Finding my Life – Part 1

Imagine being really really good at something, but not wanting to do it.

Imagine putting 10 years of your life into something and then just walking away.

Imagine going from freedom to structure.

Yup, that kind of sums up what I’m going through.

In February, when I went to Peru and sat in silence and tranquility at the top of Machu Picchu, I felt like I had found myself. My true self. The self that really wanted to be balanced and happy and whole. I came home from an amazing life changing trip wanting sooooo badly to change, but ending up in most of the same old ways I was in before I left. The difference was, I was now very aware of those same old ways. I came home yearning for a more simple life. I hadn’t been shocked to see the poverty and simpleness of life in Peru, I was shocked to see the complication and selfishness in my own.

I began talking about change. I came home with one of the biggest realizations of my life … that I had WAY more than what I needed and I had it for the wrong reasons. I came home feeling guilty because I have so much. A condo, a new vehicle, lots of clothes and shoes, a refrigerator full of food, some of which I don’t use and end up throwing away. I have heat and access to good medical care.

I have, I have, I have.

And, don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to have! However, I’m also frustrated because I have too much.

It was then that I realized how materialistic my life had become and that I have so many things for the wrong reasons. And, overall, in the grand scheme of things I am not a very materialistic person … so some of you out there, well, Wow. I have a brand new vehicle, which I love. I bought it because I could afford it and I needed to cart around my photography equipment more easily. Good reasons at the time. But, when I came home, it made me sick to think of this huge brand new, incredibly expensive vehicle that I didn’t NEED. I wanted it for good reasons, but now all of a sudden I looked at it differently and not only regretted my purchase, but felt almost shameful for the waste of money when I really truly just didn’t care about it.

I had spent many thousands of dollars on something that I didn’t care about.

BIG realization!

Why did I do that? I did it because this is what our society does. I did it because I could, there was a reasonable need for it and now I’ve realized that I really don’t give a damn about a new vehicle.

Life looked a little different coming home. Wait … a lot different.

I looked at the clothes in my closet and realized that even though I have a lot less than many women out there, I still had four times as many clothes as most people Peru. I decided that wearing the same shirt twice before washing it would be a good plan. After all, I just spent three weeks traveling with only a few pairs of pants and shirts. Why couldn’t I do that at home too?

All of these thoughts of guilt and confusion led to me being angry with myself and the biggest realization of all.

I was working my ass off, running my own business, doing all kinds of things that I didn’t like so that I could have lots of money to pay for stuff that I didn’t want. But, I was successful (financially and in the eyes of my customers)!

WOW! Does that make sense or what? *sarcasm*

So, after this huge realization, I decided that things needed to change. I started thinking about how to change my business to only do the things that I loved. If I was going to work hard, I should do so at something I loved, right? As I started to move forward and formulate thoughts on how my business was going to change I realized that I had still missed my own point. I didn’t want to work so hard. I didn’t want to have lots of money just so I could spend it on things I didn’t need. I wanted to find balance. I wanted to live a good, happy life.

Switch gears … rather than thinking about how to change my business to fit my life, I needed to figure out my life! Life is what we are here to live, right?

I didn’t do all of this thinking on my own … business coaches, counsellors, friends, family … everyone heard bits and pieces of all of these different things at one time or another between February and June of this year. I can remember telling friends that I was contemplating if I wanted to continue to run my business. At that time, I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else, but I also knew that something big had to change. I remember talking about needing time for myself (as in not being in a relationship). This was a new concept for me. And, I came up with the idea that I might like to be a travel writer, so I needed to do some research. Maybe there was a way to continue photography and combine it with travel writing … maybe.

I got to a point in April where I just couldn’t take it any more. I was a hamster on a wheel, running in circles. I was taking in more and more work … some I liked, some I didn’t. I was piling on the hours of work all to make money so that I could pay for that car that I didn’t really want … I knew that I wanted to change things, but the wheel didn’t seem to have a stop button. I couldn’t seem to get out of the cycle.

It was then that I realized, in order for me to figure out my life, I had to get out of my life. There was no way for me to stay here, work from home and take time out to change things. My brain could not separate business and pleasure. A weekend away wouldn’t be enough time to sort out my life. A week away would only leave me wondering what work had to be done when I got back. The only way I felt that I could make significant change in my life was to remove myself from my current life in order to get a new perspective. I could see what I was doing wrong but I was too busy trying to keep up to find time to change it. Because, let’s face it, one of the biggest fears out there is change. And, one of the biggest fears surrounding change is that it takes a lot of hard work, time and effort. If change was easy, we’d all jump on board. Change, my friends, is not easy. Even when we are open to it and want it … sometimes we can’t find time to allow it to happen.

So, just where do you start to look for a new perspective on life? How do you find the time to change? How do you jump off that hamster wheel?

Let me share with you some of the things that I did … Finding my life – Part 2 – This is MY journey.

