most difficult weaknesses. How am I to teach them that, to show them that, if I’m too busy or stressed to enjoy the stars with them.

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Admittedly I’ve grown to despise the word hustle. It’s a cute word. It’s a trendy word. But to me, it’s come to represent a word wrapped in deception and lies. It’s a word that fools us into chasing things we might shouldn’t chase. It’s a word that often makes us compare and feel less than. It’s a word disguised in empowerment, that often brings disillusionment. Like I said, I’m getting older. And the older I get, the wiser I become. The easier I can see through the fluff. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely NOTHING WRONG WITH HUSTLING. I did it for years. It’s literally why I am successful. But if you aren’t careful the drive, the “hustle”, can detour your ambitions. It can make you seek things for the wrong reasons. Here’s my cautionary tale folks, my moment of transparency. My “hustle” became better known as my “ego”. And an ego driven career is not one that will lead down any path of creative fulfillment. It will leave you depleted. Creatively drained and confused. BURNT OUT. The “hustle” clouded my “why”. Every artist has to have a ‘why’. You have to LIVE by your ‘why’. It’s what makes you YOU and sets you apart. Your ‘why’ is your creative fingerprint. I lost my ‘why’ in the ‘hustle’.

I don’t mean for this blog to be a total hum-drum, Debbie Downer post!

So let me change gears. This revelation has been two years in the making. Two difficult, beautiful years of crying out to the Lord. Two difficult, beautiful years of “being still” and knowing He his God. And two difficult, beautiful years of waiting on the Lord. Let me just say, being STILL and WAITING…. are truly the hardest for this restless creative! But that is where the refining happens. Where the Lord is whittling down your selfishness, wearing down the ego. Being still is where you hear His voice again, you hear your voice again, you reconnect to your ‘why’.

Am I quitting birth photography altogether? NO. Will I take random requests as they fit into my life and family. YES. Will that make people mad? Will it disappoint a great many? Unfortunately yes. It’s taken a long while, but I’ve learned (the hard way), that I can’t make everyone happy. I can’t be everything to everyone. Saying no with grace is my new motto. If you find yourself on the receiving end of one of these no’s, please believe it wasn’t a decision made in haste. It was not a decision that came lightly. And there is a high likelihood, that even days/weeks later I’m still worrying about how I may have disappointed you.

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Lastly, my heart longs to tell other stories. As a creative, we tend to sound like spoiled children. “I just don’t feel creatively fulfilled anymore.” Specially when from the outside looking in, a career and life look picture perfect. When you’ve told variations of the same story for nearly 10 years, your creative soul longs for a challenge. It longs to stretch it’s arms to the sky and grab something never seen before. Because isn’t that what every artists sets out to do? Aren’t we always in some way or another in a constant state of rebirth, revival, a renaissance? Create new ideas, new styles, challenge the status quo. Sadly, I’m so far in the mire of an absent creative abyss, that I don’t know what my “new” or “next” is. I think I have to detox. Cleanse my pallet. Disconnect to reconnect. TURN OFF MY PHONE.

I was blessed to go see Annie Leibovitz recently. This woman who is the pinnacle of success as a female photographer, my biggest modern inspiration. The timing of sitting in that audience and listening to her talk about the entirety of her career was serendipitous. I sat there in awe as she shared stories, insights and antidotes. Her career is wide, it is long, it is varied, it went up, it went sideways, it ebbed and flowed. When she spoke of her lulls, it gave me peace that even with her success at times she needed rest. Time with Family. I want to think those lulls are where we usually find ourselves again. We come out the other side having grown, refined, more resilient, wiser, humbled, refocused, centered, RESTED… READY.

My wheels have been spinning for over 2 years for “what’s next”. Sometime next year I will launch my Wander Years sessions, and focus intently on family documentary sessions. I hope to find a project to become involved with in my local community. But above all, I want to photograph my family. I want to edit our photos. I want to PRINT our photos! I want to travel with my husband. I want to be spontaneous again. I want to reconnect with friends. I want to be present in a given moment.

And while these ideas tumbling around in my head like tumbleweeds, may or may not be my next act… One thing is certain, I’m content in the waiting, in the being still. I’m certain my creative cup will overflow once more. I’m certain the Lord will give me a voice to speak stories of His love. I hope you guys will follow me on this journey. I have so much left to share. I have so much more art to make. I have so many more stories to tell.

Let me leave you with some photos of my greatest treasures, the ones my heart beats for.

With love,
Neely

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