career life list photos

Life List: Do Something I Love for a Living – Check!

When I was in high school, my dad once said to me, “You won’t need much by way of college, really. You’ll just get married.”

Right? That statement still runs through my brain sometimes and blows my mind.

Believe it or not, though, I lived with some watered-down, only slightly-more-liberated version of this vision of my life until a couple of years ago. I pursued things, but it was always until my “real life” of baby-having and mothering started. It’s been on my Life List for years, though, so in the back of my mind somewhere, I must have always known there was more in the cards for me.

Today, the “aw shucks” quiver has left my voice when I tell people “I’m a photographer”, but I still lay awake some nights staring into the darkness, wondering how life is supposed to go now that, for the first time, I’m totally independent of anyone else to support me.

What if I fuck up?

Yesterday I met a new client who lives in the neighborhood and needs help on a cool project. We met in my studio and talked for a while, but didn’t take any shots so I refused to let her pay me.

“I’ll buy you a drink then!” she said, so we went around the corner to talk some more, which turned into two drinks, girl talk, and a new neighborhood friend.

Two drinks at 3 pm left me a bit tipsy, and when I got home, I started fussing about my life to Gavin via IM, trying to figure out when I’ve “made it” and could cross this off my Life List. This is what he said to me, and (when I sobered up and read it again) I felt so at ease with where I am right now:

You can cross it off right now
Because you ARE doing something you love for a living
If you always chase some phantom idea of “better”, you’ll never be present and happy
You have a lot to be present and happy about.
You live in one of the greatest cities in the world and you are surrounded by cool people who inspire you and you get to do something awesome for a living, and you get better at it every single day.
You’ve already made it, Amber. Enjoy where it takes you, don’t obsess over where that “where” is.

Gavin, you’re the best, and I owe you a huge hug. (When I asked if I could quote him, he said yes, as long as I made him sound “wise and shit”.)

There are pockets of “But wait! I want to do this, this and THIS with my career, too!” in my life, but I suspect that they’re always going to be there in some form to keep me motivated (Related: will someone PLEASE elope to Paris and have me photograph it?!).

A look back to where I started shows I’ve come pretty far, though. People trust me. They trust me with their sweetest memories, they write me checks before seeing my final product, and they count on me to not make them feel foolish in front of the camera. It’s extraordinary and humbling, scary and wonderful… and it’s paying my rent.

I’m doing something I love for a living! Kermit Arm Flail!


  1. nikkiana

    5 October 2012 at 12:20 am

    Congratulations on another life list item checked off! I’m so happy every time I see your photos pop up in my feed reader. I hope to aspire to the same level of satisfaction in what I’m doing with my life.

    I’ve only just been beginning to realize how being told “You won’t need much by way of college, really. You’ll just get married.” when I was high school age really molded and shaped the greater part of my 20s… It’s only been within the last two years or so when I’ve begun to shake the hold that sentiment had on my life… On the positive, I suppose buying into that lie is what sent me to community college instead of a university and consequently saved me from the mountain of student loan debt that most everyone else my age has… but it didn’t save me from believing that I had to get married and have children to be considered a “real adult”. I still haven’t quite found the thing I love to do, but I’m working on it… Baby steps.

    Ugh! I know that “real adult” feeling so well. Once I was shopping with a friend my age from the same community I was raised in. We went into a fancy store and she remarked, “Well, YOU shouldn’t feel self-conscious; you’re wearing a wedding ring!”

  2. Cindy

    5 October 2012 at 9:00 am

    I took my brother and sister-in-law to the WWI memorial here recently. It’s the best view of KC skyline. It was evening and the sun was setting. As we walked up I saw this woman with a camera hiding behind one of the statues and when I looked over a ways I say a couple. I knew exactly what was going to happen because of your story. We congratulated the couple at the end.

    You are going to make it (after allll…fling hat). You are making it. You are a photographer. And Gavin is a wise MoFo.

  3. margosita

    5 October 2012 at 9:48 am

    Hip hip hooray!

    I think the best things in life and the biggest goals sort of sneak up on you. For a long time you’re afraid and then one day you have a conversation or spend an afternoon doing something you’ve done a dozen times before and it hits you. I feel like when I was twenty-three and twenty-five I’d spend a lot of time thinking about being an adult and when I’d actually get to feel like one or call myself one and then sometime last year, walking past some college kids I realized: That’s not me anymore. It’s really not!

    And you, girl, really ARE a photographer! It’s natural and obvious to me, and I’m so happy that it’s finally that way for you, too. 🙂

  4. Elly

    5 October 2012 at 11:50 am

    High five, lady! This is a big one to check of your list, and it’s awesome that you’ve done so! I think your friend Gavin is pretty smart – it’d be easy to keep looking towards the next brilliant thing you want to do to be ‘better’, but taking the time to acknowledge the awesome place you’re in now? Much harder, and that much sweeter when you do realise how far you’ve come. Good job, hey! 🙂

  5. Katie Jane

    5 October 2012 at 3:31 pm

    That second photograph down – the maternity shot – WOW. Just… wow. I love it.

    Your friend Gavin got it right. You are doing this thing for real, right now. And I, for one, can’t wait to see where this path leads you.

  6. Mary Leavines

    6 October 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Your photography is beautiful, Amber! And I can’t tell you how much of an inspiration you are. Really. You’re kind of awesome. 😀 Best of luck to you always!

  7. Laurie

    7 October 2012 at 1:00 am

    For what it’s worth, you are one of the people who makes me feel like I can do this, too — make my living in words and pictures. I’m so happy that you can acknowledge what you’ve accomplished to yourself. Sometimes I think that’s the most important milestone amid all of this.

    Really? It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we just start doing the thing, and when we have to hustle. I am high-fiving you from DC. You are doing it. It’s so cool.

  8. Kizz

    9 October 2012 at 12:31 pm

    This is an awesome check on the life list. I love that you finally let yourself declare it.

  9. ChrisCavs

    18 November 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Man, I wish I could figure out what I want to do with my life so I could just *be* doing it. I thought I knew once. But, at least I’m happy *where* I am.

    So I’m super happy that you’ve found your bliss, Amber. WOOO!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.