Time in a Finite Resource

Time in a Finite Resource

Lahaina Maui Hawaii // Emily Wenzel Photography

Time is finite. You always think there will be more of it. That you’ll have one more chance to visit your favorite restaurant. To wear that dress you love (before it doesn’t fit again). That you’ll watch another sunset or sunrise or ride on a plane and stand in front of something that a group of people built hundreds or thousands of years ago.

But time is finite.

If we have learned nothing in the past two years, I hope we’ve learned how finite our time is. How quickly our days can go from before to after. It’s something I struggle with, every day. This is the last moment you’ll have that is exactly this moment. Think about it. Even if you feel like tomorrow will be the same as today, it won’t be. It’ll be tomorrow, not today. And today will become yesterday. And none of us know how many days we have here on this planet.

I am by no means encouraging you to do stupid shit, but I am saying that we need to embrace each good moment, and remember to be present in them. Remember that chances are worth taking and you can do impossible things too. Today, I’ll cross the 10k mark for my first novel. I feel like shouting from the top of the nearest church tower, and I feel like puking and deleting it. But the point is, I’ve been wanting to do this for years. What if I’d never had the chance?

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

Time in finite. Take the trip, hug your friends, say I love you. Listen to the voice inside you that guides your heart, let go of the things that aren’t making your life better, and fight for the future. Because I’ve had more regrets about not doing things than I have from doing things.

 

Photo is from my personal collection, taken in Hawai’i.

Another Spin Around the Sun

Another Spin Around the Sun

The author and her daughter at the beach. She had dark curly hair and is wearing a blue-green tank, the daughter is blond with rainbow stripes on her top. All around them is white sand.

It was my birthday in August, and with it, I am squarely in my mid-30s now. In some ways, I feel very old (hello, TikTok stars, how are you all such babies?!) and in other ways, I feel like just gotten to a point in my life where I feel aware of who I am. I am more confident in making decisions based on my desires, and not the whims of the media or outside influences. This ability ebbs and flows though, I am not impervious to outside influence.

The last year was full of artistic and professional burnout. There was a point in there, when I debated never picking up a camera again. I couldn’t find joy in my chose craft at all. So, I stepped back from photography. I finished renovating, painting, and then sold the home I thought we’d live in for decades. I packed our lives into boxes, put them on a ship, and moved across the world. I started writing again, I went back to playing the piano, I started painting and designing and making digital art. I did nothing. I read a bunch of books. I danced in the kitchen.

We spent months without seeing anyone outside our home, with our only contact being on a screen. There were days in the past year when the weight of the world at large, and the world at home, was enough to crush me. To keep me from wanting to get out of bed. To make me question the very fabric of who I am, and what I’ve dreamed of. On those days, I questioned every decision I’d made in recent years, but especially the ones that led to us living abroad. And on other days, the path felt very clear and focused. Clarity in one area of my life often leads to clarity in another area as well.

As I posted earlier this year, I reevaluated my entire wardrobe after we moved. I’ve been working hard to slowly add only pieces I love to my wardrobe, and to shop from smaller, sustainable, and more local, brands as much as possible. It hasn’t been easy, but as much as it’s hard work, I do enjoy knowing that I’ve carefully selected all the pieces that I’m adding into my closet.

And as we venture out into the world at large, as things have reopened and we make more plans for the future, I am also reevaluating where I spend my time, my money, and my energy. Trying to figure out my next steps for work and life, and finding my own voice again. I’ve stopped fighting it when I have the urge to deep dive into something, and instead, embrace it. I research the heck out of something, and then, when I’ve found my answers, I can securely move forward.

I’ve made another trip around the sun and come to the realization that I’m most likely not neurotypical, and that it both makes quite a bit of sense, and doesn’t surprise me much at all. I’ve realized that making new friends is like speed dating and that’s made it easier. I’ve decided that I’m going to conquer my fears and say yes more. I’m going to try things and tell myself it’s okay to suck at them. I’m going remember to make mistakes and not get tangled up in mental self-flagellation afterwards. I’m going to teach myself – and the little human I’m raising – that mistakes are normal, that being perfect isn’t the goal, that joy can be found in the darkest of days, and that the little moments are the most important.

