I had a rough New Years' Eve back in 2018- I'll forgo the details, but let's say it wasn't the best way to kiss 2017 goodbye. A few days after, I caught up with a friend who mentioned he had ditched a resolution and instead had picked a word to live by for the entire year. The idea of choosing a word to represent the year was a very intriguing concept to me. At the time, I had way too much going on to pick one to attempt living by for the year. However, I made a mental note to choose one for a future year.
Now that it is nearing 2020, I've decided to pick a word to live by for the new year. In a way, it's challenging to determine what word would be the most beneficial. While it's not exactly a resolution, it is something you are attempting to include in your daily life. After narrowing some options down and doing some internal evaluating, I've decided that my word for 2020 is commitment.
This word is a bit of a bold choice to pick because I'm engaged and marrying my fiancé in just a few months. Commitment is not something I'm afraid of. Relationship aside, I have always struggled to commit myself fully to my career path and other areas of my life. While there have been times when I've been very dedicated to certain areas of my life, I don't know if I can look back and say "I was so committed to _______ that I know I gave it my all." I can say without a doubt that I haven't.
This year I will be committing to marriage- to being by the side of my fiancé for the rest of our lives. I think it is also a great time to commit to finishing my college degree, committing more to a budget, working out, getting back to what makes me feel whole, devoting a large portion of my day to booking clients & writing/photographing, and genuinely giving 100% to every commitment I make. Someone once told me that if we can't trust ourselves, how can we trust others? I think commitment and trust go hand in hand. I would think it would be challenging to have faith and hope in others and specific areas of life if we are not even committed to ourselves.
So, here's to commitment. & here's to a New Year- a clean slate and the ability to reinvent ourselves however we deem necessary.
Are you going to choose a word to live by for 2020? If so, what is your word, and why did you pick it? I would love to hear your responses and ideas!
I was a junior in high school when Boston first popped up on my radar. I began googling and swooning over Boston apartments I couldn't afford in my spare time. Before I knew it, I was scribbling admission application dates in my school planner while the Texas heat sizzled outside my bedroom window. I couldn't stop thinking about graduating and having the opportunity to move somewhere exciting.
I had dreamed about this day for months. It had become a new daily routine of mine to check the mail for one thin envelope to arrive. I could picture it so clearly. I imagined spotting the university crest logo amongst a stack of catalogs and junk mail. I knew I would then run back inside with shaky hands and a dry mouth as my heart pulsed with the fear of rejection. I would carefully break open the letter's seal and reveal the first few words at the top of the page. "We are writing to inform you...". Before reading anymore, I would imagine my friends and family throwing a congratulations party decorated with confetti and a huge sign that jokingly read "Welcome To Hah-vard!"
Except for the Harvard admissions letter and the congratulatory party wasn't for me, it was for my high school boyfriend. Not that I hadn't applied to a Boston school, because I did, it just wasn't as well known, prestigious, or commendable. However, in hindsight, the daydreams didn't even matter. He didn't get into Harvard or any Boston school. So being someone who relied on others for happiness, there went that dream. Too bad Lizzo hadn't dropped "Truth Hurts" yet. At the time, I had a completely different view of what my future should be, and I wasn't able to see how talented I was on my own. Instead of moving to Boston, I spent my first year out of high school in Austin. My days became filled with answering phone lines and organizing paperwork for a wholesale sink distributor as a receptionist.
College wasn't a bandwagon that I was ready to jump on. I honestly didn't know what I wanted to do beyond high school. I'm a romantic, and I've always just wanted to be a mom and wife... and to this day that's still a life goal that makes my heart happy dance. Outside of that, I didn't have a set job position in my mind. I also found the idea of attending school for the sole purpose of working towards some unclear goal incredibly wasteful- and boring. My job at the sink store was monotonous, but I still felt it was more practical than enrolling in random classes.
While my view on college might not have been the highest, my peers certainly felt otherwise. I was surrounded by friends and family members who praised the idea of higher institution education. Not only did they believe attending one meant the key to success, but it also apparently was the key to an active social life. Every weekend consisted of tailgates and football games. Living in central Texas meant being surrounded by burnt orange colors and hearing "hook 'em" at just about every store, restaurant, and establishment within a 100-mile radius. I might not have been registered in college but I pretty much resided in one. The only thing missing was student loans and blackboard.
After residing in Austin for a year, I did apply and got accepted to Texas State. My family was ecstatic, and I guess I was too. I've always been the type to want to fit in. However, my days as a bobcat were numbered as I traded my South Austin 3-story condo for a 300-square-foot "apartment" in NYC's East Village.
Moving to New York was one of the scariest and most exciting adventures I've ever experienced. I was simultaneously surrounded by poverty and the world's elite, the outspoken and the meek, the wise and the foolish. Every inch of Manhattan was filled with new people, places, cultures, and possibilities. I was more or less forced to open my mind to new ideas to adapt to the New Yorker lifestyle. It is difficult to pinpoint what decisions in your life have changed you the most, but I can, without a doubt, say that moving to New York has been one of mine.
I lived in NYC for a year while working on a photography certification program at NYU. Since high school, photography has been the one steadfast component of my life. It's been a way for me to express and analyze myself. I've been able to document so many areas of my life through the lens of my camera.
Aside from photography, I worked multiple internships and jobs in New York. All of which were exciting and filled with interesting people. Many of these people could think outside the box and offered me new ways of thinking that I otherwise would not have developed. NYC is incredibly competitive but it's also incredibly eye-opening and resourceful.
