January 14, 2013. I was 20 years old. It was a Monday. In a few days, I would turn 21, but that was nothing special to me. 21. So what? To me, it was just another birthday to worry about. At that time, I didn’t believe that people would be all that interested in coming to a celebration of… well… me. I’m not even exactly sure when it started, but for the vast majority of my life up to that point, I’d struggled to feel… adequate. Despite the love of a fantastic family, my soul was constantly searching for something. Maybe validation? Or maybe it was just a desire within myself to feel like I belonged. Either way, that was me. Five years ago today. A time that seems so incredibly close it’s unbelievable.
Looking back on that version of me, it’s incredible to ponder who I’ve become. Where then I had almost no real goals in life, today I am aggressively pushing forward with more goals than I know what to do with! I am the owner of a growing photography business that I am proud to be a part of. I am an aspiring Physician Assistant who is on track to be working in medicine by the time I’m 30. I dream of starting a family with a woman that I know is SOMEWHERE out there. 😉 I am an overall confident individual, and considering my past, this is a miracle in itself! Five years ago I would have never had the confidence to photograph someone’s wedding. Never. Ever ever ever! Five years ago if someone told me I would actually pursue a career in medicine (I wanted to do it all through college), I would probably have told them they were nuts! Today though, less than a week from turning 26, I can say with the utmost confidence that I am the best version of me that has ever existed, and I am excited to be breathing. This next year, as is true with every year, is a fresh start at life.
But it was only because of who I was at 20 that I can write these words! That me. That sad, ridiculously self-conscious individual who just wanted to have normal friendships like everybody else! That was the guy who spent hours alone working to perfect my art. He put in the time then when art was all he had. He worked so that once I developed my social skills, his effort might equip me to do what I am doing now.
And so, today I’d like to share a little bit of how I got here. Throughout this whole process, I have learned ONE MAIN LESSON that has driven me closer and closer towards the man I want to be and it is this: If you want to see dramatic change in your life, you have to start with dramatic change within yourself. When I was a Freshman in college (2010), I was unbelievably awkward… Like, scared to talk to sorority girls awkward (find that story HERE). But I knew that it didn’t have to be that way! I KNEW that if I worked on myself, I could get past my social anxiety to have the close relationships that people around me seemed to be having so naturally. And so, for these past eight years, I have been working on that. I’ve been believing.
I give that to you. If you want to do something. Whether that be learning how to start a business or equally as important, discovering how to not be super awkward all the time, you must do 2 things.
1. Believe that you ARE CAPABLE of growth. BELIEVE! I am a living example that if that social awkwardness can be, if not completely tamed, it at least can be reduced. Don’t get me wrong. I am still VERY much an introvert at heart who would rather read the dictionary than go to a loud party (not even kidding). But, if someone put me in a party tonight, I don’t think I’d flee quite as quickly as I used to! =) #babysteps
2. If you want to see change in your life (whether that be in a job or a relationship or pretty much any situation), it will first require you changing yourself. To become how I am, I STUDIED people to see how a normal conversation worked. I decided that to be the man I wanted to be, I had to learn how, and then WORK to develop the necessary skills. Then, when I wanted to start a business, I read. In the past two years, I have read somewhere around 20 to 30 business books. I have taken photography classes. I have found mentors who could help me. I decided to become better.
Even as I sit here and write this it is hard for me to believe that that really was me! Just a short five years ago. It’s a version of me that now I would scarcely recognize. And I’m not special (not that developing conversation skills really counts as a monumental development). But the point is, whether you’re an awkward kid or an aspiring musician, or a hopeful mother, or a surgeon, or all the above, our dreams start becoming reality when we decide to move towards them. When we truly believe that no matter what, we can become better. Because even if we don’t reach a goal we set out to achieve, at the very least we will become a better person through the journey.
When I turned 21, I didn’t want to have a birthday party, because I was afraid to speak to the people who came. But in three days when I turn 26, I plan to invite over everyone I love, and I plan to make one massive pot of chili (right after I figure out how to make chili). I’d say that’s five years of development well spent.