Saying No

I pulled my laptop out of my bag and set it on the library's table. Then I pulled out a paper that was folded over too many times with names -- photographer's names.

The moment was finally here. My website was finished and my next step needed to happen soon. I glanced over to see the few people sprinkled around the library's 5th floor. I prayed that some kind of amazing e-mail would magically fire out of my fingers as I opened my inbox. Instead, I kept losing focus by watching people around me. Where do I start?

Finally, I picked an e-mail from the list of Arizona photographers I admired and started my message. Debating my words, my tone, and even my own ability -- I completed the message. When it came to wedding photography, I knew that I needed to start making connections and start reaching out to established photographers here. Weddings aren't like children, couples, or individuals. A wedding is a moment that passes without the ability to say "Wait! Do this one more time, but try looking at each other." You can't repeat the first look, the first kiss, the father holding back tears when he lets go of his daughter's hand. It was time for me to introduce myself to this community, put myself out there, and gain even more experience in that particular field.

I held my breath and hit send. Of course, with positive responses came rejection. Swallowing back my insecurity, I realized how hard this was going to be. Because many of the photographers I was contacting were already well-established -- they already had their set of assistants. I knew this ahead of time, but I was hoping that there would be that one. A photographer who I would connect with on a personal level AND would "happen" to be looking for a second shooter and the doors would magically open to the Arizona photography world.

Clearly, that was (and is) not the case. Being new to the city would mean a LOT of patience and faith. Six e-mails later, I shut the laptop and exited the library leaving behind a piece of hope to accompany the pieces of gum that made rainbows under the tables. Tomorrow will be another day...

Waking up with the realization that only *I* could move things forward, I decided to take more pro-active steps. I couldn't just wait on e-mail responses. I joined a photography group at church, I made connections with the families in my small group, and continued to put myself out there. In my mind I wanted the waiting to be over with, but waiting didn't have to feel empty. And then... I received an e-mail about working with a photographer.

This photographer does fashion, wedding, babies, couples .... and does them good. I was excited at the idea of working with this individual, even though it was more of a "testing" than a solid position. After agreeing, I asked what I would be working on and was informed that my tasks would involve marketing and bringing in new business for their photography.

I ignored my hesitation and started typing away a response about my schedule and setting everything up. Umm, hello Alejandra, FINISH this e-mail! I couldn't. I had prayed for God to guide the choices I made, and why was I getting the feeling he was blowing up my phone?! My hypothetical phone, obviously. I realized that I am COMPLETELY okay doing administrative work for a very successful photographer in return for experience and exposure. However, how could I suddenly dedicate my time to growing someone's business when that is exactly what I am trying to do with mine? How could I give up the ties and personal relationships I'm making as a new resident so quickly to someone else?

And I realized.... sometimes an opportunity means saying no. Even to the first one you receive.

I am hungry. Like -- I'm seriously ready to hit the pavement RUNNING. Every opportunity I have received to photograph (here in Phoenix) has been a gift to me. I relish in what I do and getting it in bits and pieces has been like smelling funnel cake at the dentist. I'm craving it and must find discipline in the waiting (and wondering WHERE IS IT?!). However, I can't give up my integrity and forsake my photography for a chance to get more experience -- even if that means being on my own for a little longer.

I finally replied to the e-mail. I managed to get through the words that would solidify my decision to be true to myself and my business. And as I shut this door, I will sit on the doorstep and wait for the next one. Because I have to believe that I will succeed being true to myself, no matter how long I wait for the doors to open.