When it all comes down to it... when you're old and reminiscing on the "good ole days" with your equally wrinkled (but still smoking hot) babe by your side, pictures are the only thing you'll have to look back on and share for generations to come. I can think of no better gift than captured moments in time and this is what has really sparked my love for what I do. If you are looking for artistry and adventure, look no further.
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Hi, I’m Alyson: the gal behind the lens! Oh, and I’m also the lucky one who gets to capture your love story! At a young age, I initially fell in love with photography as an art form for self-expression, and over the years my love for photography has morphed into the ultimate storytelling tool.
July 23, 2018
I am a college dropout.
I did not drop out out of laziness.
I did not drop out to start a tech company and get rich.
I dropped out because I found a better path.
I found a path that nurtured by needs, one that did not force me to learn a certain way. I found an alternative to the system that told me to sit for hours in a room with no windows and listen to someone who frankly sounded like they wanted to be anywhere else but here, teaching me.
I found my passion and I went after it. Said “F it” with our societal norms and this “one track to success” mindset that is drilled into our heads by the time we learn our abc’s.
I dropped out of college and now… now I am flourishing. I am 21 years young and started a wedding photography business that allows me to be financially independent. And I freaking love it.
I do not say this to brag, but to propose the idea that college is not the only track to success.
Ohhh the education system. There is so much to be said.
Before I begin, I’d like to clarify that I do believe college is for some people. Want to be a doctor? Great. You should probably (definitely) go to college for that. Want to get into finance? College is probably a good idea. I also strongly agree that college teaches you many important lessons. It can build character, teach you discipline, the importance of work ethic and responsibilities, and introduce unique opportunities. I wholeheartedly agree with those claims.
The point I want to make is that there are alternative ways to success.
Some people do great under strict rules and explicit expectations. Being told where to be and when is what works for some people.
But for the people like me, the ones who feel their love for learning being drained from them with each and every minute they are forced to sit in a dark and artificially-lit lecture hall, college is not for people like us.
And that’s completely ok.
I went to college for a little over two years. What’s funny is I always had a feeling I wouldn’t finish. I never really wanted to go in the first place. I knew I loved photography from a pretty young age and the only reason I went to college was from the pressure I felt from our society.
I was a good kid, in the honors system, never got in trouble. I played by the rules and played it safe. So of course I would go to college. What other option did I have?
The idea that we can’t be successful if we don’t go to a University is imbedded in us since we started primary school. At one point in time, this was very true. It was true for our parents, so, who are we to blame, really.
But in a world where college now puts the majority of people in thousands of dollars of debt, jobless, and coping with horrifying amounts of anxiety and stress, college should not and can not be the only option anymore.
I remember my freshman year so vividly…I mean, I shoulddd it wasn’t thattt long ago;) The university required us to live on campus to get the full “college experience”.
I had the stereotypical dorm room (that looked a bit more like a large closet than a room for two people), a random roommate, and a communal bathroom. There were endless amounts of social activities provided for us to meet new people and become fully immersed in the college community.
Despite all this, however, I remember feeling so out of place. There was this whole sheltered world created for us with everything we could ever want and need. But I didn’t feel a part of it.
I went into college undeclared. I had no idea what I wanted to spend the next four years learning and the pressure that these years would cost my parents an outrageous amount of money (money that they didn’t have)… only increased that pressure.
I recall sitting in classes learning about calculus and physics and thinking I wanted to be anywhere but here. “Why am I paying for something that brings me so much stress and unhappiness”? I realize there is a balance and some things in life you have to push through, but that is when there is a greater mission in mind. For me, I saw no purpose. There would be no guaranteed job. In fact, I had so many older friends who had a degree and were working at minimum wage jobs. So what was the point?
After my first year in Tampa I went to St. Petersburg, a neighboring city, for a day to explore. I ended up falling in love with this town and that summer, found a room for rent on craigslist, got a job, and switched campuses. I remember thinking, “this was better”.
