Artist Living

Success: The Part No One Likes to Talk About

Me Ra Koh

Everyone loves to talk about success and the journey to obtain it.  But what about the struggles of success?

struggles of success, Me Ra Koh

The struggles of success are real and intense, but if you know what to look for…the struggles won’t rob your joy.  You will feel the pull and weariness, but that darkness that tries to immobilize you with guilt will stay at bay.  Let me paint a picture for you.

She started crying last night when I tucked her into bed.  She asked me not to go to NY.  Sadness.  She was so excited last week to have four days with Grammie and Papa, but everyone wants their mama when their sick.  I’ve only had four days at home since my last trip to NY, and my little girl has had a horrible head cold the whole time.  Brian and I have been up until 2am, taking turns, as we tickle her back, pray with her, sing songs to her, hoping her sheer fatigue will outweigh the urge to cough.

I haven’t unpacked my suitcase.  I haven’t done any dishes.  I have emails coming at me from producers, publishers, readers, customers (some happy, some frustrated), and on and on.  I’ve only found time for one walk, and I cried most the walk.  Today is my third trip to NY in the last three weeks, and I feel just exhausted, sometimes I also get the occasional seasoned affective disorder, but I treat that with the best SAD Lamp on the market I got from

My mom and I went to dinner two nights ago.  We sat in a quiet booth, and I cried.  “Can I do this mom?  I know the vision that my heart carries is big, but when I’m this tired I can’t help but feel like I’m the wrong person.  Were these visions meant for someone else, someone more qualified…”  Everyone needs their mom’s knowing smile when the world is starting to spin too fast.

Our business is in one of the most amazing seasons ever.  We had a goal to work toward a TV show, and even though I don’t have my own show yet…I never expected to be this close so soon.  And a TV show is only the tip of the iceberg on what goals and visions I’m carrying.  On one hand, you could look at us and think that we’ve got it all together.  Everything is going our way.  But when I kissed my sick baby goodbye in the dark, early morning hours this morning, I felt a lot of things and success wasn’t one of them.

No one ever likes to talk about the sacrifices we make for success.  And even the very word “success” challenges some of us.  Maybe we need to find a different word because achieved success makes me feel like it’s all happy roads and song singing—otherwise it isn’t success, right?  And yet, the farther we go, the higher we reach, I find over and over again that new challenges wait.  Maybe I assumed that success would mean I’d outgrow the need for a childlike faith—believing that what I cannot see being possible, is in fact possible.  My need for faith only grows with each step forward these days.

There are moments when I’m singing songs of joy.  But there are also moments when I’m crying from fatigue. But under all the tears (that go as quickly as they come), under all the weariness of repacking an unpacked suitcase, under the temptation to feel like I’m failing as a mom because we haven’t carved pumpkins yet…there is a deep peace that we are in the right place.

No one ever wants to talk about the struggles of success.  No one ever wants to talk about the fact that when we experience breakthrough, things “break” around us.  But someone has too because here is what I fear.  I fear that when the going gets tough, when the fatigue sets into your heart, when the kids ask for more than you can give, when your tears are flowing more than normal…I fear that you will see all of the above as a sign to stop fighting for the vision you carry.  I fear that you will see all the signs and not realize there is more than just one way to read them.

Everything good, rich and dear to me…every one of those things…I’ve had to work hard for; whether it’s my most precious relationship and marriage with Brian (oh, let me tell you the endless hours of marriage counseling!), or the gift of having kids, or the relationship I now have with my dad which many, even myself at times, thought was impossible…whether it was spending eight years learning how to write a book, or four weeks locked in a psych ward with no hope of ever being healed enough to get out.  Every single one of those things that I value the most, that I carry the most pride in…has at some point demanded everything of me and even broke me.  But the return, I never imagined a return like this.

I feel like I’m being broken again.  The makeup of how to do life before doesn’t work for today and upcoming tomorrows.  Can anyone relate?

