My mom is amazing. She has been my best friend and champion for as long as I can remember. My mom is the type of mom I strive to be. She is so fun and compassionate that she makes everyone want to be around her. She’s even amazing with teenagers and how many of us can say that? My mom taught me so many things and has always encouraged me in my endeavors, backed by her unshakeable belief in me and my ability to succeed. It’s been pretty wonderful to grow up with a support like my mom. In the countless lessons she has taught me, there are a few that I don’t think were even lessons she meant to teach. Still, it is some of these lessons that have made the most impact and it is one of those lessons I want to talk about today. It is the lesson of regret.
The first experience related to this lesson happened while my mom was in high school. She decided to study German and really loved it. The language made sense to her and she loved learning something new. One day her teacher told her something. He said, “Sherry, you have an amazing French accent”. She was mortified. She stopped studying German shortly thereafter. Years later, my mom has told me how silly she was for letting such a stupid comment, especially one that wasn’t even really negative, affect her and something she enjoyed.
The second experience happened when it was time for my mom to choose a career. She was very interested in psychology and had always been perceptive when it came to working with people. Due to family pressure, though, she chose to go to nursing school. She wasn’t interested in going to school for it and her lack of interest stayed with her through her practice. She didn’t like nursing at all. She was good at it, but never liked it. The only nursing she liked, funny enough, was working in the psych ward. When she talks about nursing there is never warmth or memories of the good old days. She didn’t like it, and time passing has not changed that fact. She had interests and enough intelligence to succeed in whatever path she chose, but let the significant pressure of those around her determine much of her future.
I, like my mom, am far too concerned with the opinions of others. I have found myself editing Facebook posts in case a new “friend” that I want to impress won’t think I’m cool enough. I have stopped things that I’ve liked because I was too scared to push through the naysayers to get to the next level. Such a silly thing to do, but I have done it. Still, while I have quit things I shouldn’t have, I have rarely quit something that I am truly passionate about, and I attribute much of this to my mom and these lessons. Because of my mom, I also know how important it is to do what I love, even if it is not what people close to me think is my best option. I especially think of her in my photography. There are so many times when voices both real and imagined have told my I suck. Those comments are incredibly painful and even send me spiraling sometimes, but I refuse to quit. I’m not going to stop what I love, stop growing and being better because someone in this early stage of my career told me I speak with a beautiful French accent when I’m trying to learn German. While I want to hear that I have arrived, I’m amazing and everything I touch turns to gold, that’s not the reality of my situation, or probably anyone’s situation, and because of my mom’s honesty regarding her regret, I will push through the difficulties.
I will push through the difficulties because I am pursuing something that I am passionate about and doing exactly what I want to do. While it would be disingenuous to say that I haven’t started down any false paths due to other people’s expectations, it is genuine to say that I have never made it very far down any of those paths. My mom taught me that if I start out knowing something is not for me, that sentiment probably won’t change. It doesn’t mean you won’t be successful at it, but if joy in your work is a priority, find something that brings you joy. That doesn’t mean every aspect of your chosen path will be joyful and easy, but if you follow something you are passionate about, it will make the lows worth it because there are highs beyond description. My photography brings me joy. It is taxing and trying as I strive to move forward. I have been in a funk all week because I feel like I haven’t produced anything compelling as of late. I want to create good work with every ounce of me and sometimes it just doesn’t happen, but I still know this is what I want to do. When a piece I love gets shot down by a critical voice, I may cry a little, but I keep moving forward, hopefully with insight into how I can do better. Because of my mom, I am following my passion.
I am thankful for my mom every day and in so many ways, but today I am thankful for her because she taught me about regret. She taught me that if you’re going to have regrets, make them be for a good reason. Don’t have regrets over listening to some dummy’s opinion and letting that change the course of your life in a way that goes against what you want in your heart and in your soul. Trust in you instinct and your voice and do what brings you joy.
Post and images by Amanda Voelker Photography: