2020 recap

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.

back in nyc

hi hello here I am writing another blog post for no one to read !

This week is my first full week back in nyc since leaving in April, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was gone for 5 months. Everything is different, and not just because of the pandemic. I made the move from Manhattan to Brooklyn, to live in Bed-Stuy with friends from college. Living in a new borough is exciting and new, but it makes for an even bigger adjustment. Then throw into the mix that I officially left my full-time job to pursue freelancing, and you have a complete change of pace from any other variation of life I’ve been living in 2020. 

Having complete control over my day-to-day schedule is wildly freeing and mildly stressful. If I want to lay in bed and eat four bags of microwave popcorn and rewatch episodes of Scandal until my eyes are burning, I could do that! However, the only one that will pay for that later, is me. 
In the first few days, I have found ways to work in the “self-help” routines I’ve always wished I had time for, and spent a lot of time trying to be as productive as possible. I recently started a Bullet Journal to keep myself organized and on task, but the current lack of work/events/social life has it looking a little empty… hopefully that will change soon. I’ve been making a slow and steady effort to wake up earlier and earlier, and correct my disastrous quarantine sleep schedule, despite having no specific reason to be awake. And I’m finding ways to get my name out there in as many ways as possible while I teach myself the in’s and out’s of working for yourself that I somehow didn’t learn in college. 

Things are ever evolving, and I’m still struggling with feeling like I should be doing more, or should be further along, or I’m not going to be successful, but I’m doing what I can to remind myself that it will take time, and this is all a part of the plan.
I’m so excited to see where this next chapter leads me, and how I can work to achieve the plans/dreams I came to nyc to fulfill. 

Here goes nothin…

Isolation Self Portraiture

Portrait photographers have all had to find a new way of working in the time of social distancing/ isolation/quarantine. Some have taken to “facetime photoshoots”, or socially distanced outdoor shoots, but I have taken it back to my roots of self portraiture.

When I first started taking photos, I worked on a self-assigned project (concept courtesy of Flickr) called the 365 Day Project. It was exactly as it sounds, one picture, every day, for an entire year. As a high school sophomore, I had few responsibilities outside of school and extra curriculars, so finding the time to shoot every single day wasn’t too difficult. The photos were by no means advanced, and more often than not, I found myself often taking photos of myself. I have never been all that interested in still life or landscape photography, and when you’re crankin out a photo a day, it’s not easy to find a model for every photo — so I acted as both photographer and model.
Working without something as simple as a flip-screen, or a remote, let alone something like an app that allows me to control my camera from my phone, I would spend the entire shoot, running from my camera in ten seconds, posing through the rapid fire 10 shots, and then running back to look at the shots and do it all over again.  Being both in front of and behind the camera taught me a lot about portraiture and after going through a second year of The 365 Day Project, I had grown a lot as a photographer. 

Shooting self portraits in quarantine has required I come up with some “creative” solutions, as I did in the early days. I had to leave my tripod in the city, so I have to find miscellaneous objects to prop my camera up where I want it, often in quite precarious balancing acts. I also only packed one lens, so everything is being shot with my trusty 50mm, even if I’d prefer something else. I don’t have my strobes, so I’ve gotten experimental with using natural light shining through different windows in my house to get some variation in light.
I’m no Cindy Sherman, and none of the photos I’ve shot feel like anything special,  (mostly because shooting self portraits seems juvenile and insignificant to what I would prefer to be shooting) but I hope that shooting self portraits has helped me to grow as a photographer once again.

reflection and change

preface: my word vomit blog posts are not important in the grand scheme of things currently (or really ever), but I still feel this is necessary to write out, at the very least to look back on one day

I took the last month off from shooting, and from posting my own photos to instagram. I focused my energy on educating myself on the Black Lives Matter movement, taking a serious look in the mirror at my privilege and lack of awareness, amplifying BIPOC voices/photogs, educating myself (some more) on topics and issues I was previously unaware of, and thinking of ways to maintain efforts to create positive change and progress toward equality.
I am by no means finished doing these things. I will continue to foster more awareness of the things I have learned in the past few weeks, and give more attention to issues I previously ignored due to my privilege. There are so many different levels to the race inequality problem in our country it’s stifling and frustrating to think about, let alone try to take steps forward, but that does not mean that we (as white people) can avoid doing whatever we can to create change. 

