A letter to my 18-year-old self.

I have slowly started going through the selling process of some of my photography business gear/props/backdrops, etc..  Doing so has made me go back into the archives of my work to dig up some backdrop examples, as well as into the financials in QuickBooks to see just how much I invested.

Just as before, looking at my work over the years brings feelings of joy, pride, and also sadness.  There is a lot of sacrifice that goes into having your own business.  We all choose how much we give to any certain thing in our lives.  Photography consumed much of my life for many years.  I loved it probably just about as much as I hated it.  And when I say “hate,” which is a strong word, I’m referring to the effect it had on my personal life:  parenting, marriage, health….I REALLY struggled with balance for most of those years.

I re-read this post I wrote last year about this time, which is written to the then graduating class of 2015.  Here is that post again.  A year later this is exactly what I would still say to my 18-year-old self.

When you’re 18 you feel like the world is your oyster, that there’s so much to do, see, explore, and accomplish.  At least, that is the hope we have as parents for our children – that they feel those things.

At my graduation, I really didn’t know what I was going to do with my life.  That was a question I continued to ask myself for many years.  When you think you know, life has a funny way of pushing the “X” button of your life, as if to say “WRONG. THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU’RE HERE TO DO.”

I think any high school senior could ask their parents if they’re doing what they envisioned for themselves at 18 and I would bet a large portion would probably say “no.”  And that’s okay.  I sure didn’t plan to have my own business one day and it’s been an extraordinary life experience that has taught me so much.  I didn’t even want children for the longest time and I have three.

What I would say to my uncertain and confused eighteen-year-old self is this:

The only certainty in life is uncertainty of what the future holds.  You only have today and tomorrow is no guarantee.  If today were the last day of your life, ask yourself “would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”  Now – that’s not advice to skip out on your obligations to your family, friends, or whomever or whatever you’ve committed yourself to.  It is a question, however, you can ask yourself to gauge, if what you’re about to do really makes your heart sing.  

You will get your heart broken.  There is no happiness or joy “out there” that you cannot find within….if you choose to create it.  You are the only one you can count on.  Don’t expect others to act/behave a certain way.  People will disappoint you.  Rather, count on showing up for yourself.  Raise your standards because the difference between people are their standards.  A wise man once said:  “Everyone has a “should” list.  Don’t “should” all over yourself.  Change your shoulds into musts.”  That being said, don’t get too hung up on the end result – it rarely turns out as you expect.  Be open to anything and everything.   

Failure:  it’s a beast.  You will try and fail at many things.  You will try and learn from many things and experiences.  Every opportunity of failure (whether perceived or true), is an opportunity to grow.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Don’t look for validation from others;  you can give that to yourself. Your mind is your greatest asset.  Don’t abuse it and use it wisely.  Be still every once in a while.  All the knowledge you will ever need in this life is right there, within you.  It has been there all along and will be there always.  Trust your “hut (gut and heart)” always.  Listen to your mom and dad.  Like it or not, they will always be wiser and have far more life-experience than you.

Man, if only 30+ year-old wisdom was something we were born with, right?

Don’t make someone else’s limits your own.

You truly will learn more about life when you give yourself the opportunity to expand, grow, and experience the world around you.  Travel, talk to everyone you meet (my not-so-secret secret:  opportunities lie among connections), don’t settle – know what you want based on what you value, and never-ever-never let anyone tell you something can’t be done.  That may be the story that person feels is true for themselves, but don’t make someone else’s limits your own.  If you try and it truly is impossible, at least you live knowing you tried and probably learned from it – and that’s a win.

Regret:  sticks in the gut like glue.  Let it go.  The world is your oyster, remember.

About Victoria

Hi there! I'm Victoria: wife & mother of three with one pooch living in rural ND. I am a professional photographer turned writer, published author, and side-hustle entrepreneur. I dream of vacationing in Fiji and seeing Matchbox Twenty live (among other things). I firmly believe everything is "figureoutable," and if it doesn't challenge you - it doesn't change you. I also looooooooove coffee. A lot. :D

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