Nothing’s Changed…

Except my perspective…which is to say, everything has changed.

This blog post has been excruciatingly difficult to write. I’ve been trying, in my head, since I returned from the What If Conference in the Dominican Republic over a week now to actually begin to explain what all has transpired for me in the past two weeks. I don’t want to get it wrong…lest you, the reader, misunderstand any of it. Though, maybe the harder part of this (and quite possibly the more important part) is, I don’t want to misunderstand it either. And, in the future, I don’t want to look back upon this log and be mislead or have it cause me to misremember.

Already in the past two weeks, I feel as if my memory of it all has faded too quickly for comfort. There are days when I discount the entire experience as “a nice little time away and nothing more”. In fact, I know it was anything but that…


We sat in a circle on wicker furniture, the yellow-painted patio still slick from the mid-morning downpour. I couldn’t shake that feeling…it was just stuck there…in my chest…a tightness. No matter how deeply I tried to breathe, I couldn’t seem to get a full breath. It’s been like this for ages now. An anxious feeling that just remains. It remains, it burns, it takes over and fills me with doubt, fear, jealousy, unhappiness. Why? My life is AMAZING! I get to do what I want, when I want almost without limit…

Yet. It remains.

We were in a small circle, sharing how we were feeling right then and there. We went around the circle and I told them that the first thing I had written in my notes at the beginning of the conference was that I am seeking “freedom”. What I meant when I wrote it was, “financial freedom” so that I could then do passion projects and give freely without want. The conversation moved toward what we were feeling. Tamara asked us specifically, “Where, in your body, do you feel?…When you’re stressed or frustrated or angry, where is it that you feel this?” It was like she just knew…my chest has been tight since who knows when…It’s causing me to feel sick, I feel it so deeply. She asked us to think about a specific occasion where this feeling was really pervasive and to write about it. We did. I won’t talk about what I wrote about here, but it was an instance where I felt dejected, frustrated, guilty, unsure. Needless to say, that tightness in my chest was even tighter.

We were then asked to think about the situation again, only this time, imagine it going perfectly….what would you do differently? I imagined the scenario again and tears washed down my face…I breathed deeply…maybe for the first time in months, my shoulders relaxed, I felt open…and in that moment, I thought to myself, “I feel free”…and it hit me so so strongly in that instant: THIS IS FREEDOM. AND FREEDOM IS A CHOICE. MY CHOICE. As that thought entered my mind, something truly beautiful happened. A sharp wind swept across the courtyard from left to right, moving the palm fronds as it passed. The sun shown brighter than ever, the sky bluer than ever. The greens, the yellows, the red…truer than ever. It was so clear to me: Every moment of every day we make a choice to listen to the voices in our head, to give into the doubt, to compare and wallow. OR, to breathe in, acknowledge that voice, the feeling in our body, then breathe out…and let go. Let go. It is my choice. It is just that simple. And yet, that complex.

I now know this. And this has lead me to is a place I never knew I could reach! It is a place that has allowed me to let go of so many feelings (voices): “I am not good enough.” “I am not smart enough.” ” I don’t deserve it.” “I will never be successful.”

Oh yeah…those voices are still there…big time…HUGELY in my ears. But, this exercise of simply noticing these voices or thoughts, has given me the ability to move past them and see who I, Kathryn Denelle Stevens, truly am…and what I can truly achieve in this life! No more comparing. No more caring about what others think of me. No more belief that success is for others, not myself!

As I write this, I imagine some of you are thinking, “Sure, okay…good for her…we’ll see how long that lasts.” Or whatever judgements you may have of me…in times past I would have been exceedingly concerned that people would judge me. This has stopped me from doing SO much in my life…it’s insane! In fact, as much as this new perspective feels like it’s a 180 degree departure from reality, it’s the most sane feeling I’ve ever had!

This new place is allowing me so much more than peace-of-mind or contentment…I now see things more clearly. I am aware and listening to conversations around me. I see moments, beautiful, tragic, tender moments happening all around me now. I know it sounds super crazy, but I can even smell better (there are studies that show stress causing our sense of smell to diminish, so maybe?) For so long I’ve been consumed by this self-doubt, fear..blocking me from my authentic experience of life. I (sometimes purposefully, sometimes subconsciously) deadened myself to a situation, a conversation, friendships, the food I was eating…and the images presenting themselves all around me…My creativity stifled. As I write this, it brings tears to my eyes to think about living this way. In fact, this is not living. This is just waiting to die.

There is so much more to be said about my experience, and I will share it another day, but for now… know that things are different from here on out. My choices are mine…I must own them, but I do not need to hold onto them. In this moment…right now, I have the ability to start new. To breathe in…acknowledge the judgements, the frustration, the stress, breathe out…and let go…

It may seem as if nothing has changed…but know, because my perspective, my reality has wholly been altered, truly everything EVERYTHING has changed.

SOOO, I realize these images may seem to be trite after that long and heavy blog…but to me they represent something…I took these images the first day I arrived at the Melia Caribe Tropical in Punta Cana…these images to me are superficial, artificial. They’re funny too, and they still make me laugh. I guess it’s more difficult to explain than I thought, but what I mean to say is…. if all I ever accept in people are the masks and plumes they present, and I never even attempt to see people for who they really are, how can I create my true vision of life in my work? The reality…with all of the beauty and pain that that entails? How? I must be willing to go deeper…I owe it to everyone. I owe it to myself.



What IF… we went to the Dominican Republic?!!