After New York, times got tough for me. & what I mean by that is I spent many nights crying myself to sleep. I felt like I had done everything wrong. While my peers were graduating with degrees, I was living back at my grandparents with no career path or direction. On top of that, my best friend committed suicide, and I learned a lot about individual family members that caused me to question certain events. Bars became my safe space. I developed deep trust issues and had a hard time getting too close to people for fear that they would either leave me, judge my actions, or - as horrible as this sounds - commit suicide.
Despite some of the hardships I was facing, I moved to Chicago. I started a wedding photography business. I broke out of my reserved shell and started hosting Meet-up groups. I traveled around the world. There were a lot of good times. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of bad times. & in those times I struggled to find purpose and a desire to be motivated towards anything.
Looking back, I think the issue with so many of my struggles spawned from a deep-rooted feeling of not being enough. Despite being an only child, I never felt like the world revolved around me. Maybe it was because my parents were divorced or because my stepfather at the time was incredibly strict. Perhaps it was because I was always the tiniest in my class and found it nearly impossible to be seen or heard. Whatever the cause, I tried to avoid the spotlight growing up, although I was always fascinated by it.
I attended a religious, private high school that was filled with well-off students. Almost all of them gave off an aura of eliteness - it's debatable on if they were or not. Many of them were outspoken and attention seeking whose parents awed over every sentence their mouths sputtered. Some of them were "religious" and in doing so judged almost everybody around them. The majority of them knew each other since before they could write correct sentences, making it very difficult to fit in as a new student. But I somehow managed, because if there's anything I'm good at, it's fitting in.
While I might have excelled at being part of the pack, I never felt like I could break out of it. The few times in high school where I gave my all usually went unnoticed. One weekend I spent 48 hours creating this fantastic 1920's magazine spread for my US History project to be out beat by another student who's mom paid $100+ to have theirs professionally printed. It was this moment that I learned money would get you anywhere.
Since I felt my talents went unnoticed, I got incredibly good at the status quo. I straightened my hair each morning and always wore cute shoes with my school uniform; however, I still opted out of makeup so it wouldn't seem like I was trying too hard. I kept decent grades. I was talkative enough not to get bullied but quiet enough that my friend count was relatively low, and teachers hardly knew I existed. Or at least I thought so. That is until I was crowned Prom Queen and it occurred to me that maybe I wasn't so unnoticed after all. I've since considered that the view I had on my high school self was all wrong. Maybe I didn't fly under the radar as much and the unique parts of my personality + my desire to include everyone did stand out.
After high school, I slowly began to let myself grow into the person I wanted to be. I didn't want to spend my life competing with people over the spotlight; I wanted to be the spotlight. I realized that I wanted to be a creative person. I wanted to be someone that had a lot of friends, and that brought people together. I wanted to be someone that was always well dressed and whose life imitated the art they collected. I wanted to fall in love with someone who loved me back equally and never settle on the romance and adventure between us. It took a few years, and there were some growing pains, but I can now finally say that I've become the woman I always dreamed of being - okay sure with a little more anxiety, but I'll take what I can get! 😉
I've built a life that's funded by my camera lens and writing. I've curated a home of art and a closet of clothes that empower me and voices my personality. I've assembled a small friend group from Meet-up events I've hosted. I've been so blessed to meet my soon-to-be husband and to be loved unconditionally. I've learned that the majority of people don't take opportunities or go the extra mile, meaning there's a lot to be earned by anyone who does.
I don't say all of this to brag - or act like I have come such a long way. I'm well aware that overall, I've been incredibly privileged and received opportunities that usually only exist when your family is financially successful. However, I do think many experiences I've had in recent years are some that few my age go through in their twenties. My mental health has been compromised at times, and I've always wanted to be transparent about my struggles in a world where so many hide theirs.
Now that I know who I am and what I want to do, I know that I'm finally ready to go back to school. & not just any school. A school that I had been dreaming about since I learned to drive. A school that everyone in the world knows about. A school that will open new doors for my career. Harvard.
& I got in! So now my scholastic adventure begins. But not before I buy a few new outfits and colorful highlighters 😉
I'm embarking on a new journey, and I would be lying if I didn't admit I am a bit scared. I know it's going to be difficult and tedious. I also will be juggling school, wedding planning (Yay!), and continuing to run my photography business. I will be spending a lot of time in Boston and having to navigate my work schedule around studying and assignments. This feeling reminds me of when I moved to NYC. It's a feeling of something beautiful yet laborious that I see as being another moment that I will pinpoint and look back on to say "that decision changed my life."
My story might not be precisely a rag to riches tale, but it's a relatable one. I'm just a girl from Sugar Land, Texas who decided to turn down anything that would mean settling on how I make money, who I love, and what I experience from this world. Maybe that's why I'm excited to share this experience with others. If you put your mind to something and really try, I think the possibilities for our lives are endless.
I can't thank my friends, family, & fiancé enough for supporting my creativity and endeavors (as wild as many of them have been!) over the years. If you would like to follow my adventures of studying at Harvard, capturing the world, and being the best dressed in the room, please join my email list and feel free to share any posts. ✨
As a Chicago-based blogger + photographer, I have A LOT of places to go and adventures to have on my Chicago Bucket List. While I do love this amazing city, I know that my time here may be fleeting as I resent the cold more and more each year *sigh*. That being said, I wanted to create a fun bucket list of everything you could possibly want to see, do, & taste in the Windy City. There are so many things to do in Chicago that creating this list became quite difficult because I didn't want to leave any "must do" out!
I would love to hear your thoughts on your own Chicago bucket list and places/experiences you wish to try! Feel free to share this list and add to it!
To Eat At + Cheers At...
