I spent most of my childhood and twenties afraid of EVERYTHING! The older I got the worse it got. I was painfully shy and terrified of rejection and failure. I had very low self-esteem which was likely the cause of all my fear. I hated being that way, but it wasn't until 9 years ago when I was pregnant with my first son that I was ready to change my life! I didn't want my kids to miss out on things like I did because of fear. I wanted to be the best that I could be for them. It wasn't easy, but deciding that things needed to change was the beginning of a huge transformation and lifelong journey that has brought me more happiness and success then I ever imagined was possible. All of this didn't happen over night and I've experienced many failures along the way, but with each one, after licking my wounds, I grew stronger. Fear is like an insatiable beast. The more you give into it the stronger it grows. The good news is success and self-confidence works the same way. The more you experience them the more you want it and the easier it gets!
A Head Full of Fears Has No Space For Dreams
I'm about to give you the shortened version of my life growing up. I was born in a VERY small harbor town off of Lake Erie called Ashtabula Ohio. I went to a very small private school and grew up with the same 25 kids since kindergarten. I had lots of extended family close by and built strong friendships. I was always a shy kid, but I was so sheltered within my little circle that it didn't really have much of an impact on me. At the age of 11 my dad got a new job and would have to uproot us to Syracuse NY. This is when my world fell apart. I was terrified of this new life and had a really hard time adjusting. Three years later we moved again to Buffalo NY and things only got worse. By this time my shyness, anxiety and fears had pretty much taken over my life. I was afraid to do anything alone and ended up following my sister to college because I was too scared to go away by myself. I begged her to walk me to all of my classes because I was terrified that I would get lost. I could go into a lot more detail of just how crippling my fear and anxiety was, but I think you get the idea and I'm not even going to go into all of the really bad choices I made throughout my twenties because of low self-esteem. Let's just say I went a bit beyond typical college like behavior.
You Can't Start The Next Chapter Of Your Life If You Keep Re-Reading The Last One
I managed to graduate (a few years later then most) and landed a teaching job right away. I took my job seriously, but outside of that I was completely unmotivated to do much else. I spent my weekends and summers off lying around doing absolutely NOTHING productive. I know this sounds like the ideal life right? It wasn't though. I was miserable and depressed which was the reason for my lack of motivation. The less I did, the more depressed I got. I had started to work on my social fears and anxiety a long time ago by setting very small goals for myself, but it was a very slow and tedious process that some times took 2 or 3 years to achieve the tiniest of goals. They were small feats, but a start nonetheless. Let's fast forward a bit. I was pushing 30 and getting really tired of my mundane predictable life of partying and dating hopeless "fixer uppers". Thankfully I met the most kind, understanding and patient man and I knew he was the one.
I Don't Want To Feel Like This Anymore
We moved to Virginia from Ohio when I was 8 months pregnant (not something I would advice) to be closer to family and escape the long gloomy and depressing winters. At the time I was still teaching full-time. Being an exceptional education teacher is not easy and when I moved to VA it became a lot more challenging. In VA I was doing triple the amount of paperwork and making significantly less money. It was both physically and emotionally draining. By the time I got home each night to my son I didn't have much left for him. I was so tired and often still had paperwork to complete. With a husband who travels about 125 days out of the year I was barely hanging on. Needless to say teaching was no longer fulfilling and causing me a great deal of unhappiness. I felt trapped. We couldn't afford for me to quit and I had no choice but to stick things out. On top of hating my job I was still struggling with anxiety, low self-esteem and fear. I was so frustrated because I so badly wanted to make changes and live the kind of life I would want for my son, but it just seemed like a hopeless battle. I felt like I was losing myself in my job and motherhood and was just going through the motions of life. My depression reached an ultimate high.
You Are One Decision Away From a Totally Different Life
One day as I was scrolling through facebook, looking to escape my troubles, I saw a challenge that my friend's husband was taking, to post a picture a day for 365 days on Facebook. We had bought a DSLR or "fancy camera" when I was pregnant because we weren't much into studio type portraits like Portrait Innovations, so we invested in a decent camera and took our own pictures. The only problem was we had a pretty expensive camera and was using it like a point and shoot. Anyway, I started following his pictures and became inspired to attempt it myself. Little did I know this was the beginning of a new life for me. It would take a couple of years, but things were about to change in a big way. Taking pictures became my escape from the chaos that was my life. I started to get a very small circle of facebook friends who were supportive and encouraging. This became my creative outlet and my escape at night. The encouragement of my little support circle slowly started to repair my shattered self-esteem. It wasn't long before I was completely and madly in love with photography. It was more then a hobby it was my savior.