Angel vs Devil

How to Make a Decision – Part 2

By the end of March 2012 I was fully distracted by my want / need to do more travel and to learn Spanish.  I had begun talking about traveling to the Galapagos Islands to volunteer and study Spanish. I had started researching organizations and schools. Just putting the feelers out, but I was still completely put in my place by my negative self-talk about it not being the right thing to do. How could I leave my business? Where would I get the money?

I started dropping hints to my mom by phone that I was interested in going away to study Spanish, but having not made any commitments, I didn’t have time frame or details, so just dropping hints! I just didn’t want to spring the whole idea of going away for an extended period of time on my parents out of the blue.

By mid-April I was packing up and heading off on my next little adventure to the Dominican Republic to photograph a destination wedding in Punta Cana. I expected the trip to be wonderful from a wedding stand point, but relatively boring from an adventure stand point. I was booked at a lovely resort, The Majestic Colonial and wouldn’t be spending much time off resort as I would be busy working. I had also promised myself to take some down time and relax by the pool or on the beach rather than packing my time full of activities. The trip turned out a little more adventurous than expected. You can check out my blog posts here for details on the fire and reminders about seeing things through other people’s eyes.

After yet another adventure in the beginning of 2012, I was addicted to travel. You could almost call me an adrenaline junkie wanna-be! ha ha ha I’m simply addicted to the adventure, but not specifically to anything that makes my heart race. In fact, I’m happy to have my heart just beat at a regular pace and keep me alive for my mild adventures!

So, after realizing that I wasn’t living the life that I wanted and becoming addicted to travel, just what would my next adventure be?

In trying to make this decision, I looked at my current life, my business and what I love. I struggled for weeks, talking to friends and colleagues about the option of going away to learn Spanish. In the end, I think what really made my decision final was that I felt the stars had aligned for the 2012 year. For the first time since starting my business in 2003, I did not have any weddings booked for the summer of 2012. For the first time, I would not be working most of my weekends throughout the summer. For the first time in nine years, this also meant I didn’t have a guaranteed $20 000 income from the summer / fall. Yikes!

I struggled a lot with this (specifically the lack of financial security)! First I started panicking and trying to drum up wedding business for this summer. As I was posting on social media, looking for couples for this summer, my heart wasn’t really in it. I felt like I was defeated because I wasn’t booked a year in advance like I had been in the past. Part of me felt like I had failed or that I wasn’t in demand any more. Then I realized that I was working against myself and fighting my own expectations. For the past year and a half I had been focused on building my corporate photography business (a purposeful decision) and had purposely stopped marketing for wedding business. It took me a couple of weeks to really get my head around it, but my business had gone exactly where I had led it. I can even remember talking to my sister and saying ‘Ok. I think I’m ok with this. I think this is just the time that I am supposed to move forward and stop marketing for weddings.’ This is what I had been working on for the past year and it just took me some time to realize I was ok with what I had set out to do.  I hadn’t failed at all, in fact, I had been successful! I was now in a position where my corporate photography was the mainstay of my business and I was no longer reliant on weddings. So, why would I try to go backwards and drum up the wedding business that I had been working to minimize? Well, because weddings were my safety zone. My guaranteed income. hmmmmm …. could I survive without them? I didn’t know and I still don’t know for sure, but I decided to look at this from another angle! Seemingly all of a sudden, I have an entire summer with no pre-bookings. Scary from a financial stand point, fantastic from a personal stand point! What could I possibly do with this new found summer freedom that I had actually intentionally created for myself by making a conscious decision to focus on corporate clients instead of weddings? Funny how when you set a goal and achieve it that sometimes you forget your purpose along the way!

So, here I am, with no concrete plans for the summer, no weddings to photograph, a desire to travel, time to do so but no money, at a place in my life where I’m confused and trying to decide how to move my business forward and even contemplating if I want to continue running my own business.

So, what did I do? I made a decision to stop worrying about everything because it is a waste of perfectly good brain power and I made the decision that I would step out of my business this summer to go do something for ME. What a concept! Taking care of myself and doing something for no one else, just me. I made the decision to study Spanish (period). I hadn’t made any choices on where or how long or how I was going to make it happen, but I had been dreaming of learning Spanish and doing a home stay since 2009. Once I made the decision I felt alive. Suddenly my self-talk changed from ‘you can’t do this’ to ‘what’s the next step?’. It changed from ‘I’m tired and I’m overwhelmed’ to ‘I can’t wait. Let’s get started. How am I going to make this the best summer ever?’

Negativity still creeps in though. It is like the devil vs angel sitting on my shoulder …

Devil: YIKES! Maybe this is going to be too difficult … are you sure you want to do this?

I was already overwhelmed with business and feeling tired and stuck in my life … how could I possibly take on this huge life decision right now?