⬜️Summer House Santa Monica
⬜️Honey Butter Fried Chicken
⬜️Mindy's Hot Chocolate
⬜️Girl & The Goat
⬜️Pacific Standard Time
⬜️Summer House Santa Monica
⬜️The Purple Pig
⬜️Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits
⬜️90 Miles Cuban Cafe
⬜️Longman & Eagle
⬜️Three Dots & A Dash
⬜️Maple & Ash
⬜️Fig & Olive
⬜️Sushi Para II
⬜️The Walnut Room
⬜️Chicago Q BBQ
⬜️The Nutella Cafe
⬜️Athena Greek Restaurant
⬜️The Signature Room @ The 95th
⬜️Rosebud on Rush
⬜️Lillie's Q BBQ
⬜️Green Street Smoked Meats
⬜️Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Co.
⬜️Duck Duck Goat
⬜️Mortar & Pestle
⬜️Kanela Breakfast Club
⬜️The Violet Hour
⬜️3 Arts Club Cafe
⬜️Pops For Champagne
⬜️Stocks & Blondes
⬜️The Chicago Firehouse
⬜️Dark Matter Coffee
⬜️The California Clipper
⬜️Maria's Packaged Goods
⬜️Moody Tongue Brewery
⬜️Half Acre Brewery
⬜️Old Town Ale House
⬜️The J. Parker
⬜️The Map Room
⬜️A Cubs Game at Wrigley Field
⬜️Attending a Sox Game
⬜️A relaxing Spa Day At Aire Ancient Baths
⬜️Practicing your swing with Topgolf at the Chicago Athletic Association
⬜️Shopping & vintage finds on Clark Street in Andersonville
⬜️Friday the 13th at L&L Tavern
⬜️Scottish beer at Duke Of Perth's
⬜️Game night at Replay
⬜️Karaoke at Mom's Place
⬜️Dancing at Beauty Bar
⬜️St. Patrick's Day In Chicago & seeing the river dyed green
⬜️Drinking wine & perusing the furniture at Restoration Hardware
⬜️Music & libations at the Redhead Piano Bar
⬜️A night out at Untitled Supper Club
⬜️Concerts / Movie Nights at Millennium Park
⬜️High views from The Ledge @ The Willis
⬜️Jazz at the Green Mill
⬜️A Sofar Sounds Show
⬜️A fun time with friends at Punchbowl Social
⬜️Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo
⬜️Comedy at Second City
⬜️A Steppenwolf Theater Play
⬜️New music at Empty Bottle
⬜️Drag Brunch In Boystown
⬜️Movie night at Music Box
⬜️Seeing a Bulls Game
⬜️Spring at the Chicago Botanical Gardens
⬜️An Improvised Shakespeare show at iO
⬜️The Renaissance Festival
⬜️Dancing at The Hideout
⬜️Kingston Mines live music
⬜️The magic shows that take place at Chicago Magic Lounge
⬜️Riding the swings or ferris wheel at Navy Pier (+ see the fireworks!)
⬜️A historic homes architecture tour by carriage horses off Oak Street
⬜️A beach day at North Ave Beach
⬜️Searching for the perfect book at Myopic Books
⬜️The views of the city from the London House rooftop bar
⬜️Let loose & dance all night at Smart Bar
⬜️Amazing views of the Air & Water show
⬜️Thrift store hopping off Milwaukee Ave in Wicker Park
⬜️Seeing the sunrise at Cloudgate
⬜️A Chicago gangster + ghost tour
⬜️Reading books & playing games over coffee + beer at kibbitznest
⬜️A relaxing weekend getaway in Lake Geneva
⬜️The beauty of the Chicago Cultural Center
⬜️Touring the Richard H. Driehaus Museum
⬜️A Blackhawks game
⬜️Getting splashed at Crown Fountain
⬜️Admiring the Robie House architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright
⬜️An amazing show at the Symphony Center
⬜️Getting dressed up & seeing an award-winning show at the Chicago Theater
⬜️A full day at the Brookfield Zoo
⬜️Getting your food fix after a night of drinking by The Tamale Guy
⬜️The Chicago Jazz Festival
⬜️Bowling at The Pink Squirrel
⬜️A Vaudeville show at Bordel
⬜️The unique entrance + cocktails at Bim Bom Lounge
⬜️Live music at The Hideout
⬜️Bar hopping in River North
⬜️Cooking Classes At Read It & Eat
⬜️The 14K Chocolate Cake at RPM Steak
⬜️Biking the 606 trail
⬜️Visiting ALL of the museums
⬜️Taking a wine tasting class at wineHOUSE
⬜️Swing dancing classes at Big City Swing
⬜️Mermaid swimming at Aquamermaid
⬜️Axe throwing at Bad Axe
⬜️Making new friends at a Meetup group (hello , check out mine!)
⬜️Running the Chicago Half Marathon (or full marathon!)
⬜️City Mini Golf
⬜️Winning bowling with your friends at Pinstripes
⬜️A shot of Malort
⬜️Drinks at Rite Liquors
⬜️Making your own perfume at Aroma
⬜️Ceramic painting at Glazed Expressions
⬜️The taxi water boat on a warm summer day
⬜️Getting photos at all of the Chicago Instagram spots!
⬜️Capturing a gorgeous night photo of the Buckingham Fountain water display
⬜️Running / Walking / Biking the entire Lakefront Trail
⬜️A mob & crime bus tour
⬜️Escaping your comfort zone & feed sharks the Shedd!
⬜️Finding all the famous landmark stonework pieces at the Tribune Tower
⬜️New food finds at The Taste
⬜️Trapeze class at TSNY Chicago
⬜️Indoor skydiving at iFLY
⬜️Finding & drinking inside Janitor's Closet Speakeasy
Despite being an only child growing up, I never thought that I was very special or that the ways I spent my time were consumed by special things. I was one of those kids who flew under the radar in school - quiet enough to not be recognized by any of my accomplishments, social enough to not get bullied, and well-behaved enough to stay out of trouble (or the spotlight whatsoever).
