Are you worth more than $49?

Surfing Amazon has led me to an epiphany that I really think should be shared just in case you’re treating yourself like you’re free salsa, when you are in fact a beautiful cuppa guac and just as extra too.

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I came across the first camera bag I ever bought while looking for a new one this morning and it dawned on me by the price tag how much has changed in a year.

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When I bought that bag, I was working in a shithole. Yeah, I know, we’ve all been there. But I mean an actual shithole. Shit, real shit, other people’s shit, raining from the ceiling at any given time because of the old, copper piping. Plaster peeling off the walls. Mold. Mice running behind the desks. Safety and security problems every other day that could’ve killed us all. I mean, I loved the job, but it was disaster and it was probably all too literally killing me. 

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My day job combined with my crazy pregnant mama hormones spiked anxiety that actually ate at me. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I gained 2 pounds. I’m not sharing this because I’m trying to brag about my glorious mom bod because trust me, two pounds doesn’t mean I’m not flabby— I’m sharing because it was awful. I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t breathe half of the time. I was working about ten hour days and on top of this, I was shooting part time, only making $75 a session and roughly $500 a wedding. If you’ve never shopped for a wedding photographer, maybe that sounds like a lot to you, but I was actually losing money on photography. I was working 65-80 hours every week with nothing to show for it. And the crazy thing was I was fine with it because this little camera thing was just a hobby that might amount to something, but probably not.

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I did this all the way up until I was 8 1/2 months pregnant. That’s when my body literally went “nope” and my mental health went into the proverbial and physical toilet. It was a hell of a time, but I’m grateful for it everyday, because if that had never happened, I’d still be working behind a desk thinking “this is fine,” while my office burned down around me.

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So there I am, two months before I’m responsible for another human being, with no job, no ability to get a job, and nothing to do all day but worry about everything. I decided to launch myself into Brey Photo full time and along with the newly found apparent need for office supplies, I needed a bag. I bought a cheap backpack off of Amazon and as soon as I bought it I remember thinking “Effffff, can I return it?” I thought I’d just spent too much. That bag came with me through everything. Through the rain, sand, dirt, mud, blood, tears— everything. It functioned as an airplane carry on, a duffle, a purse, anything I needed. I refused to get a new one because I had already spent “sooo much” on this stupid thing. When a pen exploded on it, I kept it. When it ripped, I sewed it. When it was very clear that it was not functioning the way I needed it to and I couldn’t carry all of my stuff, I still fricken kept it and quietly bitched about it.

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I’m a very cautious, responsible, sensible person for the most part. I don’t take many risks. I’m very careful with my finances and with my time, which is great. In some ways. The problem with that is that I am sometimes so cautious that I get in my own way…about 90% of the time. I sometimes make my happiness so cumbersome that I end up not even enjoying it because I don’t feel like I deserve it. I do not invest in myself all the time, even when I can comfortably do so. Maybe you can relate. There’s a thousand defining moments in my life where I should have learned to invest in myself, but here’s some scarring ones:

When Delia*s (y’all remember Delia*s right?) put a free sample of Silk shaving cream in teenage Aubrey’s bag and she went, “What’s that for? Can’t you just use soap?” I STILL HAVE THE SCARS FROM THE FIRST TIME I SHAVED MY LEGS.

When I made my own dress for senior prom (I will never live it down, nor should I) and when those pictures circulated a party I was at

When I didn’t want to work out at the gym so instead went on a “water diet.”

Every time I’ve ever cut my own bangs.

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Take a second to think about just one time where you could have invested more money, time, or effort into something for yourself but chose not to. Really think about that outcome. Were ya happy? Or were you mortified and sad?

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I graduated high school 6 years ago (holy shit balls what?) and there were two conversations I had right before graduation that I try to replay every time I’m ever caught in a decision where I could choose not to invest in myself.

The one conversation was with a teacher.  It started out something like, “What are your college plans?” and even though I got a full ride to an art school, it ended with, “You’d really be happy working as a waitress with a roommate in an apartment?” The look of sheer disappointment and frustration on his face is actually burned into my memory forever. I’m surprised I didn’t send him straight into retirement.

The second conversation I had that has stuck disgustingly in my brain was between me, a straight A student with a near perfect GPA that spent most of her high school career pulling all nighters, crying, and studying useless knowledge, and a kid that failed most of his classes but actually enjoyed himself in high school and did things he loved to do. You could say he invested in himself. He seriously had the balls to look over and go “Isn’t it crazy we’re both going to walk across that stage and get the same piece of paper?” Kill me, honestly. But he was right.


In another great example of not investing in myself, I left high school with literally nothing but that piece paper and a grudge. I had a full ride to school that I threw in the trash once I found out FAFSA wouldn’t cover the dorm. Couldn’t spend the money. Wouldn’t take a loan. So what happened? I worked at a classic shitty job for way too long, lost my shit and ran away to California, where I worked a series of also similarly shitty jobs. When I got my head out of my ass and I finally did end up going to college, I went to a cheap, shitty school that I hated and pulled my 4.0 ass out of it…drum roll please… WITH A LOAN ANYWAY.

Everything in my life was like that. The jobs I worked because of the fear of not having any money. The meth addicted looking guys I let treat me like dirt because I didn’t really think I deserved better. The friendships I stopped pursuing because I thought there was no way they liked me anyway. The crazy Goodwill outfits that never fit. I was always SO afraid to invest in me and always felt like the odd man out because I didn’t. The situations were different but the outcomes were always the same . I was always left disappointed, frustrated, uncomfortable, and in unflattering pants.

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There was always something else I could spend the money, time, feelings, energy on. Always something else that needed to be done first.  I’ve always been really good at doing things that have to get done. School work, work work, chores, getting the oil changed in my car. The things that I love have always taken a back seat to the things that I think I’m supposed to do.  It’s a habit that I’m trying to snuff out without going overboard and letting the house fall apart. I do things I hate, things I have to do, until I get to a point where I explode.  How close are you to that point?

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I’m going on tangents and you’re probably bored of scrolling through this, so let me reign this in. Whenever I had the opportunity to invest in myself and chose not to, I failed. Miserably. Or, I had to do it twice or three times over. The things that I’ve done right came from the investments I’ve made in myself and my family. Because I, even for a split second, believed in myself how I am. Because I didn’t cut corners. Because I spent the money, spent the time, read the directions, experimented with said directions, and enjoyed the process

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Running this business requires investment. That camera bag I swore was too expensive and felt guilty about was $49. Last year, I didn’t think this business was worth $49. I was not worth forty freakin nine dollars. I’m looking at that bag right now, the cute little bag that took me from drowning in shit (literally!) to actually supporting our family, thinking I didn’t spend enough. Thinking if I had believed a little more in myself to begin with, I wouldn’t be spending my morning— and more money!— on Amazon. This is a long winded, terribly worded anecdote, just to say: invest in you.

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What is the one thing that you’ve been slacking on or avoiding because it’s just “too much”? Stop making excuses. Get off your ass and stop doing it the easy way, spending the little bit here, a little bit there. You are worth it and you are worth not having to do it twice. Do what makes you happy, invest in what makes you feel whole and happy and your return will be ever worth it. 

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End bad inspirational story. Thanks for hanging with me.