I have been thinking a whole lot lately about the fact that I would have almost had a degree by now.
I should have been studying for my final exams of a bachelor's degree.
Had I chosen the path I always imagined myself to take.
But I didn't. It was one big decision followed by many small decisions that accumulated to launch me on a journey my 17 year old self would have never even wanted to consider for my future. If you had told me back in April of 2014, when I had just received my acceptance letters to universities and the scholarship offers I had put far too much of my identity in, that I would end up pursuing a career in art, let alone sans post-secondary education, I would have rejected that quite passionately.
And here I stand, perhaps in the greatest plot twist of my life. Far, far, far from where I thought I would be and incredibly humbled and grateful to be exactly where I am, pursuing what I am pursuing.
Nobody told me I could start a business right out of high school.
Nobody told me that trial and error could be a pretty darn good teacher and that I might learn a thing or two from taking 300 000 photographs.
Nobody told me that shooting one wedding would lead to shooting over 50 weddings.
And yet, opportunities, rose up where I was told they were likely not to be found. I most definitely wouldn't claim my own path to be for everyone, but I would argue it to be the right path for some, for me.
The truth is, it takes four years to build a degree. It has taken me four years to build a business.
It hasn't been and isn't without struggle. I have been on a journey that has left me inspired and empowered, but not without first leaving me discouraged and broken at times. Humbled through and through. I have had to walk through loneliness and feeling misunderstood. So many things have died in me these last few years, by the unfailing grace and love of God: layers of my pride, crippling fear, even my own definition of success. I have had to face all of that, and then let it all go. Let it all go, let it all die, so new things could resurrect. New dreams, new hopes, new confidence, not in work of my hands, but the work of my loving Father deep in my heart once so hardened. And if my business somehow crashed tomorrow, if I had to go for plan B, head back to school, I would not regret a second of what the last four years have taught me, and the stories I have gathered to tell the grand babies one day.
Before I left for New Zealand for 5 months, I had never been on a plane, never left the east coast actually. I don't recognize the girl in my yearbook. Below my grad portrait, I left the quote, "I'm so stressed". As I reflect on that period of my life, I know the anxiety I felt was not because of the school work. Deep within me, there was a relentless tension. I knew there had to be more. I felt like I was suffocating in the walls closing in on me. Furthering my education was the most comfortable decision for me, and well, that was the problem.
I remember an afternoon in July, a couple of weeks after graduation... miraculously, no one in my family of 9 was home. I laid on the living room floor and cried for a very long time. And then I prayed.
I prayed two simple words.
Folks, whoever said "be careful what you pray for" wasn't messing around. Because sometimes the good Lord will answer your prayers. Too much.
He unsettled me alright.
Unsettled me so much that the unthinkable decision to pull a 180 on my life suddenly became the only thing that made sense, in my mind and my heart. So many people told me "if you take a gap year, you'll never go back to school". That's actually what happened. But for reasons I don't feel pressured to defend anymore. I may not have a piece of paper to show you, but for the first time in my life, I feel as though I have nothing, nothing at all, to prove.
Because the most significant thing I have come to learn in this process of building a career from the ground up is this.
What I do, is not who I am.
My identity isn't found in a piece of paper, or lack there of. My worth is not in the success of my business, or lack there of. I don't need to know my title. I just need to know my name. Sarah. The same Sarah who always got in trouble for daydreaming during class in grade 3. The same Sarah who would build shelters out of scrap wood in the backyard. She's still in there. And I intend to take the little I have and build things with my life. I intend to cultivate vision and walk in it. I intend to create work that moves me, and others hopefully. If a degree is needed to accomplish that, I will go to school. If not, I won't. It's as simple as that.
Above all, I hope to never steal the glory I don't deserve. The travelling, my art, the opportunities I have had, even the lifestyle I have cultivated, aren't the substance that has brought freedom and identity. It was from a place of freedom and knowing my identity in Christ, that I found the courage to break out of my own borders. Two months before I graduated high school, I fell in love with Jesus, and my life got messed up. (In the best way possible.) Whether that seems relevant, I have to tell you it is. I've said it before, and I can't leave these words here without saying it again. Jesus is the most beautiful thing I have ever fallen in love with, and everything good in me is because of His grace and love moving in my life. I'm inspired to create because I know I have a Creator. And I hope that my art can be worship like the songs we sing on Sunday mornings. Glory to God.