This year was a time of hard, ugly change.
The kind of change that doesn’t lead to an exciting list of accomplishments on new year’s eve, or any sort of physical evidence for that matter.
The kind of change that is born out of necessity, and desperation, and doubt.
But I truly don’t think I would still be here without it.
I don’t know how to talk about this year without talking about the darkness that swallowed me whole for the majority of it.
2022 began with a tired emptiness that had become all too familiar and far too easy to conceal.
Despite doing everything I was “supposed to”: working, staying busy, exercising, eating healthy, socializing, etc. these feelings persisted. Loneliness and exhaustion and emptiness consumed me in a way I thought would never end.
It took acknowledging the deep, dark parts of myself to realize what a dire situation I was in.
There was great challenge in talking to the few most trusted people in my life, bringing the thoughts I had kept to myself out into the open. For so long, I couldn’t bring myself to burden them with my selfish negativity, the thoughts of no longer wanting to be here — but opening up was essential to healing.
What followed was the months of hard, ugly change.
Change that felt like hesitantly shedding a hard outer layer, built up from years of thinking I alone had to protect myself, keep myself safe.
Change that felt like sloughing off a protective goo underneath, that served as the mask for vulnerability, the layer I didn’t want to admit to myself was there.
Change that felt like raw exposure - looking at myself without the layers of protection, and examining what I thought I was protecting myself from and why.
This kind of change feels slow, and unending, and at times too much to bear, but I am trying so hard to be proud of it still.
The people who helped me through, and didn’t shy away from the ugliness, have shown me a love and care that I am so grateful for I can’t begin to express.
When things started to take a turn for the better, my only thought was that it would only be a matter of time before I found myself in this dark place once again — but now I knew that I had a support system that would be there for me — I no longer had to hide.
Things are lighter now. And I haven’t found myself here by chance. There have been a lot of difficult conversations, challenging introspection, moments of honesty and vulnerability and change that a past version of me wouldn’t have been able to imagine.
With great losses in our family this year, I’ve found myself pulled to spend more time with those that I love. I’m worried less about professional pursuits, and superficial desires. I am trying to lean into knowing myself and feeling my feelings and owning my wants and needs shamelessly.
Feeling deeply is not a weakness, and being willing to care for other people is important and valuable, but I’ve learned to look out for myself in a way that at one time was reserved only for others, and welcome care and attention that I have always shied away from.
It is still in progress, in the way that self work always is, but I am grateful to still be here, seemingly on the other side.
Now for the regularly scheduled programming: a chronicling of this years highlights, almost exclusively for me to look back on and recall when my memories fail me.
I welcomed the new year as usual: alone in my apartment, in sweatpants, tipsy off one bottle of prosecco and full of french fries.
I headed out to Jersey early on the 1st to surprise my sweet friend Leanna and take engagement photos of her and George, her wonderful fiancé. Despite the rain, and limited daylight, we managed to take some photos that capture their beautiful relationship and celebrate after with a surprise engagement party with their east coast pals.
The rest of January was spent getting back into the work grind, puzzling, and training for the upcoming NYC half marathon, my reemergence into races after a two year hiatus.
February was when I was at my lowest, I found myself isolating and retreating inward, but life kept moving, and so did I. I spontaneously flew to Chicago for my sister’s surprise proposal to Cass, and braved the chilly Chicago temps to capture their sweet moment on the lake. It was a bright moment in what felt like endless darkness.
March was spent working and in bed, besides the sister visit in the middle of the month. Megan flew out to cheer me on at the half and spend time exploring places on our growing list of must-sees. Watching her leave at the end of her visit was heartbreaking, but reminded me of how much I appreciate our relationship and her love and support.
In April I flew to NC to visit my grandparents. We spent time going to the beach, sitting on the patio chatting, and picking strawberries. I decided to extend my trip and drive up with them to see my parents in-progress lake house. Being around family felt so peaceful and I underestimated how valuable this trip would be.
At the end of April I flew back to Chicago for another surprise engagement shoot — this time my high school friend Mandi and her fiancé Matt (it was quite the year for engagements).