Angel:  You are not living the life you want to live, so what are you going to do about it? You are going to take a risk, start an adventure, live new experiences and find your passion!

For me, the angel won the debate.

So, how do I make a decision? I use equal parts head and heart, or at least I try … and I take things one step at a time.

In this case, the heart part is going to learn Spanish as it is something I’ve been wanting to do for three or more years. The head part is making sure that it is a valuable experience, both personally and business wise for me.

How to make a decision? I think the answer is to have faith. Know that once you take that leap that you will do everything you need to do in order to make it a success. Believe in yourself.

From the Outside Looking In – Part 1

Jumping off the proverbial cliff

After returning from a life changing trip to Peru for the Peru Through the Lens photo tour that I led, I felt different. My thoughts changed. My life changed. There was a mystical clarity in my head that I desperately wanted to hang on to and build on.

Lost City, Found Self.

When I returned from Peru I felt a desire to change, but like many, I quickly fell back into bad habits, old routines and the same old, same old mundane everyday life.

I could feel Nova Scotia’s dreary winter ripping at my heart and soul and all I could think of was travel, freedom and the excitement that I felt when I escaped the ordinary life that I had led myself to.

You simply don’t get to be a successful business owner without having at least a little part of you that is a go-getter. A part of you that craves change, being better, stronger and looking for the next challenge. I guess after nine years in business I had hit my turning point where I felt successful, yet drained. Happy and loving my work, but yearning for something more. Looking for my next big project, my next challenge and searching for inner happiness which combines my work with my life in some sort of elusive balance.

As I wallowed in my thoughts and the crappy weather that made me never want to leave the house, I wallowed myself into actually making some changes. I broke up with my boyfriend of two years … not an easy thing to do, but something that was necessary in order for me to move forward and find myself. I started talking to people about how Peru had changed me … not that they needed me to tell them, most of my close friends could ‘feel’ that I had changed without ever needing to hear the words.

I’m sure at first, as I wallowed, my friends were worried about me … seeing me unhappy and tired. As my thoughts became more clear and I began to make decisions for myself and my life, I think they could see the clarity coming through the fog, just like I did sitting on the edge of a cliff at Machu Picchu.

A few days after I returned from Peru I began a business training program with Tasha at platform. The goal, to help me solidify my ideas for where I want to take my business and learn to make financial planning for my business understandable and easily usable in my business on a regular basis.

Not a bad starting point after my return from a life changing trip and needing to find a way to make change and move forward.

Through my sessions with Tasha, I began talking about my passions … about what I love and how I want to see my business change. This was a great exercise in working on my business instead of in my business.

So, just what do I love? What am I, Shari Tucker, passionate about?

I love it when people tell me stories. Stories of who they are, where they came from, experiences they’ve had and anything else they want to share!
I love photographing people who are in action, in motion, busy doing something or who are in their own element.
I love love love helping others, doing something for a good cause and making a difference in our crazy world.
I love travel, culture and adventure.
I love to write from the heart.

I’ve been wanting to combine travel with my photography business for the past year, but I’ve been stuck on how to make that happen. I think it was Tasha (my business trainer) who said to me (likely more than once) … ‘why not?’, ‘why is it that you think you can’t do this’? I’m sure I had all kinds of excuses for her and didn’t really get over those excuses until our training ended a month later.

When it was all said and done, the reason I was stuck in making this happen was because
I didn’t believe in myself and the ability to make my dreams come true. Somehow along the way I had gotten stuck in doing what makes me money but I had lost a lot of the passion I had started my business with. I was spinning my wheels in one place, always getting things done, but not moving forward. I was tired and didn’t feel like I had the energy to make change happen.

My biggest realization from the trip to Peru and the business training that I was going through was this … hold on to your hats, it’s pretty profound!

I was not living the life I wanted to be living.
I was living to work instead of working to live.

Now, lots of people say that you can’t have everything you want, but that’s simply not good enough for me. We only get one life and I plan to enjoy mine!

I have a successful business. I’m respected and well known in the community for my work, for being a female entrepreneur and for the heart & soul I’ve put in to the Young & Fearless project over the past few years. From the outside looking in, it looks like I am happy, doing well and have a great business. Most of which is true. But, for the last few years I haven’t been living the life I want to live and the only person stopping me is ME!

People in general often think if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Well, my business isn’t broken, but my spirit is … just a little … so, I’ve decided to change it. I’ve decided to step forward off that proverbial cliff and hope for the best! In reality, I’ve done lots of crazy things and always seem to find a way to make them successful, or at least learn great lessons along the way! Why should this change to my business be any different.

And exactly what change am I speaking of? Well, I have decided to change my business … exactly how, that is yet to be figured out. I’ve decided that it is important to me to find myself, to find my passion and to live a life that I am happy with. Sounds pretty normal, but so few of us actually do it!

I hope you will follow along on my adventures this summer from the outside looking in, as I challenge myself to find my passion again.