You have a dream, a vision, a secret hope, and creation is on the edge of it’s chair in anticipation of you allowing this dream to unfold.  And as the unfolding happens, can I encourage you?  Expect the storms.  Expect moments of terror.  Expect the doubt and fears to be like ocean waves that are higher than you can see beyond.  And instead of running the opposite direction or jumping ship, join me in surrendering.

Let the waves crash down.  Surrender to the boat, the one thing that carries your vision, and let it be tossed to and fro.  Sometimes I even curl up into a fetal position, close my eyes and listen to myself exhale.  Yes, it’s okay to feel that week when you are building your dreams.  Yes, it’s okay to feel that afraid. One day at a time.  Sometimes, for me, three minutes at a time.

And you know that I’ll be smiling from my boat to yours.



p.s.  Just landed and my first text “both kids woke up in a great mood, and Pascaline says she’s feeling better.”  (God you are so good, so good.)


  1. Corina Shauntele says:

    Thank you thank you ………… You just encouraged me to keep my doors open wide
    I retired after 13 years of happy shooting because I couldn’t handle the ” please don’t go comments or how no matter how hard I tried nothing ever seemed to get completed in the house because a new or different mess would be created.
    Thank you God is good and encourages us even in our darkest moments to reach beyond ourselves to others. Ill keep moving forward ” three minutes at a time ”

    Hugs Hugs, cs

  2. rachaelmarie says:

    i love photography + i am in awe that i have been able to create a business doing what i love to do. but there are many days that i wonder if it should be such a fight to bring my dreams to fruition…then i wonder if i have what it takes to continue moving forward…then i wonder if i am sacrificing to much to do it all. thank you for reminding me that all of those struggles, tears, sacrifices are worth it. thank you for reminding me why it is so important to not only embrace my dreams, but to do whatever it takes to turn each one of them into reality. thank you for paving the way…

  3. Jen says:

    def. TIMELY writing……………
    i just wrote the other day about jumping on God’s wave….and how even though he asks me to “sit still” i have to OBEY or there is no peace.
    Where there is peace, I want to follow.
    Doesn’t matter what it takes.
    I know in the end, it is worth it.
    Worth it all.

    For me, the next leap is a big change/growth/leap/fear.

    Itz time to leave it all behind and embrace the mission and mantle I’ve been called to.

    Herez to another level yall.

    Rock it.

  4. Lori Calhoun says:

    Fat…heavy tears fell as I read this post. I’ve been choking them back all morning. I just got off the phone with my mom (so funny you mentioned yours) and begun to read this post. This morning has been a roller coaster ride of emotions, and I needed her. Even at the ripe old age of 29 I needed my mom. The growing pains of owning your own business, no matter how big or small, are just that, painful. Thank you for being so inspiring. Truly.

  5. Sara Cosby says:

    Blessings in the dark. 🙂 You speak of your current success and it is filled with the spirit of our sweet Lord. When he calls and leads and guides it matters not what it looks like to others. It matters not how put together it seems. He paints and sings to the hearts of others through your words that it just doesn’t always make sense, but that’s just because we can’t see everything he sees. Success in our world is such a far cry from what success is in his.

    Blessed be your name when the sun shining down on me;
    When the world’s all as it should be;
    Blessed be your name.

    Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering;
    Though there’s pain in the offering;
    Blessed be your name.

    ~Matt Redman “Blessed Be Your Name~

    Sing, girl!! Embrace the FULLness of what you are living. We like to think fullness means all the great wonderful stuff, but your words make real that without the struggle, without the “weakness,” without the surrender… how FULL is it really?! 🙂

    Blessings to you always in each moment,

  6. Carrie says:

    God is GOOD! This really struck me, “My need for faith only grows with each step forward these days.” I have had to learn the hard way what child-like faith means, what it really means because you have no other choice. When things are spinning out of control, even when you are moving forward, the only thing you can do is let go of your own will and let God’s will take over. We always try to make things harder by not surrendering. It’s the hardest thing to do. But if we can be still amidst chaos, and really listen to God’s will for us, HE WILL PROVIDE.
    Half day at a time Me Ra! Prayers and Love always for you and your family~

  7. Julie Watts says:

    Yeah SUPER timely…I have been deeply questioning if I’m aiming in the right directions…business has brought me difficult emotional moments…and really proud, confident moments. Your sentence about thinking success meant outgrowing the need for childlike faith…that resonated big time. I think I’ve expected that too…thanks for the awareness!

  8. Carrie says:

    Sara Cosby, thanks for sharing. Beautifully said…

  9. Tara Bradford says:

    Me Ra, you continue to be an inspiration. Thank you for writing about the hard bits of achieving one’s dream and fulfilling one’s vision. I’m sure your words have helped many people struggling on the road to success (which really, is always under construction!). Wishing you all the best and continued success in your endeavours (only wish the Nate Berkus show (especially with your segments) was televised in Europe!

  10. jen armstrong says:

    This is it, Me Ra…I think this may be when you are most powerful…your doubts, experiences, dark places, are the things that translate to other people’s hearts! I hate that it comes at such a price for you but by being in it and talking about it, you allow others to be relieved that they are not lost in a world all their own. I will be praying for your endurance in this place, and for so much laughter despite the place. Every ounce of you is being used for the purpose of affecting so many…including your family. We love you dearly. 🙂 Now I’m trying to think of something funny to make you laugh. awkward silence…
    I’m so not funny. 🙂
    LOVE YOU!!!!!

  11. Andria says:

    Gorgeous post that was much needed. Thank you.

  12. Melissa Miller says:

    When we meet these struggles (or I like to think of them as obstacles) it is important that we persevere through them. I believe they come up in our lives to try and prevent us from doing that which is very important to us and to sway us. It is a lot like mountain climbing. If we don’t have the jagged rocks, glaciers and other natural elements to cause us difficulties in getting to the top, our goal, then how can we truly appreciate the struggle. As a mom I can empathize with how difficult it is when our children need us. They also learn from us. You have wonderful goals, you empower women and you have an incredible family that means the most to you. Your children know that. All of what you describe tells me that you are doing wonderful things in your life, in your families lives and you help others. Keep going and keep sharing, you are a wonderful inspiration to so many.


  13. Donna says:

    What a lovely post, it hit the mark with me today. Thank you for the encouragement.

    I read the quote bellow today and thought it was quite fitting of today’s mood.

    “We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  14. When peace increases with our decisions, we know we are on the right path. When peace is dimished with our decisions, it is time to change course. Keep rowing that boat, girl, you are an inspiration!

  15. Rhonda says:

    Jen nailed it. This is what your ministry is about. And the truth is, the more you walk in God’s plan, the more you need to lean on Him. MeRa, He’s given you a vision that only He can accomplish. The beauty of that is that, the more you lean on Him, the more glory He will receive. The gift is that He chose YOU (and Brian and Blaze and Pascaline) to accomplish it through. And He chose you because He knew what it would do in you and what it would accomplish through you. I believe that God is more concerned with who we are becomming that with what we do, and He calls us to DO the things that will shape who He wants us to BE. And then He uses our experiences to help shape others too.
    I continue to pray for you and your sweet family.
    Love you lots!!!!

  16. Jen MacNiven says:

    Can’t say I’ve truly acheived ‘success’ at your level. But, my work takes me, to and fro…and I have the fears that I never will be a wife or a mother. But, surrendering is what has to be done in either case….and I’m trying.
    I know you have the strength and YOU are meant to do this. You’re kids and Brian are awesome and will carry you through…and of all people, they understand!

    I BELIEVE IN YOU! Now go kick some ass this week! 😉
    Love you and big hugs!