In May I resumed my summer habit of bike trips to the beach, dyed my hair bright orange, and saw one of my favorite artists, Billie Marten, in my new favorite venue. The month ended with another trip down south for my cousin Grayson’s graduation, and some more time spent on the lake, anticipating next summer when my parents’ house will be finished.
At the beginning of June, our friends Luisa and Fran came down from Boston to visit and we took a trip out to the beach to celebrate my birthday early. We all had a bit too much to drink, but it was one of the happiest days of this year. After, I traveled home to Illinois for my birthday to visit my mom and sister. It was a quiet weekend of wedding dress shopping, small town dinners, a quick visit with Sabrina, and what may have been one of my last trips calling Illinois “home”.
July was ushered in with the seemingly annual roof-pool day, and a nyc visit from Cass. Vada and I headed up to Rochester for the fourth of July, to once again spend time with family and spend final moments with my grandmother.
I came back to the city and we welcomed Fran and Luisa back for another weekend of shenanigans. The darkness I thought I’d expelled found its way back and the rest of the month was a blur.
August brought news of my grandfather’s declining health and sent us all back to the south to spend time with him and support each other in grief.
After returning to the city, and one of the busiest work weeks yet, I flew out to Vermont to celebrate Megan’s graduation from her master’s program. The trip was so beautiful and had me thinking I needed to move to a small town in Vermont on a lake and work at a bakery for the rest of my life.
A labor day trip back to Rochester with my mom became another trip of goodbyes as we spent nights in hospice with my grandmother. She passed with my mom and uncle by her side, and I hope that she’s at peace now with my grandfather.
The rest of the month I leaned into new found energy for social interaction. I went to free shows with Brittany, took trips to the farmers market with Andrea, and went out dancing with Jourdon — ending the month with spontaneous purple hair, and Andrea’s birthday celebration (complete with a surprise visit from her whole family).
October felt like a bit of a rebirth as the weather started to cool and I realized I felt more like myself than I had all year. Andrea, Vada, and I danced on the roof, and planned a collaborative photoshoot that reminded me how much I love our friendship and how wonderful it is to create all together.
I discovered a new hobby of long bike rides and made a trip up to Sleepy Hollow via a 37 mile ride, complete with changing leaves and cool fall air.
As I sat on the train platform waiting to head back to the city, I got the call from my mom that my grandfather had passed away. I headed straight to Russell’s apartment and we spent the next 24 hours together, finding flights to NC and holding space for the loss.
We met the rest of our family in Wilmington and said our last goodbye to our grandpa. He will be so dearly missed, and the hole he has left is still felt.
As I returned to the city (once again) the desire to run away led me on another bike trip, this time 50 miles, and much less enjoyable. I’ve found the distraction of movement only keeps the pain at bay — like digging your nail into a mosquito bite to distract you from the itch.
The beginning of November was marathon week, and this year I caught Andrea in the running fever with me. We decided to sign up for a 10k in February and start in on our training right away. Our plans were slightly delayed by my grisly bike accident, but luckily nothing was broken and we were back on our feet in a week.
I dyed my hair back to my roots after 4 years of blonde, and after celebrating Vada’s birthday in the city, Andrea and I flew back to SC to see my parents newly completed lake house. We spent the weekend reveling in the beautiful weather, peaceful boat rides, and delicious food. I couldn’t wait to return in a month.
December’s first trip was to Savannah where we met Luisa and Fran for our yearly “Fransgiving”, in our old college stomping ground. After years of separation the city felt small, and while memories flooded back, it all felt eerily unfamiliar and different. When we left, we all agreed that we had moved beyond our time there — it was a pleasant, but perhaps final, sav trip.
We rounded out the month with more running, holiday get togethers with friends, and the final week of work before the holidays.
I headed back down to my parent’s house for Christmas, meeting Megan there for our usual Christmas eating extravaganza. I feel so grateful for the time I’ve spent with family this year and the closeness we’ve established.
Once again, new year’s eve was spent alone in my sweats, but this year, I don’t feel the empty longing I did a year ago. I can recognize how far I’ve come and it feels good.
I have a hard time with the in between, the in progress, the becoming — it never seems worth documenting, commenting on, acknowledging. Despite “enjoy the journey not the destination” rhetoric, the journey isn’t always pretty (most often it’s not), and it usually requires a lot of patience, something I’ve never been very adept in.