Soooo…exciting news… I’m going to be heading to the Dominican Republic for the entire week for the What IF Conference!!! !!! (Just had to add those extra exclamation marks for good measure!)

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that winning a seat the the What IF Conference in Portland last July was nothing short of life-changing for me…sooooo, I decided I HAD to attend the next one! Just like last time, I am nervous for it because I don’t know what to expect. I mean, I know it will make me dig deep and really think BIG about business and life…I KNOW this to be true…but to see what will come of that is what I’m nervous for. After I went to Portland last July, I was deeply affected by the speakers, the organizers (Jen and Steve Bebb), the attendees…they created a space where I could push my mind to think beyond just being a creative…and toward a life that is more focused, productive, balanced, free!

Most importantly, I came away with a better understanding of myself. I realized the ways I was sabotaging myself and my work. These past six months since that conference, I’ve failed, I’ve tried again. I’ve learned, I’ve regressed. I’ve been dedicated. I’ve been over-bearing. I’ve been quiet. I’ve been inward. I’ve been bold. I’ve reached and shrunk, then stretched and been moved. It has made me realize that life is one big, long growing experience…if you let it be so.

(below are some photos from the previous What If)

(This guy was not an attendee..but a member of a band that played at our hotel, The Jupiter)

(Tim Fair playing some pool with somma the guyzz)

(Jim Cool of SheHeWe Photography)

(Mary of Justin & Mary)

The Group, out and about shooting Richelle and Eric! (Who, btw, are now engaged!)

(Shooting in front of a strip club in Portland…not that weird for this group…or Portland)

(Marsais of Marsais Photographie!!

(Susannah of Unveil By Alumbra!)

(Shooting on the backside of a billboard on Burnside…whatevs)

 (Fer!!! Teaching us his skills!)

(This is Fer Juaristi, aka “The Mexican Monkey” aka “The Magic Maker”)

(Fer taught us many things, including the term “visbons” #visbons…look it up)

(Here’s some visbons for you!)

Anne Sage (The City Sage) and Caroline (of Woodnote Photography), Richelle and Eric!

(Steve Bebb, telling a story you’ll never forget…or possibly just giving directions.)

(The Joel and Mary, Mary and The Joel, giving the impromptu presentation of their life!!!)

(I’m certainly not done stretching, not done reaching, not done growing…so next week I am putting out my branches once again…toward the sun light…but maybe more importantly digging my roots, yet again, into the soil…drinking deep, preparing again, for another year of reaching new heights.

I will be away from all work, including this blog, but be sure I will be back the following week…refreshed and renewed…ready to breathe in all that life has to offer!!!


what if…

Over the weekend, I found out some really exciting news! It was so good, in fact, that I started jumping around the house, fist pumping and squealing! I couldn’t believe it! You see, a few months back, I went to a workshop put on by the fabulous duo known as “Justin & Mary” in Connecticut. Almost the first words out of Mary’s mouth when I met her were something like, “we just got back from this conference…it was life-changing”. She explained that she and Justin had spent a almost a week at this conference dreaming up and planning big things…things that would forever change their life. I thought, “where is this conference, and how can I get in on this?!” She then mentioned that the next one was going to be in Portland! I basically made up my mind right then and there to go…how could I not, afterall…it was LIFE CHANGING!

Shortly after I arrived home from their workshop, I looked in to this conference (known as the “What If Conference“) put on by another amazing husband and wife photography duo, Jen and Steve Bebb. I had every intention of going, but as I’ve said before life sometimes gets in the way of life… Alas, I realized I only have so much to spend on continuing education each year, and well, I’d spent mine…”It probably is life-changing,” I thought to myself, “but my life can wait to change…they’ll have another one soon enough”.  And then, I just kind of gave up on the idea…I put the whole thing out of my mind.

In June, Justin and Mary announced they were holding a contest in conjunction with the What If Conference. I excitedly, and (probably a little too hurriedly) entered the contest by writing a short description of what my life might look like if I dared to dream… if I were allowed to ask the question, “What If…”

Fast forward to this weekend… Saturday morning, I checked my work email (I don’t like to make this a habit on weekends, but I do anyway because well, who knows…maybe I’ll get an email that’s life-changing?”) and saw that Jen Bebb had written to me…to tell me I had won the contest! I was going to be able to attend the What If Conference…for free!!! (insert excited squealing, and happy dance here!!) In case you’re having a hard time visualizing how I feel right now…here you go…

You see, when I spoke with Mary back in February about this conference, it wasn’t just the fact that she said this conference was life-changing, it’s that since then, for Justin and Mary and several others who attended, it was life-changing. They literally wrote out their goals and then MADE. THEM. HAPPEN. This conference creates a space where you are allowed, no encouraged, no FORCED to dream big…to ask the big “WHAT IF?” and then puts you on the path to making your dreams and goals a reality!

I firmly believe that when we allow ourselves this kind of space to think and breathe…we open ourselves to all possibilities. Oftentimes, that is what conferences are for…to free yourself from the everyday, to think differently, and maybe make a few tweaks to the machine. But, what happens after the conference, usually ends up being a very different reality. You achieve maybe 1/100th of what you set out to do. Not because you’re a failure, but because…well, life gets in the way of LIFE!

This conference, the leaders and attendees, from what I can tell, give you the space to dream big, but then hold you accountable after you leave. How remarkable would that be?! What if that truly were the case…a community of people coming together to support you in making your biggest, craziest dreams come true? What if these dreams become realities? That truly would be life-changing, now wouldn’t it?

Here’s to dreaming…and then doing!

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