I’ve been preoccupied lately with seasons and change.
Not just weather-related seasons, but the seasons of life we go through.
We start with one identity, get comfortable with it, and things shift. We reassess. Perhaps redefine ourselves, and get used to the new normal. And things shift again. Nothing stays the same- but that’s also what makes life beautiful and exciting and everything but boring.
I took my kids to see Frozen II recently and I found the same sentiments echoed throughout the movie. Everything from Olaf waxing poetic: “And yet change mocks us with her beauty” to Lt. Mattias talking to Anna: “Be prepared. Just when you think you found your way, life will throw you onto a new path.”
When I first had kids, my entire world took a hard left.
I don’t mean that in a bad way- but the change was sudden and dramatic. You can’t ease into motherhood. Becoming a mother was my most fierce and raw and beautiful transformation. It opened my eyes to a whole different level of life. Depths of love and compassion and forgiveness- and I don’t mean in just giving, but in receiving as well.
And in this change, I started to lose sight of myself. I tried my best to be everything to everyone but maybe I lost myself along the way. In this mess, I started my photography business and it was like a lifeline for my identity. A place I could be more than Mom. During those “in the trenches” years of babies and toddlers, where you survive on coffee and baby cuddles, I carved out a space where I could also be Jen, coexisting with Mom.
My babies grew into kids, and I like to think I taught them about following your dreams, about dedication and hard work through this self-employed adventure.
Last year, my last baby started kindergarten, and my first baby started fifth grade. I was so excited- I had been spending so much time listening to business podcasts and reading business books- it was time to kick it to the next level. It was time to start working my way to full time. I was ready to be a “real” entrepreneur, not just run a part time side hustle.
(can you sense the change brewing?)
Is busier better?
Business grew. But so did life. Something I didn’t consider- the kids got busier. I found myself missing their events because I was always working.
Wait– this isn’t what I signed up for. I left a full time job to raise kids because I didn’t want to miss anything. I know many people who thrive on being on-the-go, but I am not one of them. I began to crave cancelled plans, and I felt crushed under the weight of my schedule.
So I changed priorities. I worked more, but at different hours, and I began running myself into the ground. I was absolutely convinced that there was a way to have it all. I can be super mom- the primary parent, the caretaker of the home, the volunteer and support. I can be a super business owner, crushing it with a booked schedule, joining all the networking groups and fostering connections, delivering a high quality product on a quick turn around. I can also be good to myself- working out, eating right, getting enough sleep.
Except I learned I can’t do all of those things at the same time.
My anxiety levels increased along with my schedule commitments. But I kept studying and growing my business because that is what you are supposed to do. Scale, scale, scale. After all, it was working, and that means success, right?
At this point I took up yoga to deal with my anxiety and it was a breath of fresh air. A place of stillness. A place to stop running from my thoughts or drowning in them- a place of acceptance and peace. I decided to take up mediation but couldn’t fit it in my schedule. I took up time blocking to deal with that and dutifully booked out every waking moment in an attempt to still have it all.
I began to resent my calendar. I desperately kept wishing I could slow down, but never acknowledged it was my choices that kept me from doing so. This is what success looks like, right?
Minimalism and The Slow Life
Yoga and meditation led me to embrace a more minimalistic mindset. Decluttering my life also declutters my brain. And I gradually switched my podcasts from “scaling up” business ones to “scaling down” minimalism ones. I heard a quote that stopped me in my tracks. And while I can’t remember the exact phrasing it boils down to- when is it enough?
This business was my lifeline 10 years ago, even 5 years ago. It helped me maintain an identity. But now it’s no longer serving me. Instead, I’ve ended up living to serve it.
As my kids get older, I’m painfully aware how little time I have with them at home. How fleeting childhood really is. I desperately want to live the slow life- a more thoughtful, deliberate pace. And I know I can’t have it all. Choices must be made, and that means giving something up.
To that end, I am closing my photography business. My last clients will be booked December, 2019.
A bittersweet change
Is this forever? Probably not. I’m going to still maintain my blog. I love to write. I’m going to still pursue personal photography projects. But I’m stepping out of the entrepreneur mindset, making the choice to walk away from scaling up, and understanding that the traditional form of success isn’t for me.
If you’ve booked a long-term contract with me that extends into 2020 and beyond, have no fear. I will still be working with you until your contract expires. However, I won’t be taking on any new clients for the time being.
I will still be blogging all the sessions I’ve photographed in the past year that never made it to my blog. I promised you a spotlight, and you will get it. I will still be blogging reflections and stories on motherhood. I will still be featuring local businesses on my blog.
While it served me well for many years, I no longer need a business to help maintain an identity. At this season in my life, I can make space in my life for rest and play and stillness. It’s enough.