Turning 23 isn’t particularly a cool age but it isn’t exactly a bad one either. The best way I can describe your early 20s is this - being old enough to adopt a puppy on your own but being disciplined enough to know that maybe right now isn’t the best time for a puppy.
Exactly a year ago I was turning 22 AND I was graduating from college with my bachelor’s degree. I remember when I walked into that auditorium to sit down for graduation, they handed each of us a survey about our experience at college. One of the questions asked us to check a box about what we were doing once we walked across that stage - the options were “returning for a masters, currently employed with a job in my degree, currently employed with a job outside of my degree, military, internship/research, or unemployed.”
I spent the last four years living and breathing medicine. I took 18 credits every semester, summer classes, paid jobs along with an unpaid internship so I could apply for medical school, clubs, extracurriculars, etc. I was denied both years. Devastated, the only option I had to check was “unemployed.” I felt terrified. I didn’t know what was waiting for me after I was handed my diploma except for a lot of bills and “adulthood”, whatever that meant.
The eight hour drive home I made a list in the notes app on my phone of all of the future bills I needed to prepare for and all of the goals I had. I made a list of ways I could achieve some of these things and possible career paths I could follow with my degree (My degree is in Biology + Physiology, so it is a pretty narrow path).
There is practically nothing I am more passionate about in life than photography, it’s been that way since I was 13. I was originally going to book a few shoots for a temporary income but something strong kept drawing me to pursue this, full time. I was always taught that I could never do this full-time, that art could never pay bills. By the end of that month I met with lawyers, insurance agents, accountants and officially opened athornsphoto, LLC. I had to, I had booked so much for 2017 within 3 short weeks of me being home that I legally had to become a business. That’s when I knew.
In the last 365 days I have chased dreams I never thought I could have - I moved home, I got a car, I bought my (finally not dorm-sized) bed, was able to pay all of my bills each month (there were a lot adding up fast, shoutout to growing up), I was able to fly out and see my Dad for the first time in 3 years, I bought my dream camera, I was able to photograph 40 weddings, 120+ portrait sessions, a live birth, a Chicago wedding, all of my favorite musicians, work for Little Caesars Arena, I started a blog and I sold so many prints of my work that I could pay off my car… there was so much.
Despite all of the tangible accomplishments, I was able to meet SO many people and pour into their lives as they poured into mine. I was able to capture some of the most intimate moments of people's lives. I woke up every. single. day. excited to create, to photograph somebody, to edit. 90% of the negative emotions I used to feel everyday TRYING to be something I wasn’t, disappeared. For the first time, I felt confident and proud of myself.
The point of this post isn’t to brag.. at all. I wish you guys could see the notes section on my phone now, there is still A LOT to do. The point of this is to encourage you, no matter what age you are at. Life is terrifying, more than ever with the constant comparison of social media. I think that the ONE thing that kept me going was faith. I had faith, sometimes the size of a very tiny mustard seed, that I didn’t come this far to only come this far. I knew that I was meant for something big and something that surpassed anything I originally had planned. God’s plan for me was bigger than my plan for myself.
I encourage you guys to not dwell so much on today, not to dwell on mistakes of the past, not to worry about the future. Take it minute by minute, age by age, and keep the faith. Believe in YOURSELF, believe that you ARE meant for something big. Let go. That’s huge. Let go of what you know, let go of the need for control. Go with the flow and let doors close & open as they should. Whether you use that advice for your love life, your career path, your family planning.. I believe it applies to all.
I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what the future holds for me. This photo business is the coolest thing I’ve ever done & I dream it is what I do for the rest of my life - but who knows! I might only have the opportunity to do it until I’m 27, I might have to go down to part-time, I might end up back in medicine. I truly have no idea but I have faith wherever I end up is where I’m called to be, to help others.
As for today, I am happy. I believe that I am where I am meant to be. I’m 23.