When I graduated college, I got a great job working for a big corporation at a small college. Seemed like a dream job for a wide-eyed-fresh-faced-naive-just-graduated college kid. Looking back and looking in from the outside, I see it was a dream job. Seriously, I got to sit in an office while just outside my door, Starbucks coffee was being served to fellow wide-eyed-fresh-faced-college kids who, more likely than not, knew far more than me.
The paycheck was nice. (Especially for a wide-eyed-fresh-faced-naive-just-graduated-(and poor)-college kid. The people were nice. The commute was easy. It was seemingly, a perfect entrance from “college world” to the “real world”.
Except that I was miserable. Like on day one. Miserable.
(In retrospect, I wasn’t a coffee drinker back then. Perhaps today I would feel differently having Starbucks coffee at my disposal on the other side of my office door. Or, maybe not.)
I needed people. I wanted my work to matter. Sitting behind a desk wasn’t for me.
So, I found a job in youth ministry. I had worked at a youth camp during college, as well as a summer internship at a church. This seemed like the most logical step. Certainly, this would be my “thing”.
Again, I learned I loved working with people. I loved investing in people. Or one person. At a time. The introvert in me struggled. I was not one to want to stand in front of groups. Be in charge. Deal with politics.
It was time to go. Going back to school seemed the obvious next step. Becoming a counselor seemed like a no brainer. (See above: one on one. Investing in people.)
Back to school I went. Between having babies and doing homework and writing papers and hours and hours of internship experience, I gained that little piece of paper that said I was now equipped to be present, guide, and walk beside others as they journeyed through the ups and downs of life.
I enjoyed working as a therapist. I enjoyed walking along side of people as they sorted through life. I liked learning the heart of people. I loved hearing their stories.
I had found it. This was it. This is what I was made to do.
And then I picked up a camera. And everything changed.
Something inside my heart stirred when I began seeing the world through a tiny viewfinder. I saw things more clearly. The world became more vibrant. Moments became that more meaningful. Time stopped and I was able to breathe it in deep in a way that, before, I was too busy to see.
I look back and believe, with everything in me, that not one step on my journey was an accident. I believe that I needed each experience and each and every person who crossed my path in order to find myself where I am right now.
Not long ago, I ran into a former colleague and she inquired about what I was doing now. When I told her she did a poor job at covering her surprise and attempted a recovery by suggesting that what I am doing now is good while I have small children at home, but certainly I’d go back when all my kids are in school full time. (Because, you know, starting a business is a breeze.) I smiled politely and expressed my doubt that I would return to my therapy chair. (Or, at least not on that side of the chair.)
I imagine my former colleague was calculating all the costs of graduate school and the endless hours I put in and thought me irresponsible for squandering such things. Time and money–both gone. Neither could be taken back. Perhaps my leap from therapist to photographer seemed to her like a huge leap down? At the same time I was calculating the ONE life I get to live, why would I spend it doing something that doesn’t stir my heart profoundly?
It doesn’t matter, I know, how people view my choices. I’ve learned enough about life to know that the journey is far more important than the final destination. I also know that we all have these inner voices, spirits, and the sounds of still small voices that, when we are quiet enough, won’t lead us astray. During my years working as a therapist, I was blessed to have a very wise supervisor. Over the years she offered so much wisdom. Of all the wise words she spoke, one phrase echos the loudest: Trust your gut, Summer.
Trust. Your. Gut.
I love what I am doing right now. I love capturing the stories of others. No other “job” has ever felt so much not like a job. However, I am not naive enough to believe that where I am and what I’m doing today will be exactly where I am and what I’m doing next year or the year after that. What I know is that being faithful in the journey today is important for where I might go tomorrow. And even if I don’t know exactly how the road winds ahead of me, I might as well have joy while doing it.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for stopping by this space.