How To Be A Successful Failure

fail・ure (n): lack of success

It's a funny word, failure. I think it's usually associated with negative situations, but I don't see it that way.

My photography career (on paper) was a huge success last year. I made more money than I have ever made, in any job. I hit 11,000 (and then some) "Likes" on Facebook (because we know how important that is), I was selling stock images every day, I was published in half a dozen magazines, and had my first two speaking/teaching opportunities that allowed me to meet some of my photography favorites in real life.

Sounds like the perfect (work) year, right? Then why did I feel like a failure?


Looking back now, I was doing it all for the wrong reasons. I stopped documenting my kids the way that I wanted to. I stopped photographing my clients the way that I envisioned them. I was shooting for everyone else..and I hated it.

But what was I supposed to do?? I'm Jessica Byrum THE photographer. It's what I did, it's WHO I WAS. I was a photographer, who was also a mother and a wife, and tried to be the best friend that she could be to everyone.

I was trapped in an image that I didn't like anymore. I had to be too many things to too many people.


We found out that we were pregnant on July 4th, 2017. Within a week, we had lost that pregnancy, and I was devastated. As we moved on from that, I became pretty depressed, even though I had come to terms with the loss, and the fact that we probably weren't going to have any more babies (although we know now that I was wrong about that, hello 21 weeks pregnant).

With that depression came this longing to find something that I was good at again, because Lord knows I didn't feel like I was good at photography anymore.

I bought every hobby kit that I could find, I was wood burning and cross-stitching, and cooking Paleo and baking our own bread (and how I didn't go as far as buying a cow to milk to churn our own butter, I do not know).


And truth be told, I was decent at all of it. But nothing fulfilled me. I was struggling, our bank account was struggling, and I was just lost.

I started researching things that I could do to help with my depression (outside of the medication I had then been put on) and essential oils kept coming up. I had ordered a Young Living starter kit when Ellie kept getting sick earlier in the year, but hadn't done a whole lot with it.

But the more that I read, the more I was being drawn to it. I had a few oils that they said would help, so I whipped out my fancy-dancy diffuser and ordered some supplies to make roller blends.

For the first time, in a long time, I had something in front of me that I truly enjoyed doing. Mixing oils and finding new recipes and learning about all of the things that these little bottles of deliciousness could do. I even picked up my camera for personal reasons again, to document what I was doing.

A few weeks into it, I was hooked. I had to share these EOs with everyone! I was feeling better, my kids were happier and healthier, and even my husband was even into it after I "fixed" his knee pain with my "voodoo". I started going to school to become a certified aromatherapist (because if you know me, you know I go all in when I'm passionate about something).

We opened an Etsy shop, selling roller blends, inhalers, and essential oil shelves made from reclaimed wood that we harvest from our homestead. I was in love with something again and wanted to share it with everyone! I was sending samples out and rubbing anyone down with oils that would let me!

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In September, after spending way too much money on all of the things that I was trying to fill my void with, I decided to start the business side of Young Living. I had never done any sort of MLM and I had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew that getting back to a "normal" version of myself included bringing in income for our family.

I sold 4 kits that month. It wasn't huge, but it felt good. I felt GOOD!

I'm in my 7th month of being a Young Living distributor now. I've got a good downline going, I'm getting monthly commission checks, and I'm doing it with products that I truly believe in! Our house runs on YL products. We've replaced THOUSANDS of chemicals in our home, I'm not on depression medication anymore, and we have survived this entire winter WITHOUT illness (and I'm telling you that everyone around us has been dropping like flies)!

It evens feels good to pick up my camera again, because I don't do it everyday. I don't feel forced to make a good image to share on social media for attention and Likes. My mind isn't revolving around photographing every single thing, and I'm more IN the moments now than I have EVER been with my children. 

And that's the biggest success I've had from all of this. I'm spending more time, more QUALITY time with my children!

I may have failed at being the photographer on social media that everyone wanted me to be, but I am succeeding at being a better wife and mother. I am no longer a slave to social media algorithms or posting times. 

I got my life back by NOT focusing on photography so much. I am no longer a photographer, who happens to be a wife and mother too. I am a wife and a mother, and ONE of my jobs is being a badass photographer!