So here’s an attempt to document that in between:
It’s been just over a year and a half since I returned to nyc (mid-pandemic) to pursue freelancing full time, and it’s been a slow growth. I’ve found myself in assisting gigs, a semi-regular digital tech job, some miscellaneous work shooting, but it hasn’t come without its fair share of challenges (scheduling difficulties, payment neglect, big egos & misogynistic treatment); and there are a lot of days spent with no jobs/work at all.
The freedom is intoxicating, but is also daunting with the pressure to be working nonstop, constantly growing, pushing for more connections and opportunities, fighting for a seat at the table. I’ve found myself questioning if anyone really cares about knowledge, talent, technical ability, etc., or if it’s just about knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time, and/or having a huge following.
I recognize that everything takes time, and the slow progress (in some way or another), is all a part of “the plan” — but in the slow weeks, it’s hard to see it that way. You get wrapped up in comparison, self doubt, imposter syndrome. There’s no guide book, step by step process, or mentor to guide you through things — you have to believe in yourself over everything else.
It makes me want to retreat inward, share less, hide behind anonymity; unwilling to participate in hustle culture and self promotion, the networking and “putting myself out there”, the social gatherings that always seem to revolve around drinking.
I shoot self portraits alone in my apartment that fulfill the need to create, and release creative energy, but ultimately feel inefficacious and unprofessional. My inability to make connections, source equipment, a studio, models, stylists, H&MU, art directors, etc. makes creating full-blown shoots feel intimidating. I don’t have a “team”, it feels like it’s just me, and therefore it feels almost impossible to make “portfolio worthy” work in order to submit to jobs.
I used to talk about wanting to achieve success so that I could be of help and guidance to other’s who are coming up. I still feel like there’s such a lack of mentorship in the professional world, but I also feel like I may never really feel like I’ve “made it” enough to be giving advice to others; doubting that the experience that I have is worthy of passing on. And as I try to step away from living my life on/for the terms of others, I feel as though I should find purpose in my work outside of the need it may fulfill for other people.
I hope that one day I will look back on this chapter and feel grateful for the time I spent in the in between - the time spent working through the challenge of patience and trust. I hope there’s a version of me in the future that achieves things she genuinely feels proud of and continues to grow and learn. For now, I have to keep reminding myself this is just the beginning.
Well here we are again…
Every year the time seems to pass faster and slower somehow, and I look back and realize the growth and change and beauty despite feeling so stagnant and bored and confused and frustrated and lost for most of the year.
This year started out slow — while spending time with family, we experienced one of the most challenging losses together. I still see Sherri everywhere in my daily life, whether it's seeing Creme Saver candies for the first time in years, in the girl with downs syndrome that comes into a model casting, or hearing her sayings slipping into my daily vernacular. Coming back to the city to an empty apartment and not much work to fill my time, it was a rough first couple months. I felt very alone and didn't know how to ask for what I needed most times. When work started to pick up and I got off of medication that was sending me even further into a downward spiral, things started to lighten up a bit. March, April, and May passed with little excitement, besides a short stint with blue hair before chopping half of it off, and a staycation with Andrea. In June I committed myself to training to run 25k for my 25th birthday, traveled to Chicago to work on a project with friends, celebrated my birthday with a few friends on our roof, and learned that solo bike trips to the beach are wildly fulfilling.
July began with a friend reunion in boston for the 4th, and then traveling home for my oldest friend's wedding. It was a hot summer of outdoor shoots and sweating my way all over the city, but I wasn't as mad about the warm weather this year.
My quarantine habit of self portraits has continued throughout this year and even though it started out feeling juvenile and worthless, I feel like I've grown through being able to experiment on my own and try new things and explore where the shoot takes me without an end result in mind and the pressure of time or others.
Andrea and I rang in fall with the last summer friday at the beach, and I dyed my hair red(ish) for the first time. I had the busiest month of the year, with work, Megan, Cass, and my parents visiting, and a (very eventful) solo trip to Pine Creek, before Vada moved in and Andrea's birthday.