I spent majority of my summers and childhood at my grandparent's house watching Old Hollywood movies and seeing Grace Kelly waltz around their big screen television in ostrich feathers and lacy evening gowns. I was mesmerized by Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, and Barbara Stanwyck - all poised, intelligent, and beautiful women who could dress well and speak well. I may not have felt special or glamorous at the time but I remember thinking one day I would be.
I distinctly remember NYE 2004 at my grandparent's house. I watched the ball drop from Times Square in their living room as me and my cousins ate White Fudge Oreos and drank Dr. Pepper out of plastic wine glasses. While it was by no means a "boring" way to spend an evening, it sure wasn't NYC and it most definitely wasn't exciting. From that moment on I promised myself that once I became of age I would never have a boring NYE again. & as time went on and I grew older, I decided that it wasn't just an exciting NYE that I wanted but an exciting life.
So over the years I have created and journaled a list of all the special places I want to visit, adventures I want to embark on, lessons I hope to learn, and people I wish to experience life with. As I've aged into my mid-twenties, I've already crossed off many items and added to it as my views and desires have changed with each passing year.
Sharing my dreams & a list of items/places that I hope to experience is quite personal and something I didn't think I would ever post about. However, I think inspiring others to create new goals is always a good idea. I wanted to think outside the box for my bucket list. Sure, the list includes a number of "normal" goals but I made sure to sprinkle in some extra unique ones. I think the point of a bucket list should be to instill a desire to break out of your comfort zone and experience a side of life that one doesn't get to do on a daily basis. I wanted my list to be extraordinary and to become something worth yearning for.
My Bucket List...
Places To Go:
⬜️Joshua Tree National Park
⬜️Glass Beach in California
⬜️Rio de Janeiro
⬜️Eureka Springs, Arkansas
⬜️Bodega Bay, California
⬜️Sleepy Hollow, NY
⬜️Cabo San Lucas
Experiences To Have:
✓Win a costume contest
⬜️Octoberfest in Germany
⬜️Get a piercing in Amsterdam
⬜️Create my dream closet
⬜️Reindeer sledding in Norway
⬜️See the Norway Fjords
✓Celebrate Halloween in Salem, MA
⬜️Celebrate NYE in Las Vegas
⬜️Collect Old Cameras
⬜️Visiting the Mackenzie-Child's farm
⬜️Stay at the Lizzie Borden House
⬜️Visit the Dr. Pepper Museum
✓Seeing the Prada store in Marfa, Texas
⬜️See Lady Gaga live
✓See Britney Spears Live
✓See the Backstreet Boys live
⬜️Swim in the Hamilton Pool in Texas
⬜️Celebrate Halloween at Dracula's Castle in Romania
⬜️Swimming with a Beluga Whale
⬜️A Lantern Fest
⬜️Celebrate Halloween @ The Stanley Hotel
⬜️Stay at the Waldorf Versaille
⬜️4th of July at The Hamptons
✓Attend the Kentucky Derby
⬜️Attend the VC Polo Classic
⬜️Wine Train in Napa
⬜️Stay at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
⬜️An Alaskan Cruise
⬜️Be a bridesmaid for a stranger's wedding in Las Vegas
⬜️Stay at the Giraffe Hotel
⬜️Attend a Hot Air Balloon Festival
⬜️Go to Mardi Gras
⬜️Attend a Super Bowl
✓St. Patrick's Day in Dublin
⬜️Shopping at a European Christmas Market
⬜️Stay at the Madonna Inn
⬜️See the California Redwoods
⬜️Go to Bath, UK
⬜️See the White Cliffs of Dover
⬜️Ride the Venice Simplon-Orient Express train
⬜️See the Scotland Fairy Pools
✓Stay at the Plaza Hotel in NYC
✓Attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parada
⬜️Celebrate NYE in Paris
⬜️Swim at the Barton Springs pool in Austin, TX
✓Stay at the Atlantis Bahamas
⬜️See the Romeo & Juliet wall in Italy
⬜️See the Leaning Tower of Pisa
✓Live in a loft
⬜️See the Dead Sea
⬜️Eat at the original Chick-Fil-A
⬜️See the Stone Henge
⬜️Visit the Taj Mahal
⬜️Go to the Neon Museum in Las Vegas
✓Hold a baby Tiger
⬜️Attend the Golden Retriever Festival
⬜️Swim with otters
⬜️Wear a snake as my outfit accessory
⬜️Throw an amazing Halloween party
⬜️Visit Nocton Hall (The Woman in Black House)
⬜️Tour the Winchester Mystery House
⬜️Go to Cadillac Ranch
✓Ride an Elephant
⬜️Hold a koala
✓Take a falconry class
⬜️Sing (& nail it!) "We Didn't Start The Fire" for karaoke night
⬜️Attend a gala in honor of a charity I love
⬜️Dinner + Show at the Moulin Rouge in Paris
⬜️Try a Salt Float Bath
⬜️Make pasta from scratch
⬜️A dining without senses event
✓Eat at a Michelin Star Restaurant
✓Do a Polar Bear Plunge
⬜️Go to Blueberry Farm in Tennessee
⬜️Stay at the Ashford Castle
✓Have a country star sign my cowgirl boots
⬜️Visit the Ben & Jerry's factory
⬜️See the Bonneville Salt Flats
⬜️Celebrate Halloween in New Orleans
⬜️Stay at a Versace hotel
⬜️Do a riverboat cruise
⬜️Swim at Jellyfish Lake
⬜️Boat the Rhine River
⬜️Go to House of Yes in NYC
⬜️Attend the Texas Sand Festival
⬜️Attend an Olympics
✓See the ball drop in Times Square
⬜️Watch all the famous movies + TV shows
✓Make a gallery wall of memes
✓Stay at the Oakley Court Hotel
⬜️Visit Oak Alley Plantation
⬜️Visit the Pet Sematary house in Hancock, Maine
⬜️Stay at the Biltmore
⬜️Start a signed book collection
⬜️Have a fashion designer sign a pair of heels
⬜️Start a newspaper collection
⬜️Throw a golden birthday party
⬜️Become a SOHO house member
⬜️Go to 7 Mountains in Nevada
⬜️Visit Jacob's Well in Texas