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to use my voice as a photographer and whether it is right of me do certain things (such as photographing protests). At times I think that any documentation of what is going on in the country is important; I would hope that the people photographing today’s current events help to paint a more realistic picture for future generations to learn about in history books. However, I also believe that this is not my story to tell. There is no need for another white voice to take the struggle of an oppressed group and make a name for themselves or profit off of a movement. Not to mention the very real issues with people at protests being tracked down afterward, using protest documentation that shows identifying features. 
I’m still trying to figure out what is the best course of action, and while I recognize there are plenty of other routes to take in the fight for justice, photographing would be a natural route for me to take. I just want to make sure that if I do take that route, it is done in a way that is sensitive to the situation, and isn’t stifling Black photographers, whose perspectives are most important in this moment.

I wish that I was in NYC, marching with my friends, speaking out, and fighting for what’s right, but for now I will do what I can from where I am.

When it comes to future action, as I take steps forward in my professional career, I want to be sure I have a greater awareness for who I work for, the companies I support and have jobs with, and the people I associate with.
I don’t believe that those with power and wealth can sit idly by any longer and continue to profit off of generations of oppression. I do believe that when people are held accountable, they can create change and do better in the future, but there is no longer an excuse for the injustices that have been tolerated in this country. I don’t believe you are truly putting in the work for yourself if your actions don’t follow suit, and for that reason, I plan to do what I can to work with people who fight against racial injustice, surround myself with creatives who are diverse and accepting, and buy from businesses that are making positive efforts.

There is still so much to be done.
No matter what you are or are not posting on the internet/social media, there are so many other ways to fight for the causes you care about, and lift up the people have been held down. 

I am willing to listen and correct myself if something I am saying/doing is wrong. I am willing to speak with those who disagree with me and try to share perspectives. I am willing to sacrifice the privilege in my life so that we can take one step closer to the country of freedom and equal opportunity we claim to be. 

I Went Home

I have been so hesitant to share that I traveled home during this uncertain time — that I left the “epicenter of the pandemic” and broke stay-at-home rules, as I got on a plane to escape the city that I love so much.
A part of me felt defeated, like I was giving up, going home, running away to the safety of a small town, with my parents, and the comfort of someone else to look after me.
In the beginning, staying in new york felt like a non-question. I was still working five days a week, and had no problem spending the majority of the time alone, in my room, with ample time to myself. 
Although, after I was furloughed from my job last week, and faced the uncertainty of unemployment for the foreseeable future, as well as the mounting pressure in the city to stay inside, to isolate, protect yourself and others at all costs, and the dystopian/great depression-like grocery store lines and closed businesses, I felt like I needed to escape. 

While everyone on social media has been preaching “self care” and mental health, as usual, I realized that staying in the city under the current circumstances, was no longer in my best interest. I had spent almost a month straight in my apartment, only leaving a handful of times to exercise or get groceries. As time went on, more and more people reached out, to check in, asking how things were in “the big city”, and I’d joke that I didn’t know, all I saw was the four walls of my apartment. But with every check-in and worried text, I remembered the escalating chaos in the world. I remembered what a massive affect this will have, even after each country’s “peak” has passed, and I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me. I would do just about anything to distract myself from this reality, and being in nyc, watching the numbers climb, and the hospitals fill, and the makeshift tent hospitals and morgues go up, it felt relentless. 

So I went home.

I got a plane ticket, packed my bags, put on my mask, and did what I could to follow the social distancing protocol to the best of my ability. I had weighed the pros and cons of staying, thinking of being one less person who could potentially add to the overwhelmed hospitals, but also potentially being a carrier and bringing something home that could unknowingly infect my family, who are essential workers and still going to their jobs.  Eventually, I made the, ultimately selfish and privileged decision to leave, and I have felt significantly more peace here in the past few days. I can sleep through the night without having nightmares or waking up to the endless stream of sirens. I can go about the monotonous, and often pointless feeling, daily tasks without feeling like I want to run away. 

I try not to think of what this will all mean for our futures.
I try to avoid the anxious-planner thoughts that try to map out every possible scenario and mentally prepare for any and all outcomes.
I try to stay positive and thankful for the privilege that I have.
Hopefully, sooner than later we will get through this.
While it hasn’t impacted everyone in the same ways or to the same capacity, we are all in it together.

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