October flew by and before I knew it, it was November, which I have come to the conclusion is my favorite month of the year. The leaves are changing and the temperature has finally dropped and everything feels cozy without being too cold. Andrea and Vada and I spent the end of November going to the farmer's market, getting a christmas tree, and sitting on the couch with bagel sandwiches, wrapped in blankets, drinking tea and hot cider, and binging vampire diaries until we couldn't hold our eyes open any longer — and I couldn't have been happier. Living with your friends is truly such a blessing when you all operate as the grandparents from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
December wrapped up with cranberry hair, a quick trip to Miami for work, Fransgiving, everyone and their brother getting covid in NYC, and luckily still being able to go home to see family before coming back to the city for a solo new years eve… which brings us here.
I'm shocked that I've somehow survived my first year of freelancing, staying in the black, not having an emotional breakdown, and still experiencing so many wonderful things. We can only go up from here folks.
hello 2022. I'm ready for this next year, it's gonna be epic.
after spending most of the day in bed, only managing to accomplish an afternoon run and a shower, I finally sat down to my computer around 5:00 to do some work.
I sent out a few invoices, processed photos from a weekend shoot, and sent a few emails. I was about ready to close my laptop and retreat back into my bed when I found myself thinking of revisiting old photos of my time abroad.
I dug out my old hard drives, and managed to find where I’d haphazardly left the RAWs in miscellaneous folders. Flipping through the images I remembered why I had never cared much to archive these images, let alone keep them organized. I wished I had shot so much more of the beautiful places we’d traveled, I wished I had captured things in a more pleasing way, but the Fall of 2016 was not my finest moment, and it ended up being the beginning of a long downward spiral. The pictures I captured lacked energy, passion, inspiration, and joy, and my mind did as well.
It’s challenging to think back to that time, and I find it hard to believe it was five years ago. The person I was when I was in Europe was a shell of who I was before and have been since. She was someone who was trying so hard to soak up all of the beauty and take advantage of this amazing opportunity, but was constantly putting on a front of happiness that left her exhausted and numb.
I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back on how badly I wanted to be alone almost all of the time, it should have been enough of a sign. Things weren’t Bad all of the time, but it always felt like I was moving through a haze, not ever really feeling like Myself. It wasn’t until after I came back from this trip, spent the majority of 2017 struggling through a crumbling relationship, and putting myself back together a year after my time abroad, that I finally began to find myself again, and with that, some direction with my photos. There’s hints of it in these images, but it took a lot of self discovery to find the photographic voice I had been missing. While the photos I took in France are shrouded in memories of feeling lost and alone and confused and frustrated and tired, there is still beauty in them, and looking back through them now it’s no longer a reminder of those feelings, but an illustration of how far I’ve come.
Well January is already almost over, and here I am finally writing the annual year recap blog post that no one reads.
This public journal is necessary for my future self to gauge how far she’s (hopefully) come so … here goes.
2020 was … strange to say the least.
I started the year optimistic, I had big plans for my professional life, travel plans, running/race plans, and I was on top of it all. Brooke and I flew to California mid-january to surprise Leanna for her birthday, which was a blast. I spent almost every day in January and February getting up at the butt crack of dawn to run in central park, taking full advantage of my fancy gym membership, and taking pilates classes to ensure that this 2020 marathon training year went off without a hitch. In mid-February I ran one of the longest runs at my fastest pace (12mi, 8:44 pace), and then very suddenly became sick.
I took a week off from exercising to recover and enjoyed Vada visiting from SF, but wasn’t long after that COVID-19 had made its way to nyc and the hysteria began. The first couple weeks in March were strange. We started working from home, and for the most part, I was perfectly fine with sitting at home in my sweatpants. It very soon became apparent that this was not going to be a short term problem. As the hospitals in the city filled and tensions rose, I was furloughed from my job, and made my way back to Illinois to escape the chaos.
The following five months were a bizarre blur. I felt like I was back in high school living with my parents, while also feeling like I was living the nightmare version of my life that would have been moving home after college with no job. I tried to continue running, but after the mystery sickness in February, I never fully regained my endurance, and found running one or two miles harder than the 10 to 12 I was running just a few months earlier.
