Justin and I looked at our finances and decided I needed to try and stay with the company, so I jumped through several ridiculous hoops; tried pitching a work-from-home option; I met with my boss and my boss's boss which turned out to be a real bust. (Trying to talk to a business man who hasn't seen less than 6-figures in 20-something years is pretty futile when you have a pregnant belly and he thinks you're easily replaced). After weeks of drawing up work plans and trying to negotiate something - anything - I finally realized it wasn't going to work and I would either take the layoff or I'd be driving 6 hours a day to sit at a desk doing work I didn't really care about.
It came down to Quinlan. Having a baby changes everything. Suddenly I was willing to live in a refrigerator box on West Prospect if it meant I could be home with her every day. It was a new feeling - I didn't think I would want to stay home, I thought I would continue to plow through graduate school and seek promotions at work. Babies change you. They make you vulnerable and soft and leaky. I'd sit in the break room with my humming breastpump and cry. I'd watch videos of her to help my milk come down. I'd sneak out 10 minutes early and refused any work that required me to stay late. I hated it. It was a masculine culture and stashing bags of breastmilk in the community fridge is generally frowned upon.
When Quinlan was two months old, I got my layoff letter in the mail. It had some bullcrap corporate wording about "right-sizing" and how exciting this was for the company. I signed up for unemployment benefits and my income dropped by nearly 70%. I had to go to an unemployment seminar where the conversation included gems like these:
Toothless Guy: What if, like, nobody will hire me? Like, what if my record is a problem? Nobody will hire me 'cause I got a couple felony charges.
Sketchy Guy Wearing Hank Williams T-Shirt: I'm only here 'cause my probation officer signed me up.
Community College Trucking Program Advisor: You can be suh-sess-full driving a truck. If you want to be suh-sess-full, come see me.
The real kicker was the worksheet on up-and-coming jobs - photography was number one in the market for growth. I was already second shooting a few weddings and had done sessions on my own, but I didn't have any of my own weddings booked as lead. What little money I did make paid for groceries or other small bills and we prayed so hard for God to bless and grow my business, to make it a sustainable income for our family.
Meanwhile, I picked up a gig working in the office at an Urgent Care Center. We worked 12-hour shifts which is awesome when you've got people showing you open sores and head lice and a piece of chain wedged into a leg muscle after it shot out of the weed-whacker. I was making barely above minimum wage (even less then when I was on unemployment) and yet somehow, we had what we needed. Manna for the day. Our bills were paid and we had humble meals, but we were doing it. My business was growing - I shot 12 weddings and twice as many portrait sessions. Somewhere along the way, I realized something. What started out as, "I need a job," turned into so, so much more.
Photography fits me. It fits my skills, my talents, my need for creativity and for people, to do work that matters. I do work that matters. It makes people happy and that lights my fire. The things I am good at - communication, writing, serving, creating - photography is all of those things. I never tire of it and I rarely think of it as my job or even as a business (except when I pay my taxes and cry). I am continuously blessed by it - by the response to it, by the people I meet, the fact that I get to make my living doing something so incredible.
I spent many years trying to fit into the corporate office world. I had pencil skirts and awful high-heels. I ate salads for lunch and an apple at 3 p.m. I knew all the buzz phrases like "we're not trying to boil the ocean" and I think I've sat in every conference room on the campus. I didn't get excited about going to Happy Hour, although a cookie tray during an afternoon meeting was always a welcome sight. It just never felt like a good fit and I didn't know why.
But in His always-surprising faithfulness, God knew what I needed. He knew what I would be good at and what would bring value to my life in so many ways. During a time so filled with uncertainty - a new baby, losing my job, making peanuts to pay the bills with nothing leftover - He was building me. He was changing my marriage and shaping our desires and goals. He was building my business into something better than I could've ever asked or imagined.
My last wedding of the year is this Saturday and I've been quietly thinking about this past year and everything He's accomplished for me. For my daughter. For my family. He is good and faithful and True.
I am so, so excited for the upcoming year. I have some personal work planned for the winter months that has me bouncing in my seat. I have Spring weddings on the calendar. Buckle up, sweethearts. You're coming with me.