Your Dash

As some of you know I work full-time as a photographer and graphic designer in addition to recording my thoughts on food, children’s literature, and nutrition here on This Lunch Rox.  One question I’m often asked is “How do you have time to do it all?”.  I see this question posed to a lot of other bloggers/creatives as well and more often than not I see replies that include the word “coffee”. While I do enjoy coffee, unfortunately it doesn’t hold that magical power that allows me to “do it all”. In fact, the reason for this post is to let you in on a little secret…I simply CAN’T do it all!  And my lack of blog posts here over the past few months is proof!

There seems to me to be a universal delusion about what life is like behind the scenes for many bloggers, photographers, writers, crafters, etc… I’m sure this has something to do with onslaught of social media where we are bombarded with what seems like a cloud of awesomeness. Whether it’s Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, you name it…there’s always people out there seemingly doing more and being more than many of us could ever hope to do and/or be. Sadly, I think that when people compare their lives to what they see on-line they somehow think they are inadequate or falling behind.

When I first started my business eight years ago I’ll be the first to admit I fell into believing this. (Keep in mind this was before Pinterest and Instagram were around…I can only imagine the kind of pressure I would have put on myself then!) As my business grew and my kids grew I felt a constant pressure to do more, more, more. I watched some friends in my industry achieving astonishing success, traveling, speaking, parenting…it appeared as though they had it all and they looked fabulous doing it to boot. At the time this seemed like it would be a glamourous lifestyle and something to chase after.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that trying to do it all was nothing short of impossible and left me feeling miserable not to mention exhausted. Just as I started to discover what all I would need to sacrifice in order to become that successful photographer so many people dream of being our pastor gave a sermon titled “What Are You Going to Do with Your Dash” He explained that when you die your tombstone will be marked with the year you were born and the year you die. Those two years will be separated by a dash. This dash represents your life and everything you chose to do with it. Hearing that message made me realize that we only get one chance here…one life. It forced me to STOP the insanity of trying to achieve more and do more.

I took time to reflect on what I wanted I wanted my dash to be about and came up with some themes.

- Be present and involved with my kids

- Help my children develop a passion for learning

- Live a healthy lifestyle

- Preserve and document family memories for myself and others

- Continue learning through books, classes, etc…

- Traveling with my family

- Develop authentic relationships

- Make time for creative projects

When you read that list maybe you’ll understand that This Lunch Rox allows me to have a creative project, or why I’m constantly talking about books on my personal Facebook page, or why I write so many blog posts about children’s literature, etc… Having said that, in order to give those things top priority I’ve had to make difficult decisions over the years. It means that I’m unable to do things I wish I had the time to do:

- Finding more time to spend with friends

- Writing

- Spending more time volunteering at school

- Teaching

- Taking on more clients

- Developing a more rigorous exercise regimen

So, I guess to answer the question “How do you it all” …I would say that I don’t and I’m sort of proud of that. It means that I’ve learned to say no. I’ve learned that in order for me to focus on what I consider to be my top priorities I’ve had to acknowledge the fact that I simply can’t do it all and that’s ok! Sometimes I wish I had time to do the fun, craft projects I’ve found on Pinterest. I wish I had time to host more dinner parties. I wish I had more time to do lunch and go on fun day trips with my friends. The reality is that in this season of my life I simply have to prioritize. Maybe someday I can make time for those things, but for now they are on the back burner.

If you’re finding yourself feeling overwhelmed or wishing you had more time to do the things you want to do I would encourage you to stop and write down a list of your top priorities. Then as you map out your everyday to-do lists stop and ask yourself if you’re saying yes to things that will help you live your dash the way you intended.

When I stumbled across this passage in the book, A Reading Promise, it really struck a cord with me. In this industry especially, I think it’s very easy to get caught up in a competitive game that nobody will win. As photographers we can spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting our craft and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just remember that this is a journey, not a race. We have one life and it’s up to you how you’ll spend it!

Having said that, I’m gearing up for another school year with my boys which means new blog posts are just around the corner!  Stay tuned!

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9 Responses to Your Dash

  1. That passage really struck a chord with me, too. Wow! I need to start prioritizing better. I feel that I work so hard to make sure my girls have a great life but at the end of the day, my undivided attention really is way more important. I know that, but definitely need to work on it. Thanks so much for posting and I really look forward to your food posts. =)

  2. Dawn Marie says:

    This is a great post with many similar thoughts I share. Thank you for the new perspective!!

  3. I love this! Such a good reminder and it’s always refreshing to hear that we DON’T have to do it all to actually HAVE “it all”. :)

  4. Jen says:

    Love this post, and I find myself with a striking similar list for my “dash” and for what gets left off the list. I’m going to try to make it a priority to be mindful of my priorities and not just let the days (months, years, …) fly by without making distinct choices of what my dash will contain. Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  5. Suzanne says:

    Great post! I’m looking forward to your future posts. You always have such good ideas. I really enjoy your blog. :)

  6. Danielle says:

    This is a great reminder to everyone to evaluate what is really important in life for them. It is interesting to see how with social media, everyone views one another’s life. Whether they look from afar in envy or awe, or squint their eyes in jealousy or judgement.

    I find that more often than not, I get backhanded compliments on my creative projects, such as “It must be nice to have all that time on your hands.” or “If I had that kind of time, maybe I could do that as well.” This upsets me, because we all have 24 hours in a day. It is how we choose to spend that time, that is going to shape our lives. Instead of things like going to the bar on a Friday night, I prefer to spend my time crafting and sewing. I have a full time job as well as a side photography business, so it isn’t as if I am sitting at home all day, every day. Again, we all have 24 hours in a day and WE get to choose how we spend it… :)

  7. Di says:

    I really missed your inspiring posts. As a new mum myself, the way you look after your kids resonates with me. Looking forward to more posts! :)

  8. Angie says:

    Thanks for writing this it came to me at the perfect time. I work full time and I’m finishing my BA & I feel I need to prioritize. I’m trying to minimalise my life by getting rid of junk, not getting in debt, and making my family a priority.

  9. Susanne says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! It’s exactly what I needed to hear. Our kids are only young for such a short time and it’s hard not to get caught up in the race…

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