⬜️Tour Buckingham Palace
⬜️Go to Yellowstone National Park
⬜️Attend the Holland Tulip Fest
⬜️Visiting all 50 states
⬜️Own a cool neon sign
⬜️Stay at a floating cabin resort
✓Stay at the Baker House in Wisconsin
⬜️Write down a list of memories I have with special people in my life
⬜️Stay at the Ross Lake Cabins
⬜️Visit the Pumpkin House in West Virginia
✓Go to the Mall of America
⬜️See Lake Lochness
⬜️See the Gates of Hell sculpture
⬜️Visit the Tunnel of Love in Ukraine
⬜️Celebrate Day Of The Dead in Mexico
✓Celebrate Halloween in NYC
⬜️Swim in the World's largest swimming pool
⬜️Swim with Manatees
⬜️Play a round of golf at St. Andrew's
⬜️Visit a pink sand beach
Subjects To Learn:
⬜️The Splits / Flexibility
⬜️Floral Arrangement Creating
Career Goals To Check Off:
⬜️Shoot 100+ Weddings
⬜️Write a book
✓Have 1,000+ Meetup Members in my Meetup Group
✓Meet Rosie Hardy
⬜️Host a Gallery
⬜️Graduate with my Bachelors
⬜️Complete a 365 photo challenge
⬜️Visit the Pinterest Headquarters
⬜️Start an IRA
⬜️Shoot a wedding in every state
⬜️Attend a murder mystery dinner
Happy Life Investments To Make:
⬜️Buy a house
⬜️Pay it forward
⬜️Purchasing my dream car
⬜️Saving more money
⬜️Adopting 2 Dalmatians
⬜️A beautiful wedding to the love of my life
⬜️Start an art collection
⬜️Become a mom
Special Items To Create:
⬜️A family cookbook
I have this terrible habit of comparing myself to others and usually feeling like I always come up short. Maybe it's because I actually AM short - and have been comparing myself to taller, more noticeable people since the day I learned how to walk. I have always struggled with self-confidence issues and how I view my part in this world, especially as a wedding photographer and growing a business that is already overly saturated by anyone with a Nikon.
Two years ago I was at a bridal industry event night and I met this man who is also a wedding photographer in Chicago. Cool right? Except he charges about double what I charge and at the time seemed to be about double as impressive..... he also was about double my age, but that's not important. I started to look up to him as he was a sought-after, successful Chicago photographer.
We continued to communicate after our first meeting and he was someone I went to for advice regarding photography and crafting a business plan. I went to him for other things too - however, like his age - that's not important. I remember even after we lost contact wishing I could someday be as successful as he was in the wedding industry. I wished I could be someone that people would want to book with no matter how high my pricing.
As time has gone on, I have incorporated some of the ideas we discussed and his views on the best way to become a successful wedding photographer into my business routine. Yet I still have always thought he was out of my league-professionally speaking. I spent many months comparing myself to him and others in the industry who I believed to be more successful, more creative, and more powerful.
It wasn't until a few weeks ago when a wedding photo of his popped up on my business Instagram explore page that I realized maybe the ones we look up to aren't exactly who we make them out to be. It was an image of a couple he photographed at Montesino Ranch. MONTESINO RANCH.
Now, if you're asking yourself "WTF is Montesino Ranch?" then it's probably because you don't live in the very small town of Wimberly, Texas on the outskirts of Austin.
Even I, Macey Lynn, who has low self-confidence and questions her artistic ability every day has shot a wedding at Montesino Ranch. While it's a beautiful place, it's not expensive and it's not somewhere a bride with a large budget would book a top photographer. One of my first clients EVER tied the knot back in 2013 at Montesino Ranch, giving me the opportunity to really grow my portfolio.
As I dived deeper into his Instagram business page, I realized that there were several venues we both had shot at. The Grand Geneva, Humboldt Park Boathouse, & The Shedd to name a few. Nice pictures, sure. But 10x better than mine? Not really. Different perspectives and editing techniques, definitely. But better? Arguably not at all. As I looked closer, I realized that my jaw didn't drop when looking at his photos like I once thought. One image of a bridal gown was totally ruined by an ivy vine in the way. Another image weirdly cropped. I don't say this to try to cut down another photographer's work. He has talent clearly - I mean he's getting booked and charging more than I am! However, I've realized that comparison truly is the thief of joy and some comparisons aren't what we make them out to be. I realized that since meeting him I absolutely had grown in my work and photography skills - which is something I could thank him for.
It's so easy to compare ourselves to "role models" we create in our minds. Celebrities, older relatives, co-workers, Instagram influencers, you name it. We see people and get this idea that they are SO much better than us in a particular area. & maybe they are. There are a lot of people who are super smart and that have worked very hard to get to where they are today. However, that shouldn't diminish our own worth.
Sometimes the people we look up to are just a few steps ahead. Or they built a ladder to get a bit further along. Or, in many cases, paid a helicopter to escort them straight to the top.
