“Go to school to get a job so you can make a lot of money,”
Isn’t that what is constantly preached to us when we’re younger? It’s drilled into our heads like our lives depend on it, like money is all that life is about. So I did just that. I went to school, got a job as a Photographer Sales Associate on the strip in Las Vegas, & started making some pretty big bucks.
I was enjoying it, from meeting people from all over the world, to just making a lot of money in general- I was on top of the world. My schedule went like this: Get ready at 3 PM, leave for work around 4:30 PM, get off around midnight, get home & wind down around 12:30 AM, finally fall asleep around 2 AM (if I was lucky) & wake up at noon or one. Repeat.
As a photographer in my own time, it didn’t leave me near enough time to have sessions with clients in my in-between time without being rushed. If I decided to wake up earlier, I would end up completely exhausted at work. Also, my work schedule changed weekly. I never knew what days I would have off, & that was a huge problem when I couldn’t book with clients until the week of.
“It’s all good though!” I told myself. When my boyfriend & I were lucky enough to get one or two of the same days off, we would go exploring & taking pictures on our own. I was still managing to do what I loved on my days off of work, while making a lot of money at the job, so I was happy.
Come September, I found my planner that I had accidentally abandoned since I got this job. I had religiously wrote in planners for two years straight, keeping them full of projects, organizing sessions with clients, & time for friends & family. I flipped through January, February, & March. Every month was jam packed of fun stuff. Along with working at my old job, I counted fifteen photoshoots, several lunch dates with loved ones, two trips out of town, & two different photography events (A huge exclusive convention, & the grand opening of a new studio)
I flipped to June when I was at my new job, & my heart sank. “Work” was basically the only thing I scribbled down in the whole month. July wasn’t much different except that I wrote in it even less, & August was the worst. I only wrote “work” a few times, & when my pay days were. What am I doing with my life? I asked myself looking through it. Without even realizing it, I was losing myself more & more the longer I stayed with that job.
Was this what my life had come to? Just looking forward to working for someone else & getting paid? What about all of the fun photography gigs I used to have? Having time to fully run my own business? Having energy to write in my journals everyday? I then thought about my friends & family who I didn’t get to see much either. Most of them worked during the days, & with me working at nights, our schedules completely collided. I reminded myself that I was moving across the country soon, & knew I would regret if I didn’t have the time to see all of my loved ones.
Just days before I found that planner & began contemplating the job, I posted a photo & ended the caption with, “I encourage everyone reading this to follow your dreams as well!! YOU get to choose how you live this life! Not everyone who tells you that you can’t!!” Was this really my dream though? Yes it was fun, & I was content, but was it my dream? Choosing to make a lot of money, over spending time with people I cared about while I still could? Choosing tourism photography, where I couldn’t express my true artistic side, over creating my own art? It wasn’t my dream.
I put in my notice, because my loved ones, & my passions mattered more to me than some job. Even if I was getting paid really well. It was more important to me to have the time to spend with the people I cared about before I moved so far. I already missed them & hadn’t even left yet; I was so glad I checked my values before it was too late.
Except, it was almost too late. It was my last day of work, & I had just clocked out at exactly 10 PM on October 1st, 2017. I was feeling like a free woman; beyond excited to have more time to see all of my loved ones. I was saying goodbye to all of my friends I had made on the job, when my world flipped upside-down. Within minutes of me clocking out, we were alerted of a shooter at the Mandalay Bay. We were just a few casinos down, & put on lockdown. My manager & I were in our lab with the doors locked, watching the horror unfold on our phones.
People were posting that there were “confirmed shooters” in multiple casinos, possible bombs on the strip, & people being held hostage. My mind was going a million miles an hour, when I heard workers in the hallway yell, “People are running!” I heard everyone start yelling, & sprinting away. I will spare you of some traumatizing details, & skip to an hour into our lockdown. I started trying to send out, “I love you,” messages to loved ones, but didn’t have service for the texts to go through, & I began to get angry.
I quickly grew to be absolutely infuriated. It was my last day working on the strip, because I decided the people I cared about meant more to me than some job. I wanted to spend more time with friends & family, & now I wouldn’t even get that. I wouldn’t get to see my loved ones again, because I was at this job, when I should have been home where I was safe. Where I knew I was supposed to be. Where I knew I had planned to be most nights for the rest of my time in Vegas. & I was so close, too; just one day away from the freedom to see my loved ones more. I was so sure it was no longer in reach, not with how the night was going. I was angry. I was so angry.
A few hours of the anger, confusion, & fear later, security finally told us to leave with caution, & we made it off of the strip. Any doubt I had in my mind about choosing to make time for loved ones over my job, was quickly alleviated that night. It just confirmed that I made the right choice. It reminded me what was truly important to me, & it wasn’t money. The money didn’t even come close to comparing to spending precious moments with people I cared about.
The rest of my time living in Las Vegas was spent surrounded by loved ones, something I needed. Something I wouldn’t have had the time to do if I stayed with the job that left me with a conflicting schedule. Our whole community was reminded what friendship was after that eye opening night, & how important it was to always have time for people that we love.
So, if you find yourself reading this, even if you’re perfectly happy & content with your life, I challenge you to take a step back. Are you staying true to yourself? Are you making enough time for the things that you truly value? What matters the most to you? Don’t be afraid to adjust your life to focus on your most important values. & if you love someone, whether it be loving a friend like they’re your family, or loving someone like a lover, tell them. & make more time for them. Because you don’t want to be like me the night of October 1st. Huddled into a dark corner, regretting that you didn’t do it sooner.
If you enjoyed this post & would like to read more of my work in the future, on the top righthand side of this page is a field where you can type your email into to follow this blog. (If you are on your phone it will be underneath this post) Much love. Thank you for your time & support.
♡ Valerie Karen.
Mark 8:36 King James Version (KJV)
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
P.S. Here are some more photos I got to take with my loved ones before I moved. So grateful to have them all in my life.