The campus, instead of being its own mini world closed off from the rest of society, was right in the heart of downtown. I could go to a coffee shop and see people who had different professions, on different walks of life, and that excited me.
The first semester here was great. I was taking all the classes I loved, had intriguing professors, and felt a part of something.
That summer, I decided to not take any summer courses and had quite a bit of time to do what I wanted when I wanted. I decided to reignite my love for photography. I read, I explored, I made connections, I found mentors, and genuinely learned so much. I spent countless hours reading self improvement books, business books, photography articles, going to workshops… learning about all the things that genuinely excited me.
That was the summer I started booking photoshoots. I shot my first elopement for a shockingly cheap 350 bucks and felt on top of the world. I felt like I was really going somewhere.
And then… then fall semester came around. My fall courses looked a little something like this:
Intro to Business
That first week back at school was the first time I had a panic attack. Let me preface by saying I do not stress easily. I actually wonder sometimes if I SHOULD worry more. But after that first week back to school I felt like I couldn’t breath.
The books I was supposed to buy were going to cost over $800. The course load was insane.
This was NOT what I wanted to be doing and my body was proof of that. I came home that night looking over everything I needed and felt this wave of anxiety that seemed all encompassing. I stepped outside and it took me 20 minutes to calm myself down from the panicked mixture of wheezing and crying that had overcome me.
This was my wakeup call.
I called my dad that night and we talked it out. Now, my dad is a very practical man. A son of the Dean of the University of Tennessee, he graduated with a degree in Engineering and went on to get his masters right after. But on this phone call, after explaining my situation, I remember (so vividly) him pausing for a moment and saying, “you know… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think it may make more sense… for… for you to stop”. And I did. That night I dropped all of my classes and felt this 50 ton weight instantly lifted off my chest.
That summer I got a second job and worked. I worked a lot. I made my photography website, started doing a lot of free shoots, then started doing a lot of cheap shoots. I got my first credit card and bought a full frame camera and a month later I booked my first real wedding for 500 bucks. I was hooked.
This… THIS is what I loved. That new year I started booking a lot. I was basically working 3 jobs and, while a bit overwhelmed, I freaking LOVED it because I now had a purpose.
Flash forward 6 months and I am now a full time wedding photographer. And I did it without college. I still have a heck of a lot to learn, but I’d like to serve as an example that you do not have to have a business degree to have a successful business. Honestly, there are some things you just can’t learn in a classroom. Sometimes you have to just go out and do. Learn from your mistakes and grow from there.
I’d also like to point out that the amount of free/cheap education out there is insane. I have a stack of books on my bedside table about every subject you could think of. Let me also point out that about thirty of these books cost me less than ONE biology book in college… chew on that.
I could also pop on the internet and have every marketing or finance question answered in a matter of minutes (not that I recommend that).
What I’m saying is, if the world was ever our oyster, it is now.
I write this because I hope to be a part of a change. I hope to share the message that there are soooo many other routes to success than a 4 year college plan.
If you’re reading this in high school or college and feel like you have no idea what you want to do, take a year (or two…or three) and live life. How are we supposed to know what we want when confined in a perfectly curated college campus where everything is strategically laid out for us with no room for error?? When we’re young we SHOULD make mistakes. How else are we to grow?
Go travel, make new relationships, get odd jobs, experience new cultures, get to know yourself before you embark on such an expensive decision. Or, better yet, don’t go to college at all if that’s what you feel is right. Life is freaking short… too short to do things just to please society.
I want to end by saying that I can’t stress enough how grateful I am for having such supportive parents and I TRULY feel for anyone out there who may not feel supported in their decision. I know many people who’s families would disown them if they dropped out and that really saddens me.
If you are a parent reading this, or if you plan to have kids, I beg you to have an open mind. This idea that college is the only way to success is total BS and I urge you to look into alternative options. We are all so similar yet simultaneously all so uniquely different and that requires different life paths.
Life’s too short to play by the rules… so you do you. The world will be better because of it.
Much love. Xx