"I bet my life on you." *
Music has been an essential part of my life for as long as I can remember: I don't start driving without choosing a song, I immediately turn on a playlist when I get home, I live for seeing live shows. There are certain songs and records that define each and every period of my life. For the past 6.5 years - since I left home and set off on the journey towards "adulthood" or whatever this is - Imagine Dragons (the band) has provided me with the majority of these tracks. I could discuss them for days, but the best of them all that literally gave me the defining moment to move forward into a new phase of my life is "Bet My Life" off their sophomore album Smoke and Mirrors.
"I know I took the path that you would never want for me,
I know I let you down, didn't I.
So many sleepless nights where you were waiting up on me,
But I'm just a slave unto the night.
Now remember when I told you that's the last you'll see of me,
Remember when I broke you down to tears.
I know I took the path that you would never want for me,
I gave you hell through all the years."
Man, that intro hits home. A couple misjudgments of character in the very first few days of college turned into years' worth of pain, emotional trauma and more poor decisions that destroyed my sense of self-worth. Seemingly overnight, I became a different person that the "me" of my first 18 years of life wouldn't recognize. When I hear those first two verses, I always imagine this darker self, fighting to crawl out of that pit, writing a letter to her truer self - that soul part of your person that never truly changes - apologizing for all of the hurt.
"I've been around the world and never in my wildest dreams
Would I come running home to you.
I've told a million lies but now I tell a single truth
There's you in everything I do."
Through the toxic relationships of college (both romantic and otherwise) and more toxic relationships afterward (in business and in love), I never thought I'd be able to get off that destructive track; once you get on that train, it just keeps going. I gave up daydreaming about traveling the world or running my company. I gave up enjoying spending time with friends. I gave up being happy. Even though I so desperately wanted to do and be those things that were a part of my core being.
I heard this song driving home after spending the day contemplating my past decisions and current trajectory. I realized that I'd made those poor decisions because I didn't value myself. Because of things I'd been told, things that others had done and things I'd done myself, I didn't think I was worth the effort of changing paths. But I was, of course I was. And I could see that even in those mistakes, the inherent parts of me that wanted to love and live to the fullest were still there, even if rather misguided.
"Don't tell me that I'm wrong
I've walked that road before
And left you on your own.
And please believe them when they say
That it's left me yesterday
And the records that I play
Please forgive me for all I've done."
I see this whole song as a sort of internal conversation, the part of myself trying to come out of the darkness talking to the past and future selves in the light. It's both an apology and a love letter, a plea and an oath.
Self love comes in many forms, but for me it started with ending those toxic relationships. Some of them had retreated onto to my memory, so this required therapy - I've been going to hourly sessions once a week for 7 months. I've manifested self love in my business: chasing after my dreams again, taking classes (thank you, Mountain Bizworks!) to better understand my business and the business world as a whole, and especially honing in on the areas of my work that combine my skills, my enjoyment and my ability to help people. I take the more colloquial version of self-love by actually taking days (or at least half days) off to not only give myself rest, but build and enjoy relationships outside of work.
"So I, I bet my life
I bet my life, I bet my life on you"
And finally, I did this photoshoot with Cat Ford-Coates of Studio 828 so that I could visualize the strong, self-valuing person that I'm striving to become. My very favorite thing about portrait photography is this ability to see someone for who they are and capture that so that they can see it for themselves (often with happy tear-inducing results) and Cat certainly did that for me. It was a transformative experience.
The funny thing about self-love is that it's not at all this selfish way of putting your importance over others', the way I used to think. Once I began practicing it, I became kinder, friendlier, more genuine and encouraging. I WANTED to donate my time or money, to talk friends through problems, to edit a clients' editing session late into the night so she could see how badass she as soon as possible. When you value yourself, you also see the value in others better than ever before.
So, that is my goal for each and every one of my clients from engaged/married couples to business owners to parents/families to individuals: capturing each person or couple's heart and soul so that when they see their photos they realize their own value and beauty and strength (read: badassness). Once you realize that, you can change the world, even if its just your own small piece of it.
"I bet my life on you."
*Imagine Dragons. Smoke and Mirrors. Interscope Records, 2015. CD.
Yes, I still buy and listen to CDs.