About a year ago, I started asking N to tell me a good thing every night, and we do a bad thing as well. At first, it started as a way to find small joys in the midst of a life changing pandemic. And then, it became a way to remind us both that happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light (Harry Potter). And then, it made me realize that it was a way to know my child better. To know what brings them joy, and to find ways to turn the bad moments around. To find the things that really matter (spoiler alert: it’s time with friends, ice cream, Story Time on Zoom, and calling her grandma) so that we can keep finding that joy in life.

So, in a way, I guess my 4 year old has taught me one of the greatest lessons of the past two years. Figure out what little things make you happy every day, and keep doing them. If you can’t think of one thing that made you happy that day, you need to reevaluate your priorities.

In this Moment // July 2021

In this Moment // July 2021

village of Steinberg am Rofan

A couple weeks ago, I went on a retreat in Austria, a small weekend in a little house with eight other women. It was a fantastic time to get away from Munich, to get away and spend some time with other women who are also entrepreneurs. One thing I realized towards the end of the weekend, is even though we did a lot of talking and soul searching for each of us, I focused on my business side, and didn’t mention my writing to anyone there. I don’t know why, when writing has been taking up a huge amount of my work hours lately. Something to contemplate as I go forward with things.

I took the train down, and it was just a delightful as I’d hoped. My muse is a huge fan of long train rides or flights and I had a breakthrough with my novel. Which also necessitates a huge rewrite and plot rework, but I’m here for that. Anything other than writer’s block. I also got some great planning done for setting up my business here, and am hoping to get everything squared away over the next couple weeks so that I can start taking on client work again in September. Anyone need a VA?

While there, I went for a walk that turned into a hike down a mountain in the pouring rain, which reminded me that a year ago, we were in the Methow Valley and had no clue the turn our lives would take in just a few short weeks. The last year has been hard, in so many ways, and has taught me a lot. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I am hopeful that I’m heading in the right direction.

Your Hobby Doesn’t Need to Be Your Side Hustle or Your Day Job

Your Hobby Doesn’t Need to Be Your Side Hustle or Your Day Job

Joshua Tree National Park - Moon in the blue sky above a curving road with a road curves ahead sign.

I first picked up a camera with the intention of making art, and not just preserving memories, when I was 14 or 15. I loved that it gave me a way to easily share my world view with others, and I enjoyed it. I entered a few photography contests in high school, but mostly just did it because I loved it. This joy of taking photos and documenting life continued into a gap year in the Czech Republic and the first year of college.

Towards the end of that first year, I got the idea of working for the college yearbook and newspaper as a photographer. I was photographing things that were still fun to me, and it was fun to have some extra money in my bank account each month. I had another job slinging coffee, and then working with kids, but photography became a bit of a “side hustle” for me. I liked it.

But after graduating in 2010, applying to jobs day after day after day, and finally, despite a college degree, I went back to slinging coffee (for a large green and white logoed company out of Seattle) because it was the job that paid the most, and where I could get hired. At the same time, my friends were getting engaged left and right, and a few asked me to take some photos of them. From their, the idea grew, and I started working as a second shooter at weddings and opened my business in 2012. It was a proper side hustle now, helping me pay my down my large pile of student loans.

Simple wedding portraits in the Methow Valley

A couple years later, that side hustle became my day job when I quit the last of my day jobs (I had two, because neither had full time hours). Photography became my day and night job. It took over my whole life. All my other hobbies were thrown out the window. I took on more and more work to build my portfolio, to build my brand. I planned and shot creative shoots when I wasn’t shooting paid work, all to have more content. I did shows to get my name out, and shot more to cover those costs. I took on more work to save up for a house. We bought a house. I worked and worked, and when I wasn’t working as a photographer, I was working with my husband to renovate our house.

We had a kid, and I cut back a bit, because we couldn’t afford childcare, even with me working full time. I worked during naptimes, tag teaming childcare with my husband (the first two summers after our daughter was born, I walked out the door as my husband came home 3-4 times a week for consults, meetings, or shoots). I was up until midnight or later most nights working. My days were full of parenting, my evenings were for photography, and my weekend were filled with weddings and working on our house. The little free time I filled with traveling or the little volunteer work I squeezed in. Sometimes I worked out. But hobbies? I didn’t have any. Photography was my hobby. Renovating our home was my hobby.