I spent a lot of time alone, I watched more shows and movies than I can even remember (every season of The L Word, including the reboot, all of the X-Men and Avengers/Marvel movies, in chronological order, Sex Education, Schitt’s Creek, so many more), I read some books, I went grocery shopping and cooked for my parents. A lot of the days seemed to pass very easily, which was mildly concerning, with how little I was doing/accomplishing.
I still can’t really wrap my head around the fact that I spent almost half of 2020 doing virtually nothing productive, but at the same time, the quiet and the slowness and the nothingness helped me to reset.
In August, I decided it was time to move forward, or really in any direction. When my boss called to offer me my job back, I told him that I had decided I needed to make moves outside of a 9-to-5 and would be happy to freelance, but was no longer interested in a full-time position. At the start of the year, I had planned on quitting in May or June, and had saved quite a bit of money. So after living at home for several months, I had saved even more and felt (mostly) comfortable rejecting the comfort of a job that was no longer fulfilling, and moving forward with my plans, however terrifying.
Meanwhile, college friends of mine had a room available in their apartment in Brooklyn, so as my lease was up September 1st, I decided that this move was another step in my plan, and I would be back in the city in August to pack up my things and move boroughs.
All of that went according to plan; I managed to drive a U-Haul down FDR without crashing, and with the help of Russell and Andrea, we managed to get all of my things from what felt like one end of the city to the other on one of the hottest days in August. (Remind me to never move in the summer ever again)
After the move, I left the city once more for a small family reunion in Hilton Head, SC. We may not have followed all of the COVID restrictions, but it was nice to be on the beach all together and try to forget all of the madness, even for just a few days.
By September 1st, I was back in nyc, ready to take on the rest of my life (that was terrifyingly unknown). I immediately got to work trying to reach out to people, reconnect with anyone I could think of, and find work wherever possible. It was (and for the most part, still is) a slow process, and anxiety-inducing most days, but I knew that this would be the case when I originally made this plan, so I’m in it for the long haul. All the little steps I take are leading me somewhere, and as long as I keep moving, it’ll all work out one way or another. (I say this to myself on a daily basis, but tbh I’m still working on believing it)
The latter part of this year was filled with ups and downs:
My parents had to put down Wilson, our family dog, and while it was so heartbreaking, I was so glad to have gotten to spend all summer with him.
I continued shooting self portraits, and started a new personal project that has taken me all over the city and introduced me to so many new people.
I’ve started to find my way around Brooklyn, exploring a new borough from the bagel shops to the plant stores and farmers’ markets, finding new running routes, biking everywhere, and seeing friends that I used to have to take the subway for an hour to see.
I registered an LLC and I’m still trying to figure out all of the in’s and out’s and being a “small business owner” (lol who am i)
I watched the leaves change, and got to see so much more daylight, as I wasn’t cooped up all day inside an office with no windows five days a week.
I started working semi-consistently with some shoots, some assisting, some retouching, and remembered how exhausting being on set can be, but so rewarding.
Andrea and I flew to Guatemala to meet Luisa and Yve and stay with Andrea’s wonderful family for ten days. We got to see so many beautiful places, and I even picked up a little bit of spanish along the way.
When I returned to the city, it was somehow already December, and holiday season was well on its way. I spent a day walking around in the snow, enjoying the city in all of its winter glory, and even managed to sneak in a big snow day before leaving for Illinois once again.
I flew back to Chicago, celebrated Christmas with my parents and Megan, and then Megan and I took a little trip up to a tiny house airbnb in Wisconsin as a gift to each other.
Right after, we all ended up traveling down to my grandparents house to say goodbye to my aunt Sherri. The whole family got together and did what we could to be there for her and for one another. The two weeks I spent there are still heavy on my heart, but I am glad that we were able to all be together, despite the circumstances.
I got back to the city a little over a week ago and I’m still coming to terms with the new year.
Time, as always, but somehow even moreso, feels strange, and I still find myself saying “the other day” about things that happened two months ago.
I hope for more light in 2021, I hope that things slowly start moving again, and life feels less fragmented. I know that a lot of good came from the pause and the slowness of last year, but I am ready to move again.