  17. kelli says:

    You are in my thoughts and prayers. One of my very favorite passages from 2 corinthians 4-

    7 But this precious treasure-this light and power that now shine within us-is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. [fn1] So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.
    8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. 9 We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. 10 Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

  18. One, Two, Three BREATH……Ahhhh and now EXHALE! This always helps bring winds to the sails of these little boats we’re all in. So glad God is at the Helm! He is using you mightily even in the darkest, most fatigued and tired of moments. You are real and thats’s one of the reasons you are loved so very much! Push on, hold on tight to childlike faith, take it one step at a time, leap when your able and rest in Him in the in between time. So glad Pascaline is feeling better already. We Love you MeRa. Please now that many of us out hear understand that these dreams and visions you have are not just your own but are straight from Gods own heart. He nor we expect you to do it all on your own. We Love ya Girl, we are proud of you and you have our support!

  19. Georgia says:

    He’s gracious and good even in the midst of our turmoil.

    I can totally relate.

    Thanks for sharing.

  20. WOW… beautifully spoken my friend. So real…. so needed! It reminds me of birthing my daughter…. and how people never spoke about the REAL fear that comes with it. they speak of the pain, and lack of sleep, but not those moments when we feel stretched beyond ourselves. that moment in labor when you say “I just CAN’T DO THIS”… The moments when we want to give up…. when we’re pushed to new places but then, something magical happens and you DO DO IT…. YOU DO make it to the next place.

    This is truly a birthing. the birthing of success. of a new place… with all the messy, uneasy, fear that comes with it.
    Thank you so much for your amazing inspiration! you are so beautiful!

  21. Helene says:

    The text message says it all; “both kids woke up in a great mood, and Pascaline says she’s feeling much better.” That’s how it’s always going to be for you & all of the other young mom’s who are juggling a million things at once. That’s great that your staying true to your goals- you’ll always be exhausted but you’ll feel proud and exhilarated at the same time and your kids will thrive and be happy. In 20 years when anyone asks them what it’s like to be your kids they’re going to have a lot of great stories to tell… and they’ll laugh when you tell them about the guilt and about all of the times you cried….or about the pumpkins that didn’t get carved until the trick- or -treaters were almost at the door! Me Ra, keep up the momentum, you’re amazing for sharing your reality and everyone is cheering for you!

  22. Lynde says:

    well, we are living parallel lives like so many people who are reading this. i have the opportunity to go to europe next week for 5 days–my dream–all in so much bad timing. do i do it? leave the opportunity that i have been waiting for my whole life because the timing stinks and it is right before the kids’ bday party that i had to postpone for 5 months because we rescheduled due to yet another work (not mine at least!) work demand? and because i have so many other things on my place? oh the guilt!! but oh the opportunity knocking!! the torment is exhausting…i feel like either way i am making the wrong choice!! 😕 but really—either way, will i (WE) be making the RIGHT choice? hmmm….

  23. Debbie Allan says:

    I needed to read this today MeRa. I have that feeling of “guilt” (not even sure that is the correct word) when I am not able to collect the boys from the school bus, or give them as much of me as I would like due to work commitments.

    Off to tuck Cameron in now and tell him I will not be able to meet his bus tomorrow as I will be in the city, hopefully meeting up with the most powerful, amazing and talented woman I know.

    See you tomorrow

  24. Shelley Hohe says:

    Wow MeRa thank you so much for sharing from your heart. It was so touching and inspiring for me to read because i know in my daily life i feel this, especially with moving out of state recently. I wasn’t sure if i was going to put my photog business to the side and go find a “regular job”. If i did then would i be giving up my dream and a gift I know is only from God. Even though it’s going to be a struggle at first to start my business again in a different state, i know that nothing great comes easy. At the same time we sometimes have to put things on hold for a bit too and that is OK especially when our family needs us. MeRa you are an amazing woman, wife and mom with a huge heart and I know what ever you do will be great. God gave you an amazing gift and vision MeRa, so i pray that God will be your strength during this busy time, i also pray He guides you in everything you do so you will have a peace that surpasses all understanding. I love you MeRa and I am so happy to know Pascaline is feeling better. You are so right God is good!
    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
    Lord bless you MeRa!!!