In 2020, when I cleared off my desk so my husband to work from home for a few weeks, I had a feeling this was the end of the business I built. First, I deep cleaned my house (because I needed to do something with my hands). Then, as the days dragged to weeks and months, as I saw the writing on the wall, I told my husband that this was the end of my photography business. I officially closed it at the end of 2020, because of our move to Germany.

Because somewhere in the past 13 years since that first time I was a paid photographer, my passion for photography, my “muse” had abandoned me. I was constantly struggling to stay focused, I was in a panic to keep booking, more and more, to make sure I was doing it. The pressure to pay my bills, to be a success story has killed it. The passion was gone, and I had let my hobby become my side hustle and then my day job and then a thing I despised.

I went six months without picking up a proper camera. The desire to create was completely gone. But, gradually, that desire has come back. My desire to make photographic art for me, to share it because I love it, is back. I’m not currently interested in shooting for others, but the itch to create it back. I’ve picked up a few old hobbies and I’m looking forward to trying out a few more when we’re allowed outside our homes again. We’ve moved, selling the house we loved. My new and old hobbies are all things I love, but – with the exception of one – I have no desire to make money off of.

The one exception? I’m working on a book. I’m writing a story that I want to write, and maybe someday, I’ll be able to sell that story and make some money. But I’m writing it for me, not for my bank account. If I stay up till the wee hours of the morning, it’s because my muse and I are on a roll. It’s for the passion, not for the dollars.

But all is not lost. In the fractured remnants of my business, I pulled the things I learned, the things I was good at, out. I pieced them together, and am in the process of opening a new business as a virtual assistant. It’s a job, not a side hustle. And my hobbies are things I do for fun. If I start making art again, I may choose to sell that art in some way (because my husband has made some valid points about the limited space on our walls), but I’m here to tell you that you can have fun at a hobby and not turn it into a way to make money.

You can play the piano because it makes you happy. You can paint because you want to learn to paint. You can practice yoga even if you never want to teach it. Hobbies are the way our brains relax, they’re things that bring us joy. And while you shouldn’t hate your job, you shouldn’t rely on your job to bring you joy and money. Find joy in living, and live that joy.

 

Thompson Barn Tekoa Sunset
A peek in my closet in 2021

A peek in my closet in 2021

What happens when you purge a bunch of clothes because of the pandemic and an international move? You end up with a very limited wardrobe. As we emerge into a new world in 2021, I’m searching for a few key things to fill out my closet, but in the meantime, here’s what I currently own:

Tops: 23 + 6 sweaters (4 purchased in 2020)
9 of those are short sleeved tops, which is my largest category. My tops are also the area of my closet that I struggle with the most. Trying to find a balance between simple pieces that aren’t black, white, or grey. This is an area I need to work on, and I’m planning to slowly replace some of my older tops with high quality and eco-friendly brands over the next few years. I’ll probably retire a few of my tops that don’t fit me quite right anymore, and I’m hoping to invest in a couple new pieces to replace some worn ones.

Bottoms: 18 (2 purchased in 2020)
5 of those are shorts, 6 of them are athletic wear, and only 3 pairs of jeans. And in true 2020 fashion, the only bottoms I’ve added in the past 18 months have been athlesuire. I’m looking to replace/add to my jeans and other bottoms this year. Only 2 are skirts, which I haven’t worn in ages.

Dresses: 6 (1 purchased in 2020)
This is a section of my closet that got cut quite a bit when we moved. I didn’t wear many dresses over the last couple years, chasing a kiddo, and I needed to purge some out that just weren’t serving me. My dresses run from very casual t-shirt dresses to fancy cocktail dresses.

Shoes: 10 (3 purchased in 2020)
Another area that took a big hit, I donated every single pair of my heels in 2020, except for my ballroom dance heels. I’m hopeful that I can get back into dance sometime soon. All my heels were cheap, none of them fit my feet well, and so I purged them. I did purchase two pairs of casual shoes (both from Allbirds) and one pair of snowboots last year. I’m looking to find a new pair of heels, and some black sandals this year. My favorite sandals, that I bought 5 years ago in Athens, will probably need to be replaced sometime soon, but I’m hoping to make it back to Athens to get a new pair before that happens!