What I'm trying to say with all of this is that it's AMAZING to have role models and people to look up to in order to stay inspired, creative, and think outside the box. It's also AMAZING to believe in your own success as much as anyone else's. Some of the challenges we face aren't as challenging as we make them out to be. So don't compare yourself to photos and posts on social media of people screaming their successes.
I think instead of having role models, we should have goal models. A goal model is someone that inspires us to reach new goals without feeling the need to compare our journey to theirs. We all have our own paths. I promise you'll have your own Montesino Ranch moment someday and I hope when you do you realize that you're actually super talented and worthy of great things ✨
A few weeks ago, on a road trip to Minneapolis, my fiancé and I came to the conclusion that we love being alive in this day and age. We came to the conclusion that 2019 has truly offered some incredible moments and if given the choice to live in any other time period we would have to decline the offer.
This realization is certainly not something many people feel like screaming at the tops of their lungs. It's hard to think of all the good during a time period that is filled with mass shootings, climate change, hatred, the pressures of social media, economic uncertainty, cancer, the rise of other diseases, the list continues...
Throughout history there has always been tragedy and terrible moments. Yet nostalgia has a way of making us think the past was better than it in all likelihood was. For me it's the Roaring 20s. I imagine how incredible that time period would have been. The glamorous attire, the jazz music blaring, the adrenaline that would have pulsed through my veins sneaking into a speakeasy and illegally consuming wine alongside my flapper girlfriends. Such a dazzling, magical time to be alive. Or so it seems.
Of course, this time period would have actually been far from easy. Few rights for women, the banning of alcohol, the verge of the Great Depression, the unrest -or should I say the uneasy peace- that came with the conclusion of WWI. The struggle of living (particularly thriving) in the 20s would have been real. As would any past decade or century. & for all the amazing moments in history, I think we all can agree that we would have only enjoyed living in [Insert Years] time period if we were filthy rich. Not to say that money buys happiness but it certainly contributed to much better living conditions pre-AC and electricity.
However, in this day & age you don't have to be filthy rich to experience what would have been a lap of luxury lifestyle just a handful of decades ago. Air-conditioning. The power to have food delivered to your home, find a mate, connect with someone across the globe, and Google the answer to any question in a matter of seconds through a handheld device. Electricity. Hot, running water. All simple things we take for granted on a daily basis.
My fiancé and I discussed it and truly think there really is nothing that compares to the present. We love the ease of being able to go on a road trip with the help of our handy navigator Siri while Spotify plays our favorite songs from the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and today. We love that we can Skype each other when we're each away on business. We love that with a touch of a button our apartment can be warm and cozy despite the cold winter weather of Chicago raging outside our windows. We love that we can travel for a mere few hundred dollars to London, NYC, Texas, Paris, Singapore, Costa Rica, & many other destinations anytime our heart desires. We love that we have options (many times too many) for food, movies, music, clothing, and activities. We love that we can stay out late at a local bar, drink our favorite adult beverages, and safely Uber home at the end of the night. We love that we can go to the doctor or hospital for any ailment or injury and get treatment that will put us back on our feet in a matter of days.
I love that I can voice my opinion to my blog from the comfort of my bedroom and share my ideas with the world. I love that I can go on Pinterest and find new recipes to cook for dinner. I love that despite not living close to home I can Snapchat and keep up with friends & family. I love that I can keep my home clean with an automatic trashcan & litter box. I love that I can wash my clothes while I binge watch videos of cats doing silly things on Youtube or watch a classic film on Hulu. I love that I can hear new musicians on Soundcloud and support local artists through Etsy. I love it all.
& sure, there is A LOT of bad in the world. & it's easy to fall into the thinking that this is a hard time to be alive. I know I do it more times than not. However, I think that any time can be a hard time to be alive. I also think that any time can be a great time to be alive. I think a lot of it is our perspective.
& while the past might have had some amazing moments, there's a reason we have progressed to where we are now. & maybe we didn't all individually contribute to that but our ancestors and fellow mankind did. We (as a human race) have always been innovative and creative, constantly progressing towards something - who knows what exactly. & to think that we have suddenly lost that mentality is simply not supported based off of a thousand+ years of modernization.
Think about it long and hard. Would you have preferred to grow up or live in another time? And if so, why?
Because I wouldn't. I choose the here and now. & I think if we all adopted the mentality that this is truly a great time to be alive, maybe we could overcome these fears, anxieties, and struggles that have seemed to captivate the minds of Millennials everywhere.
I've struggled with depression and mental health issues my whole life. I remember being a 14 y/o sassy teenage girl reading "14,000 Things To Be Happy About". I had just rubbed tanning oil all over my body and was lounging in my ex stepdad's backyard as the sun beamed down on my already overly tan skin (shout out to Jergen's for keeping us 2000s girls orange).
I had fake Chanel sunglasses on and an Abercrombie bikini. I had bought the book with some chore money after glancing through the self-help section of Barnes & Noble. High school is hard for everyone, no matter how cool or athletic or smart you are. I think we can all agree on that. For me, it was a lot harder than I had expected. I went to a private Baptist high school. We had to wear uniforms and attend a daily Bible class- which wasn't so bad in itself. However, it was really difficult to fit in unless your parent's had at least a half a million dollar home and/or you already had a ridiculously good education and brain to back it up. I had neither but thankfully I seemed "normal" enough to fly under the radar from constant bullying.
I came from a divorced family, was raised by a single mom with the help of my grandparents. My ex stepdad came into my life in elementary school and was around to co-parent with my mom for roughly 10 years. It was normal enough yet far from the "stable" upbringing majority of my friends had. My stepdad was a very negative person and growing up surrounded by him definitely has affected my adult outlook on life. He didn't believe in being silly, childish, or anything "fun" for that matter. I was an only child so I stuck to myself most of the time. I grew up surrounded by his mindset that life is hard, having fun means being immature, and there's no reason to lighten up because adulthood is a dark place.
