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.
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.
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!
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