When I saw the post offering a mini photo session with one of my favorite local photographers appear in my Instagram feed on a Tuesday night, I knew I wanted to do it. That part did not take any talking into. I had seen Ashlee offer this type of service a couple of times before, and I had always been close to pulling the trigger. This time, I knew it was something I wanted to do, and that I should go for it! I emailed her right away. Then I doubted.
When I was a little girl, I was taught that I needed permission before getting up from my desk at school. I raised my hand. If I wanted to play with a friend's toy I'd be met with a, "Did you ask first?" As adults, the power structure isn't so clear, and as with everything else in my twenties, the rules have changed.
When it came to these photos, I was looking for outside validation. Permission. When in fact, there wasn't a need. I could do this because I wanted to. I should do this because I wanted to.
Knowing my values and giving myself authority to prioritize them is an act of self-love. Self-love gives you permission to love yourself exactly as you are.
Permission to listen and follow without guilt for the "what if" consequences. Permission to let go, to get angry, and to forgive.
I'm sharing all of this with a different perspective from when I first drafted this post. I've lost two really important people in my life. One by choice, and one by chance. I'm learning (daily) that life happens. It doesn't stop and wait until you're "ready". It keeps going, whether you are prepared or not. It gets harder than you could ever imagine, but you figure it out with the help of others.
So, I am offering some unsolicited advice. Do the things.
Take the pictures, buy the outfit, do the workout, take the trip, call the friend. Write the letter, keep a blog, and journal about it all. Take a nap. Go on that date. Try the recipe. Go on the trip. Start that hobby. Change your career.
I don't mean do ALL the things. I mean, do all the things that are important to you. The things that you find meaning in. The things that excite you in that comforting way. Don not necessarily do the things that scare you. I believe, that is your body telling you it's not the right choice. If something makes you physically nervous, it is evidence you may be on the wrong road. Make a u-turn and go back to start. Reset and take a new route. Learn, and move on.
Do the things that you have always wanted to do. It will feel amazing.
I know you probably don't feel ready. Get ready. See the therapist or coach or teacher. Save the money. Get the help. Take the steps. Find out how to get prepared and then do it. Take the first step, then the next one. Then maybe a half step back, or a step to the side. Stop for a rest. Ask for help again.
Sometimes you'll walk with a friend. Sometimes you'll walk alone. But start walking. Take breaks along the way. Then walk again. This is not a "go until you can't go anymore, then keep pushing" philosophy. Instead, go until your body says stop, then listen to that voice, that intuition, God, Mother Nature, whatever you want to call it. Learn to speak her language. The only way I've figured out how to do anything is getting quiet, then doing the thing. Quiet then loud.
Let go of the old dream that isn't serving you any longer. Have the courage to create a new one. It is all going to feel really hard at points. That does not mean you are doing it wrong. In fact, it just means you are doing it.
Stop and give yourself permission to rest. Be graceful to yourself and others.
Then give yourself permission to keep going.
All photographs taken by the lovely and kind Ashlee Gadd in the summer of 2016.