One evening, I told a family member that some day I would be a professional photographer. She smiled, nodded, and then reminded me that I have a great, reliable career lined up for me in technology; her way of saying I should simply be grateful for what I have and stop entertaining daydreams. After she finished her thought it was then my turn to smile, nod and reiterate the fact that one day I would be a professional photographer; I meant what I said. The reiteration, however, had no effect on her and we went back and forth in a fierce, yet fruitless, metaphorical ping pong match before the more stubborn of us had the last word.

Many years have passed since then and to be honest they have passed with varying amounts of passion about becoming a professional photographer. The disagreement with my family member illustrates two different ways of thinking about how to approach pursuing your dreams. These two camps of thought have been fighting for the high ground in my mind since then and it is these camps of thought that I hold responsible for the ebb and flow of my passion. I call these camps the “Be Responsible” and “Go For It” camps.

These camps can be described by the following points:

Be Responsible

  • “None of your family/friends does what they love. Why do you feel entitled to a career that you love?”
  • “The photography market is saturated. What makes you think you are better/smarter than other failed photographers?”
  • “No one wants to work in an office all day. You’re just looking for the easy way out.”
  • “You just want to pursue photography because it is simply an alternative to what you’re doing now. The grass is always greener.”

GO FOR IT

  • “You won’t be happy until you’re doing something you love.”
  • “Why waste your life doing something you don’t love?”
  • “Only when you are fully invested with no backup plans will you be driven enough to succeed.”

Any of these sound familiar?

Through reading books and discussions with others (and maybe a little common sense) I’ve come to realize that although these thoughts feel unique to me in the moment, they are actually widespread and quite common place. Many of us are looking for something better, but the actions of pursuing such happiness feels irresponsible or risky.

When it comes down to it, I’m looking for something better, but I’m not ready to pick a side and so I have chosen to keep one foot in each camp. Like so many other people, I don’t have the necessary risk aversion to quit my job and live out of my car until I make it, but I also am not willing to give up the dream of doing what I love. So I compromise; a compromise that both camps would probably frown upon, but a compromise that works for me.

This March I will be taking a six month leave of absence from work.

During that time, I will be doing the following things:

  • Traveling
  • Photographing landscapes
  • Documenting my experiences
  • Selling my work
  • Spending time with family

And when the six months are over, I’ll have had six months to pursue my dream and my consulting job will be waiting to take me back.

My hope is that over the course of the six months my experiences will provide me with new insights into how to pursue my dreams and how to move forward.

I don’t know what that looks like now, but I’m excited to find out.