Well, hello again! Welcome back to the 7 Years series. So, I faked the ending there in 2012. It had been my intention to finish with this year but, I don't know, it felt kind of pretentious to recap a year that's still in progress. So I cut it short and tied it up with a nice, pretty ribbon bow. But, I gave it some more thought and it just didn't feel complete. Because 2013 really has been an important year for me.

Besides being a brilliant, vibrant year filled with wonderful weddings and genuine clients, it's the first year since 2010 I didn't fly overseas for a job. I photographed in nine different states while traveling to Minnesota every other month to see my boyfriend (and where I'm writing from right now). I took nearly every inquiry I received and completely maxed out my schedule. It's been insanely busy but incredibly rewarding.

2013 is the first year I realized I needed to seriously consider my future and not use my business as an excuse to play it safe. It's funny, when all this started my business was the thing that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Now it's where I feel safest. While I was in college I had to shoot as much as possible to pay the bills. But now I have the freedom to really think about what I want to do next. What if I don't live in Maryland next year? What if I have to start from the ground up again in a new state? What if I decide to go in a different direction with my photography altogether? Unlike the material in my previous posts, these are questions I still haven't answered. I don't have a conclusion to Part VIII because Part VIII is still unfolding.

It's scary to dream big after years of getting grounded and comfy in something I worked so hard to create. I love my business, I love my clients, and I love my life. But I'm not sure "living comfortably" is really something I believe in. At what point does living comfortably become living complacently? Maybe I'm different from others, but the more time I spend perfecting one area of my life, the less compelled I feel to challenge the other areas. And I don't just mean "dreaming big" in a weird subjective, pinning inspirational quotes on Pinterest way. I mean going back to school or volunteering at a non-profit and letting my heart and mind expand. I mean befriending more strangers, asking more questions, loving me less and loving God and others more. I have 65-ish years left on this earth if I'm lucky. To hell with my safe, comfortable world. Where can I go, how can I grow, who can I help, what else can I do to make the rest of my 65 years the best I can?

I'm not going to pretend I know how this works. I'm still figuring it all out. But I wanted to take a moment and write it all down in case there's someone out there in a similar place. If that's you, know you have a buddy right here. I'm writing this post as much for me as for you. I'll probably have to come back and re-read this again and again to get up the courage to try new things. It's hard to stick your neck out there and run the risk of getting burned. But I've been given too many opportunities to hold my prized possessions to my chest and do the easy thing. I need to keep challenging myself.

I've found this amazing tool in photography and I know there are other ways I can use it. Right now that's weddings but I know the future holds more. I don't know when that will be or if I'll even have the courage to do it, but I do know that I want to. I've been immensely blessed with 7 years of the funnest job ever. So, whatever the future holds, I know from experience I don't have to know what I'm doing at the start. I just have to want it, work at it, and water it. And then, in time, watch it grow.

So, my dears friends and followers, I hope you'll stick around to see what I do next. Fear not, I'm not quitting weddings yet! I still enjoy them and I'm very much looking forward to next year's clients. But I want to broaden my horizons in 2014. And I hope you will too. I hope you'll challenge yourself to try something new, maybe something you've always wanted to do but haven't had the guts to try yet. I hope you push the envelope, face your fears, and change the world for the better. It's really humbling to realize we've only been given one life. Let's make it count. You with me?

All the loveliest love there is,