Anyways, back to my first self-help book experience. I remember scanning over the pages and thinking "Yes, these things would make me happy". Sushi, sunsets, perfume from Paris - the book listed everything you could imagine and more. Plenty of things to be happy about... even if I couldn't experience them all the time. It's not that I felt sad- necessarily. I had good friends in and outside of school. I was good enough at cross country and track to hang with the older crowd and make the school morning announcements on occasion for hitting a new PR. Despite wearing a uniform, my love for shoes started young so I was always getting complimented on them by the "popular" girls. It wasn't a rough upbringing by any means. Yet, I did still struggle to feel "happy" on a daily basis. Most days just felt "eh". Not good, not bad, but definitely not happy. It wasn't something I wanted to verbalize because everyone else around me seemed to feel "happy".
Fast forward 10+ years, and here I am. Still not always beaming with happiness, but definitely stable. I have my own wedding photography business. I blog. I'm finally in a healthy, trusting adult relationship - something I've never experienced previously. I've had a lot of ups and downs. Moved from Austin to NYC to San Antonio to Chicago. Lived in a different apartment every year for the past 7 years. My best friend committed suicide almost 3 years ago and I've since lost a few other friends to suicide or sketchy lifestyles. Despite the hard events in my life, I think that as I've reached my mid-twenties I've come to learn that happiness is a choice and choosing to live a fulfilling life is what will bring us the most joy.
It's been a whirlwind of events and even though I'm only 26, I often feel like I've already lived several different lives. I've made traveling a priority, often as a way to escape sadness or stresses that affect me on a daily basis. I've started a Meetup group, which has taught me that I am, in fact, a pretty social person and something about me seems to bring people together. I'm not sure if that's always a good thing but it is what it is. I've learned a lot about myself, people, and human nature in general.
There have been ups and downs, positives and negatives. I still struggle with my mental outlook and what I'm not sure is depression or just a normal reaction to dealing with deaths, divorces, and frequent life changes within a short amount of time. I think it's so great that our society is starting to be more open about mental health and the stigma of having to act like everything is ok is beginning to fade away. People are embracing being honest about their feelings and struggles in a healthy way.
However, I don't think this vulnerable stance has translated into our work environments and I feel like not enough people talk about it. My best friend was fresh out of college when she committed suicide. She was looking for a job or career path. She went to interviews all the time and was constantly expressing her wants and desires to find a job and feel self-reliant. Unfortunately, she didn't end up waiting long enough to gain either one. I think it's a core desire to want to succeed and be independent. I know many of us feel that being honest about depression or anxiety in a professional setting could result in a halt moving up the ladder. None of us want to be judged by a colleague, boss, manager, competitor, or client for being incompetent due to our frame of mind.
Having my own wedding photography business has been amazing and each year I have built up more clients and a larger portfolio than the previous. It's not always easy though- i'm sure anyone with depression and trust issues can probably relate. It's hard enough somedays to even get out of bed let alone market, e-mail, call, network, and book myself from 8am-6pm. Somedays I work for 18+ hours at a time, going on an editing spree and trying to book new clients. Other days I don't accomplish anything. It's these days that make me feel unproductive and worry that I'm going to lose everything I've built. It makes me look at my friends who work for someone else or corporate America and wish that maybe I had considered a similar path. Not because it's easier or less stressful, but because it means having a support system and a more structured lifestyle in many cases.
Recently, I almost threw the towel in. With some of the major life changes I've faced in previous years, it's been hard to feel motivated. For awhile there I lost all sense of direction for my life. I started getting a few bad reviews. I always justified my behavior because it wasn't entirely my fault. One client didn't receive their package on time because their address was a PO box, another client threw a fit over not receiving 5 posed photos we took despite my contract clearly stating all photos received are up to my discretion. None of these things were "my fault", that is true. Yet I can now admit that I didn't handle these situations properly. My mental state sometimes makes me lack self confidence and I feel like people are taking advantage of me. This has, of course, made being the face of my own business very difficult.
I made excuses, it made me feel better. Deep down I felt terrible. One bad review in this day and age can make or break a business permanently. & here I was getting multiple ones at once. I felt like I had messed up- yet again! I felt like people were taking advantage of my lower priced packages or my "too nice" personality. I stopped marketing myself for future clients. I decided to rebrand - which I'm still working on. It's hard to be the backbone for a business when you feel like your own backbone is collapsing from stress and the downfalls of life.
I almost called it quits last winter. I was crying in my bathtub. I felt like I was losing everything I had been working towards the past few years. I thought that if I just started over and had a "normal" job that maybe I would feel more stable. I told myself that someone with my mental health state shouldn't and couldn't run their own business. It would be better for me to take directions and have a clear schedule. The stresses and instability of my job was making me feel more unstable. I told myself it was time to move on and leave the dream of capturing the world on film to a more secure occupation.
That's when I realized that I'm not that person. Somedays I might feel weak, but it doesn't mean I'm weak. If anything, I'm stronger than most. Just because I don't always feel secure in myself doesn't mean I can't be secure in my own business. Maybe I can be a voice for those who are overwhelmed by their mental health struggles. Maybe it will take more effort than it would for someone in a "happy" frame of mind but that doesn't mean it's impossible. I've let people down, but I've also been let down by others. & even if it means that through all of my recent decisions I've let myself down, it also means I can lift myself back up.
