9 Years ago this week I lost my job. It was June 13, 2008, and I called my Dad crying on the way home from work. I was a statistic. The economy was terrible and I wasn’t the only one that lost my job that year.
So many thoughts went through my head… How am I going to pay rent? How am I going to pay the new car I just leased? How am I going to eat? I was so scared. Also, I felt like a failure. I know it wasn’t my fault… I just graduated college in 2004 and the plan was to get a job (check) work hard until you can get a better job (check) losing my job was not in the plan. If you didn’t know already I am a huge planner.
I remember heading to the park across the street from my house and thinking “How am I going to do this?” I went into survival mode. I filed for unemployment which wasn’t covering much of what I needed but it was better than nothing. If I could choose a dream job, it was going to be to travel around the world, take pictures, and find a way to make a living out of it. This was my mission statement and my goal. If you have ever read the book “The Secret” you have to put what you want out into the universe.
A friend told me about Etsy but I didn’t know what I was going to sell and how it worked. I started taking photos around Chicago. I always say 2009 was my year of learning. I am self-taught with photography and with Etsy and I had to find my niche and pricing.
That first Summer I spent every weekend at the Farmers Market selling my artwork. I would pack the car at 5 am and head off to Wilmette to set up my tent. It was $75 for 7am – 2pm. It was exhausting but it was so fun to meet people in person. I hugged the first person that bought my work. It was so validating to know that someone outside my family thought my work was good enough to hang on their walls. I still hug a lot of my customers to this day!
In 2010, I booked a trip to Paris on airline miles and babysitting money. I was picking up Nanny jobs to help cover my costs. It was a huge risk. I remember feeling like I had no money and I am pretty sure my family was shocked that I was even thinking about going to Paris without a real job.
I photographed Paris from morning until the night my feet ached and I got lost. It was amazing. I love looking back at those first photos and I still remember what it was like to see so much of Paris for the first time. My official first trip to Paris was in 2003 and I had a bad case of bronchitis so it was much of a blur.
I went home to Chicago and started editing my photographs. I reached out to One Kings Lane in the very early years and had my work featured in a few sales. I wouldn’t say it was overnight but things picked up a lot after that first trip to Paris. I owe the city a lot. It has helped me grow as a person and build a business. That is one of the reasons I keep returning. Since then I have partnered with Pottery Barn, West Elm, Papyrus, and Barnes and Noble and more.
When I look back on June 13, 2008, it was a blessing and one of the best things that have happened to me. Losing my job was not an ending but the beginning of me chasing my dreams and traveling the world.
Let’s be honest the last nine years haven’t been all croissants, Eiffel towers, and pretty coffees. I have had more speed bump and roadblocks than I would like to admit. My photography, blog, and business are all self-taught and with that, there is a learning curve. You have good days, bad days, and in between days. Luckily for me, I have had great cheerleaders along the way. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without my family and friends cheering me on. Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing even the really tough moments. If I changed anything I might not be in this very spot I am today. My reality has exceeded my dreams in so many ways. There are days I want to pinch myself to see if it is real. I am truly grateful for everything.
When it comes to taking risks it is scary I know. I don’t know if I would have ever taken the leap to start something new or chase my dreams if there wasn’t the extra little push in 2008. Taking risks can land you somewhere bigger and better than you ever imagined.
I can only hope that my story inspires you to chase your dreams and challenge you to discover what you want and go after it with all you have.
Thank you for reading!
A big thank you to Katie Donnelly Photography for the photos.