If I had a dollar for every time I made a change in my life, I would feel a lot better about my six-dollar-a day Starbucks habit. I don’t know if it’s my self-diagnosed “only child syndrome,” but I've had this fear of being stagnant, the idea of forever, and I showed my rebellion by changing my mind, a lot.
When I was younger, and I mean elementary-school young, I wanted to be a singer. I was obsessed with everything about music and musicals and thought about nothing else. My parents took me to my first concert at five years old to see Whitney Houston, where I fell asleep before she even hit the stage. I told anyone that would listen that I was going to be a singer like Whitney and performed for anyone that would watch. The idea of rejection wasn’t even a possibility for the simple fact that I had no idea what rejection was at that age. Like most children, if you decided to do something, you just did it. Perhaps we should all take a lesson from our younger selves about making things happen.
While back then I wanted to sing, I most definitely changed my mind a few dozen times about possible career options from then to now. I did the same with colleges, all five of them, and that’s just for my undergrad. Let’s not forget the culinary arts degree and three master’s degrees. And while some people turn their nose up and look down at me for what they call moments of indecisiveness, others relish in my choices, as without them I would not be here, writing to you today, completely in love with my life and career as a sports photographer.
I love the fact that I’ve been able to change my mind so many times and learn from every experience. I’ve lived in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Florida, and Hawaii and hope to make it to Austin at some point. Don’t ever let those who act as if they came out of the womb having it all together tell you differently. They are the exception, not the rule.
Think about how many times you’ve changed your outfit before a date. Could you imagine if you had to go with your first choice? Are pajamas socially-acceptable dating attire? No? Damn. The beautiful and crazy thing about life is that it is all about choices: choosing them, changing them, re-evaluating them, and sometimes looking for even more options than what you were originally given. I believe in going after your dreams, and without some mistakes and the proverbial bad choice, how do you know if your dream from years ago is still your dream now?
With all that being said, there are a few ground rules that I always lived by when I thought about changing my mind.
First: truly think about why you want to make a change. One of the hardest conversations we have about life is the one we have with ourselves. When I decided to change schools or make a change in my career, it wasn’t on a whim. It wasn’t because I woke up one day and decided I didn’t like where I was or what I was doing. There were personal reasons, health reasons, financial reasons, etc., that took some difficult choices.
Second: do you have a plan? Have you really thought about what you want? When I left teaching, I didn’t have a plan. I had an idea of what I was going to do, but it took a lot of coffee, a few dozen pros and cons list, infinite amount of prayers and even a little bit of therapy to figure out what was next. Writing down and even mapping out your next steps are crucial to making a successful change. You don’t have to follow it explicitly, but it can help serve as a guide.
Third: how long can you survive financially without having to dip into your savings? Sometimes we get so excited about doing something else, we forget how long it can take to create a new, steady income. This can be especially daunting if you’re going from a bi-weekly paycheck to working for yourself. When I knew I would be leaving teaching, I may not have had a fool-proof plan, but I had been putting a little extra money aside from my paychecks for a rainy day.
Fourth: do you have the skills for your new career or a network of people that can help? It sounds simple enough, but sometimes the idea of something is much easier in our heads or on paper than when we realize, and we may not have the skills needed for what we want to do. When I made my way to sports photography, I knew I was up against hundreds of people who had been taking photos for far longer than I had, and had more connections that I could ever think to have. I had the skill, but what I didn’t have was the network. Through time, hard work, talent, some wonderfully supportive people and a little bit of luck, I was able to create a whole new career. I started working my way from a volunteer to a freelancer, to having someone create a position just for me because they didn’t want to lose me. Talk about being grateful.
Fifth (and finally): be easy on yourself. This is a non-negotiable. Like I said before, you’re allowed to change your mind. It’s a normal, healthy, perfectly acceptable feeling to want a change. Do your research, brush up on your skills, beef up your resume, call in those unused favors, and do all the things you need to do to make whatever transition you are making as seamless and as beneficial for you as possible.
You got this! I believe in you.