Jackets: 8 (1 purchased in 2020)
This is an area that could probably use some work, and I have a few here that don’t get much wear. Both of my blazers aren’t worn much, and my black one needs tailoring, but I’m not going to replace it, because not only is a nice piece, it matches one of my skirts for a suit set. The only jacket I bought in 2020 was my 3/4 length down coat, which was been amazing for the winter here in Munich. The one thing I’d like to add back to my wardrobe is a leather jacket. I had one for quite a few years, but got rid of it, and I’m searching for a new one. My last one was a red moto jacket, and I’m not sure if I should go with a color or stick to black for my next one. But I’m looking for something less boxy for the next one.

Athletic gear, sleepwear, underwear, etc: Unknown
I don’t count these, as I don’t have a lot of athletic specific items. I usually have about 2 weeks worth of underwear and a week’s worth of bras and try to replace what is worn every 12-18 months. I should probably pare down and replace some of my swimwear, but I’ll get to that when I can actually go to a pool again.

Scarves: 10ish?
I didn’t count my scarves, but I did donate a few of them before the move. All the ones I have left are either pretty special to me or fill a certain niche in my closet.

Total items purchased in 2020: 11
Not too bad! I’m probably going to be higher than that in 2021, since quite a few of my shirts are in desperate need of replacement, but I am going to aim to keep it under 20 pieces.

For 2021, my goal is to purchase less than 20 items, and to have half of the items I buy be used and/or from small shops and ethical brands. Ideally, I’d have 3/4 of the items from used, or small shops and ethical brands, but I think this will be harder to do with the pandemic and so many lockdowns here in Germany. I’ve also got 3-4 pieces that need to be tailored this year: the blazer below from Banana Republic, and a vintage dress and vintage skirt that both need to be hemmed. So I’m hoping to find someone who can do this work for me, since it’s above my sewing skills, and get these pieces back to work in my closet!

A white woman in a black blazer, reflected in the mirror. She is holding a small child in her arms, who is reaching for the phone she's using to take the photo.
Photo from 2019: My Banana Republic blazer, which is one of my closet staples.
I Don’t Know What is Next

I Don’t Know What is Next

Over the winter, I made a plan to stop shooting weddings. I announced that here on the blog at the end of January. I had started working on a new business plan and I was really excited to see where 2020 would take me. I went on vacation to Palm Springs during the first week of February, got sick the next week (was it? wasn’t it? we’ll never know) and when I finally felt better in March, the world shut down. And my new business plan was dead in the water. My industry is dead. My business plan relied heavily on the wedding and event industry, my industry, being busy.

And then, two weeks ago, my husband got a job offer in his hometown of Munich, Germany. This isn’t something that was unexpected. We had been making plans to move to Germany for a while now. But it was much sooner than expected, with a much faster timeline that we expected. And so we’re moving this fall! My husband leaves in a few weeks, the kiddo and I will follow after we get the house packed and ready to sell. And I really don’t know what is next.

Do I restart my business as a photographer in Munich? Do I pursue another self employed gig there? How do I even go about starting a business in Germany? Do I work remotely as an American company or for one? Do I find a full time job in Munich? That last one isn’t as bad as I first thought, if the benefits are anything like my husband’s job offering (6 weeks of vacation time, what?!). For now, I know that I need to finish the projects that are currently open in our house, pack up our belongings (and sell what we aren’t taking) and figure out where we’re living after the temp housing we’re booking. This site won’t go away, no matter what I do. Maybe I’ll blog about life abroad, or maybe I’ll spin it into something new. Who knows?

Over the past year, we’ve done most everything with the following question to guide us: does this move us closer to our goal, or further away? For us, the goal was moving to Munich. So, every big purchase, every choice we made, every house project, etc. was made with that in mind. It seems sudden to those who didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes. Just like it seems like a duck is gliding effortlessly across a like, all while paddling like mad under the surface.

I am endlessly grateful for the nine years I’ve had running this business. I’m leaving on a very, very strange note, but I am proud of the work I’ve done over the years. So! Work towards your goals. Live the life your heard desires. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and vote in every election.

While things will be slow here, you’ll be able to find updates about our new plans on Instagram at @wenzel.haus


Photo by The Leo Loves Photography in San Diego.