  25. Melinda says:

    Here is a quote that has been getting me through the rough spots lately:
    “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and the time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe.

    I cannot wait until the day I’m setting my DVR for the Me Ra Koh show. I know in my heart that day will come. And when it does, you are going to be able to do the show on your terms in a way that will let you spend more time with the kids than cross country travel does right now. Having them watch you follow your passion and your dreams? That is an amazing life lesson right there. They already know they can be whatever they set their minds to. How amazing and wonderful is that? They know that following their passion, while not always the easiest of roads, is exquisitely rewarding and wonderful.

    Thank you for sharing your passion with all of us. Oh how you inspire me!

  26. Paige Smith says:

    Loved this. Thank you.

  27. shawna says:

    i don’t think there’s anything more i can add to the comments from amazing women above, except another thank you. thank you for you transparency and your vision and encouragement. the things that are the hardest to say out loud are the ones everyone needs to hear. your words have kept me going more times than i can count, so thank you.

  28. Delanae says:

    Me Ra,

    Just a suggestion. Perhaps you and Brian can video tape yourselves reading the kids a bedtime story. Have them in the video too… kids love to see themselves.

    My daughter used to pop in a VHS (yes I’m old) of me reading stories to her and her brother and she just loved it. It might help in a tough moment.

    My daughter and I also had a song (several actually) but this one was special. It’s from Veggie Tales, “Think of me.”

    It really helped her. I would also tell her to look outside and see the moon (we weren’t living in Washington State so it was easy) and I would tell her that I could see that same moon from where I was and so really, I wasn’t that far away if we could see the same thing at the same time. It gave her peace.

    I know, it’s difficult. But ultimately this is teaching your kids much more than just missing mommy and daddy isn’t fun. They are adults in training and that means they are learning that when those we love leave, they come back. That teaches them trust. It’s very important. You two are great parents. Be assured. 🙂

  29. Natasha says:

    MeRa (((((((HUGS)))))))

    So eloquently written,as always.I was nodding in agreement whilst reading your post.I feel bad just missing the occasional soccer practice with them,I don’t even know if I could find your strength if I was in your shoes.

    You are an amazing,compassionate,gifted woman whom we are all so lucky to have either met or found through this blog.
    I feel your love for us all in your posts and tweets,I can only begin to imagine the love that your beautiful children must feel.
    Thank you for everything that you do for us MeRa,

    Looking forward to hearing you speak today,hopefully I can make my way through the sea of fans for a quick hug,
    Natasha xxxxxx

  30. Echo says:

    I’m so thankful when you pour out your heart and soul. It always means so much to hear it the real way instead of a candy coated mess that it can be.

    I picked up a book lately called “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud. Maybe the read will help you in when saying yes and no. And we know that the bible says let your yes be your yes and your no be your no.

    Thank you again and I will be praying for you from one boat to another!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Your timing and open heart Me Ra are only two things that make you so Extraordinary! Your Perseverance another.

    I read this post in the midst of my darkest hours – where everything that I have once thought to be the truth – is not. I have lost hope and spend my days mostly lifeless in bed – as my young children play around the house carefree.

    Through all of my burdens, I refuse to cancel any of the upcoming photo sessions that I have lined up. It frustrates me that I will not quit and I wonder why I will not quit – passion, heart, dreams – who knows? My main point is that your blog post was so real and I appreciated reading your words more than I can say.

    Thank you.

