Being realistic can hold us back

Our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The idea of “being realistic” holds all of us back. From starting a business or quitting a job to dating someone who may not be our type or moving to a new place – getting “real” often means putting your dreams on hold.

Today, let’s take a step away from rational thought and dare to be bold. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to accomplish but have been afraid to pursue? Write it down. Also write down the obstacles in your way of reaching your goal. Finally, write down a tangible plan to overcome each obstacle.

When I was younger I enjoyed being a free-thinker, being creative and having fun. All of these things were shunned. I recall teachers in grade school criticizing me saying, “You need to color inside the lines.” When I decided I wanted to attend a fine arts college in California, my father looked at me and said, “That’s fine but how will you earn a living once you graduate? How will you pay your bills?” I didn’t know it at the time but his comments were based in his own fears. I decided I “couldn’t” step away from the rational.

None of these things mattered to me. Like most teens it is difficult to see the future but easy to see my parent’s fears. I responded to my dad’s query but looking at him in disbelief I paused and said, “Don’t worry about it. I’m not. I’ll worry about it after I graduate.” My parent’s fears won out and I decided on a safer career in social work. Over the years I have worked hard to prove social work can also be an art form. I mostly shunned the scientific side and embraced social work as a career.

Years later I dug into a box and fished out an old film camera. I dusted off the camera, a couple of lenses and drove to the drug store to purchase a roll of film. I loaded the film and began taking photographs again. The feeling of being creative, of seeing things through a different “eye” had returned.

Photography had been a very serious hobby of mine. It was serious enough in my teens that I pooled the money necessary and purchased the equipment to equip a darkroom.

Several years later I was contacted by the daughter of a family friend who had recently become engaged asked me to photograph her wedding. I hesitated briefly, my thoughts returning and lingering to the discussion I had with my dad many years before. I respectfully declined the request.

I returned home and sat outside. My thoughts fought between the desire to work for myself and use my artistic abilities and my dad’s voice asking “How I am going to support my family?” The amount of fear I felt was incredible and difficult to measure. I wanted this more than anything in the world but my fear kept my feet solidly in place as if they were encased in blocks of concrete. These thoughts, this thought process propelled me forward. I began to think about my father’s fears and his unrealized dreams. My thoughts drifted to the unrealized dreams of others. I didn’t want to be a casualty of this and other fears. I called the couple and said, “Yes. I’ll do it.” I have begun my third year in business as a part-time wedding and portrait photographer.

Fear remains a companion. Our talks together are few and far between and they now are a call to action instead of immobilizing me and keeping me from realizing my full potential.

My dad is still alive and well and when he sees my work he tells me how proud he is of me. I think he also would like to own a small measure of my success.

I thank him often for keeping me from attending that college in California. I could sit back and angrily hold on to the thoughts and feelings which I had at that time but those thoughts would ultimately prove to be destructful for both of us. I would much rather expend the energy I have building my business and thanking him for all of the other wonderful direction he had given me throughout my life. My dad can experience his success vicariously through me and with that I am alright.



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