It's Not Who You Are That Holds You Back, It's Who You Think You're Not
I didn't actually make it through the entire challenge because it was too much pressure to post a picture every day and so I did what I did best. Quit. Yes I quit. Thankfully though it was not the end. I had learned a lot about my camera during the 7 months I participated in the challenge and discovered that photography was my true passion. Although I wasn't doing the challenge anymore I was still taking pictures all the time and posting on facebook. A few people suggested I start a business. I just laughed it off. It sounded so ridiculous to me. No way would anyone pay me to take their pictures and I didn't know the first thing about starting a business. Just the thought of it made me sick to my stomach. I would never had admitted it back then, but I often fantasized about starting a photography business. I never said it out loud because I felt so stupid for even thinking that I could do something like that. I thought so little of myself that I was ashamed to even have those thoughts (this sounds so crazy to me now)! The seed had been planted though and I couldn't get it out of my head. At work I pretty much kept to myself. I was completely overwhelmed and spent my (brief) lunch period working at my computer which was the perfect cover for my social awkwardness and fear of meeting new people. Since I couldn't hide in my classroom the entire day I did catch wind that 3 teachers were pregnant and all due within a few weeks of each other. I had a crazy thought to ask them if they would model for me so I could practice some maternity pictures. I had really only been photographing my son and family, so this would be a big step. Now I had been working there for a couple of years and never spoke more then a handful of words to these women before. I was certain they would politely decline and walk away thinking "she's so weird" because that is what I always assumed people thought of me. Time went by and as they began to show more and more I wrestled with reaching out to them (as I sit here typing this I almost can't believe that this person I am describing is me). I don't remember what finally pushed me to ask, but I mustard up the courage and approached the first of the 3 expecting moms. I was in disbelief that she said yes. I was sure she was just being polite, but regardless the gate had been opened and it was going to happen. I took a chance on the other 2 and much to my surprise they also agreed. I went on to practice on their newborn babies and had enough images for a gallery and a website. I registered my first business name and Dia Marie Photography was born (My niece couldn't say her S's when was little and I became known affectionately as Dia)(I would later change the name to Sarah Kane Photography) and in just a few short weeks clients were knocking down my door and I was a huge success (don't I wish). No, it wasn't that simple. I had a lot of work to do and much to learn. Building my clientele took a few years with lots of free and heavily discounted shoots, a lot of rejection and endless hours of work. There were so many times I felt like giving up and my confidence was tested, but I picked myself up and pushed on.
Making a Big Life Change is Pretty Scary. But, You know What's Even Scarier? Regret.
For 3 years, working full-time and taking care of the kids alone every other week, I managed to slowly build a business. The more business grew the more challenges I faced. Things got to a point where I just couldn't do everything any more and something had to give. By this time I was pregnant with my second child and obviously my family was non-negotiable, so photography or teaching had to go. I was facing a huge dilemma. Although I was making money it was barely enough to cover all of my expenses (contrary to popular belief there is a lot of expense outside of equipment and endless hours of work beyond "snapping a few pictures"). The business was basically paying for itself and that's all I really had time for. Although I wasn't making a ton of money teaching it was a lot more than the business was bringing in. My parents agreed to watch my second son for the first year, but after that he would need to be in daycare. That would mean 2 kids in daycare, so basically that's my entire paycheck. Was I prepared though to walk away from a secure teaching job in a really good school? If I ever decided to go back there is no telling where I would end up. Was I also prepared to stay at home with my little one and still have time to grow my photography business? These decisions were terrifying, but what was more terrifying was staying in a job that was making me miserable, giving up my business and always wondering "what if". My last year of teaching made my decision pretty easy. I was teaching 5 different subjects (that means 5 different preps) one of which was advanced English (um seriously?) and breakfast duty which ate into my morning planning period. By the end of that year I was so burnt out that no one would want me teaching their kids anymore and I ran as fast as I could never looking back! (let me just say that teachers have one of the most difficult jobs and I have nothing but the highest respect. It's enough pressure knowing that you are responsible for shaping the life of your own children, but being responsible for the lives and success of hundreds of other people's children while the powers that be are constantly throwing hurtles at you is nearly impossible, yet so many do it with such grace) and I wish I could say life got easier after that, but that first year staying home was more difficult then I ever imagined. It's a whole different kind of tough, but the energy I was putting into it was 100% going to my own family and was well worth it!
Life Does Not Get Better By Chance. It Gets Better By Change
One small change in your life has the power to make an enormous impact. The spark was ignited for me when I attempted the facebook challenge (which keep in mind I failed at completing. I've since learned that failure really is essential for growth). Or maybe it actually began when we invested in that first camera. Regardless it was the start to a title wave of personal growth which led to a complete transformation of my life. Not only can I now say that I am running a successful photography business (which I LOVE), but the 3 maternity models and I became close friends ending my self-inflicted isolation at work. Throughout this journey I've gained self-confidence and self-love. It's played a huge part in me overcoming my shyness, social fears and has given me the freedom to truly be "me". I continue to push myself everyday out of my comfort zone, because for me, being content is just not good enough anymore.
Images From the 365 Facebook Challenge
This is the image that started it all. This was the first picture I took for the 365 day challenge.
My first maternity and newborn pictures were actually of my sister, niece and nephew as part of the 365 day challenge.