In the last two weeks I've booked 6 weddings and have done better than I have in a LONG time. Feeling productive & successful in my work life also makes me feel better about other areas of my life. It can be so hard to get out of a funk once you're in it, but it also can be hard to get out of accomplishments once you're in it - which is a good thing! It can be so easy to focus on the negatives in our lives. I think if we can try to focus on what we want to achieve and the steps we need to take to do so then we can feel productive and experience a happier version of ourselves.
I've found that trying to set a daily routine/schedule helps so much! Also using tools to post on all of my social media accounts at once is such a time saver and makes me feel productive in itself. The first day of every month I go on Facebook and schedule the entire month's daily posts so it's one less thing to have to think about! There are so many tools and resources for us in this day and age. Templates, email scheduling, etc, etc! I think learning to balance our mental health with our daily necessities is so important to feeling productive and not letting our minds create havoc that feels too hard to climb out of.
So I just want to say to all you business owners, freelancers, programmers, bosses, managers, and anyone who works from home that is struggling with mental health issues - you can do it. It might take more effort somedays but go easier on yourself. Take a break if you need to. Make a to-do list that you can tackle at once. Be honest even if you're worried it might impact how others view you- I think honesty and vulnerability are traits few have but many admire. Schedule an appointment to vent with your therapist. Talk to a friend. Sleep in on your day off. Make time to work out, read, cook, or do something calming. Whatever you do, don't give up. If you really feel like you've found your purpose then don't let your mental state mess up your future state. It's hard, but it's worth it and you deserve it- trust me.
& I JUST FEEL LIKE EVERYONE SHOULD SEE THEM OKAY?!
I know that getting engaged is not like the biggest accomplishment ever but for me getting engaged kinda was! I always thought when I grew up I wanted to be a wife & mom. Sure, wedding photography definitely has its perks. However, it's not the dream. Call me old fashioned but I think getting to take care of my home, shoot the occasional wedding/photo session, cook dinner, & spend time with my children + husband is the ultimate #lifegoals. So meeting & falling in love with this amazing man I get to now call my fiancé is something I'm incredibly excited about!
I decided to shoot my own engagement photos because I've always been into self portraits. Pictures & self portraits are how I've expressed myself over the years. I remember being an artsy, somewhat anti-social teenager and thinking capturing myself sitting in a window would express the emotions I felt 🤷🏼♀️Ever since high school I've captured almost every vacation, milestone, and adventure through the lens of my camera. I figured what better way to capture my love story & engagement then shooting it myself?!
So here are all of my favorite photos from our engagement session. Shout out to my fiancé, Ryan, on adventuring around the city of Chicago with (& dodging the rain all day, I might add!) for hours on a Sunday so I can get "the perfect shot".
*P.S. If I can take all of these amazing shots ON MY OWN then imagine what I can do for you ;) For wedding + portrait photography sessions visit my website shoot312.com & let me capture your big moment!
I'VE LEARNED A THING OR TWO...
26 years on this Earth is far from a world record and for many of us our lives are just beginning. The truth is that I don't have much advice to give. I've made plenty of mistakes and errors in recent years that have made me feel like I have NO idea what I'm doing in life. However, I think it's the mistakes in life that provide us with insight worth sharing with others. If there's anything I hate it's perfection. I don't think anyone has grown from a perfect life that has no bruises, scars, or blemishes. In my last six years I've gone through two of my mom's divorces, two close friend suicides, two of my own long term relationship breakups, moving from Austin to NYC to San Antonio to Chicago, 8+ apartments, multiple jobs/internships, starting my own photography business, and visiting multiple cities/states/countries. It's been a journey. Through that journey I've learned & witnessed a lot. Here are just a few of many great tips, lessons, & words of wisdom I'm accumulated:
26 THINGS I'VE LEARNED...
Raise your hand if fast fashion is the worst... 🙋🏼🙄
I love shopping as much as anybody & have always heeded Kate Sander's advice after acknowledging that Lizzie Mcguire was an outfit repeater. That being said, i'm kinda sick of fast fashion! & honestly, I blame all of the "influencers" everywhere. Constantly trotting around in new fashions, never repeating as much as a pair of shoes, spouting off about the newest and trendiest clothing + accessories that we "need". It's true that I too have a LikeToKnowIt account & that I also market my own wardrobe - BUT I'M PUTTING MY FOOT DOWN.
I don't think this concept even has to do with liking to shop or wearing a new outfit on a new outing. Many of us girls have been shopping 24/7 since the day we were born! I think it's more the idea of constantly buying bulk clothing at cheap prices, wearing said item one time for a cute photo, and then stashing more junk in your closet for the next 5 years until it finally gets sold on eBay for $3 or gets donated to your local Goodwill shop. It's a waste of time, money, and space.
What happened to buying nice articles of clothing? What happened to being excited to wear a new outfit instead of purchasing for the sake of a photo or caption? I'm just as guilty as anyone but I think it's time I change my ways. Let's make an effort to buy because we love something - not because our favorite Instagram influencer recommends it, not because it's a bargain (unless it truly is... then girl get it!), and not because we feel the need to share it with the world of social media.
Over the course of this month I'm going to purge through the endless amount of clothing, shoes, & accessories I've collected. Less truly is more. Maybe I can get some extra cash by selling my higher end items & I can definitely help out others with my bags and bags of donations. Not only is fast fashion bad for the environment but I think it's bad for our mental wellbeing. I mean, here we are, thinking that items we spend money on have no purpose to our lives besides giving us a few likes & comments. Is that truly how low we think of ourselves? Everything we choose to have in our lives should bring us confidence & happiness. We have become so shallow to allow ourselves to drown in our collection of fast fashion fabric.
A wise person once said: "Everything in moderation". Including Fashion Nova, Forever 21, & Amazon Prime. I will update y'all on my fashion status at the end of the month - wish me luck!