  32. Joanna Hernandez says:

    Wow. I have watched you on Nate and that is the extent of me knowing you. However, after reading your post, I not only admire you for what your work and beautiful personality, I also feel like I know you. I was a teen Mom of my daughter (now 15) and my entire life, I have been working to build our life. It was a struggle to go to college, but I did it. It was a struggle to build a career, but I did it. It is now a struggle to go back to grad school to continue an effort to improve our lives and give my now two children what parents should be able to give their children when they have them at an appropriate age. Throughout my entire journey of catching up and keeping up, I have hidden the struggle of success… all the feelings of stress, panic and results of tears, anxiety and so much more. However, one of your readers reminds me that God has a plan and calls us to do things that will shape our life and he uses our experiences to help shape others. That is so true and you sharing yours, WILL help shape others. Thank you for being such an open and beautiful person.

  33. Andrea j says:

    Wow, thank you. You have an amazing ability to express yourself through writing and to consistently hit a chord with me even though our lives are so very different. I know you’ve heard it so many times that it is sounds a bit cliche, but you really are inspiring. I have no doubt in my mind that you will achieve your dreams…and, that your children/family feel the depth of your love for them even when you are not physically present. My prayers are with you.

  34. […] Artists way this month talks about fear and enthusiasm.  And after reading Me Ra’s most recent Blog I am once again assured that I am not […]

  35. natalia says:

    It’s that strange roller coaster of life… on the way up there’s a little fear, trepidation, will you make it? … once you’re at the top it’s exhilarating then there’s the fall … which is exciting and terrifying in it’s own right … and then it continues. Don’t know if the analogy makes sense, but it’s what I think about as I continue on my journey.
    And you can take comfort in knowing that you are an amazing example for your children (and the rest of us) of what can happen when you go for your dreams.

  36. […] you from the bottom of my heart for all your comments on this week’s post about Success.  […]

  37. jeramy says:

    mera…i totally get it. really. 🙂 be brave, be strong and lean into those that love you the most. hang in there. as readers and friends, i know that we are all honored to journey through this with you as we read your struggles, hopes and fears. i speak for all of us when i say, ‘we are here for you’ if in nothing else but spoken support and virtual hugs. take care lady. 🙂

  38. Laurie says:

    Me Ra, just breath. You are an amazing person to share your good times and the bad. We get so focused on the where we are going, that it is hard to say things like man this is so stinkin hard. Sometimes you just have to step out on faith, and know that you are doing the right thing. Thank you for your words, I needed them.

  39. Charisse says:

    MeRa…there is not much more that I can add, except THANK YOU, once again for being the most transparent woman in the public eye that I know and now have had the pleasure to meet. I needed to read this post. As a matter of fact, I am sure that I will read it often. For it talks of a fear that I have hidden behind for years. The fear of not knowing when & how to balance my dreams with the crys of my kids and husbands needs. How to do it and not feel like I have failed them, all while willing to “sacrafice” myself and my dreams. Reading your blog, and meeting you has reignighted in me a belief that it is all possible,when in God’s time and HIS plan.

    I agree with the others that have written before me, especially Rhonda. This is a ministry for you. This post calls to my mind the verse “He who has began a great work in you is faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6

    I am glad your baby girl is feeling better, and I really smiled when I saw that you received that message before you had to do what you went there to do. Love that He confirms things for us…EXACTLY when we need it.

    Hugs & more hugs…

  40. LOVE the verse kelli left from corinthians … i came over to chime in {with tears of course} and encourage you to stay the course. it’s hard and difficult and of course the guilt and overwhelmingness of it all can seem to drown you …

    but God has chosen you my friend. you are His mary in this situation “whatever you have of me Lord, i will do.” me ra, you are His messenger … sure, you teach some photography too … but yours is a caller much higher than that! of this i’m sure!

  41. Yariv Drori says:

    MeRa – Business success put asside, I think you need to stop and ask yourself: how do I measure my success in life?
    Then, decide to yourself (!) if getting up, putting up a smile and catching that flight is indeed the right thing to do.
    I would love to see you in Adorama NYC this November, but I will love you still if you choose to cancel. Please do not sacrifice a moment with your child for me. Take it easy, enjoy the little things. It doesn’t have to be grand, not at any cost.