The Short Version
I discovered my love for photography when I moved across the country on my own at 17 and found myself lost in the landscape of clouds, mountains, and desert known as Utah. I’ve since moved back to New England (despite the number of Stephen King books I’ve read), but still travel whenever I can. I’m an old soul, black-and-white movie lover, and a full-time daydreamer. I am forever inspired by people who are passionate about something. I’m a wannabe van-lifer, but not the down-by-the-river kind my dad always teases me about. I’m a longtime advocate of rolling the windows all the way down (even in the winter), and that good music somehow sounds even better when it’s a little louder. I could eat Mexican food every day and never, ever get sick of it, and I also enjoy (intentionally) funky cheeses, scenic walks, and buying books that I forget to read. It’s taken my whole life to figure out exactly what I want to do with my time here, but I have always loved stories; I think I was always meant to be a story teller.
The Significantly-Longer Version
It began with Egypt.
If you asked most kids want they want to be when they grow up, they’d probably say something like astronauts or veterinarians but I wanted to be an archeologist. (Or also someone who got to do cool exterior paint detail on cars and motorcycles.) I was totally fascinated with the first archeology image I ever saw, back in 1996(ish?) when The Valley of the Golden Mummies was first discovered. I could not believe the things that were found buried in the ground; how old they were, or how long they had been just under the surface of the earth, quietly waiting to be discovered.
This prompted my five-year-old(ish?) self to spend countless hours digging. In the sandbox, in the garden (sorry dad!), at the base of trees-anywhere something good might have been buried. (Unfortunately my backyard was never the treasure trove I’d hoped it was, and usually the only thing I ‘unearthed’ were ‘tootsie-rolls,’ as my mother called them, from the sandbox. These were a near-constant "gift" from the neighbor’s cat which always required a rigorous hand washing or bath upon discovery.)
In addition to realizing that statues of giants could have been sleeping just under my feet, these statues were representations of someone-someone royal, a deity; someone with a story. That’s where my love for mythology began. My father told me of Anubis and Horus and Perseus and Medusa and they were better than any stories I’d ever heard. (Sorry Toad On the Road.) My love for mythology spread from one ancient world to the next, spanning the globe and as far back into written history as I could go. That’s when I decided I would become a writer.
It's kind of funny, because for a long time when I was younger, I hated reading. I absolutely loathed it. I'd rather sit at the kitchen table for an hour after everyone else had finished dinner and eat cold brussel sprouts than read. (True story.) Then, unexpectedly, on a day that began just like any other, it happened. I read my first good book. The first book that made me want to keep reading, more than just the prescribed number of chapters for school. (For anyone interested, it was called, 'The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles' by Julie Andrews Edwards.) (Yes, really.) Now, I couldn't tell you today what was so Really Great about those Whangdoodles, but whatever it was must have been pretty amazing because suddenly I was a reader. I was begging to go to the bookstore and spend afternoons running my fingers down paper spines, getting lost in the stacks of pages and the smell of paper and ink. I devoured whatever I could get my hands on. This started my (still current) trend of only really being able to read cover-to-cover; If I'm going to read a book, I'm going to sit right here and read it until it's finished, all at once. If it's good enough, sleep can wait. There will be snacks, of course, but mostly, there will just be reading.
When I began middle school, the school library had the first book by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes called, 'In the Forests of the Night.' It was about vampires, AND she was a published author at just 15 from Massachusetts. 15! Wow! I want to be a published author by the age of 15, I thought. With the help of a very, very bright friend, I started writing chapter books on an old (three-inch-thick) laptop my grandfather's business had outgrown. This thing was a tank, and the power supply alone slightly larger than a brick. I'd write furiously, edit to the best of my ability, and my trusty friend Molly would have me print out the chapters, bring them in, and she'd edit them. (She'd even use a red pen! So official! The stuff dreams are made of!)
One sunny afternoon, nearing the completion of my first (no doubt of many) best-selling novel, our family cat, who, was much too large to comfortably rest atop the side-table where my laptop, power supply, and newly opened can of orange soda were carefully arranged, decided to jump on up there anyway. That cold, shiny can sparkling in the sun must have just been too much temptation for the poor thing. Upon landing, the furry girth of her midsection just barely grazed the soda can, like a wrecking ball smashing through its target. She gracefully pirouetted this way and that, all four paws in a puddle on the keyboard, oblivious of the wreckage. Dreams were shattered, true heartbreak was felt, and there were probably tears. (It was all very dramatic.) Thus ended my writing career.
Reading stayed important to me, so I kept myself distracted with books as I tried to listen for my calling. Sometimes I wish I could have been one of those people that had an innate knowledge of what their path should be. Then I have to remember if that were the case, I would have never detoured and experienced all that I'm so grateful for. My great-grandmother was part of the New Hampshire League of Craftsmen, and almost all the women on both sides of my family are very creative, and the men tend to be relatively handy/skilled with different trades. By the time high school was half over, I knew I loved school (or the idea of it, anyway) and that I wanted to continue school, but I didn't know what to study. College is not cheap. I was so terrified of picking something that I would not only regret, but also never really "use," and spend a good portion of my adult life paying off. It just didn't seem worth it to throw a dart at the board, because I liked too many things-I loved history and travel, and I seriously considered psychology for a long time. I had adored Psych and AP Psych in school, but the market was already so oversaturated, it was hard for someone that had finished school to find work. I wanted my education to make things easier, not harder. I had studied a couple years of Culinary Arts and a year of Graphic Art and Design at a local tech my junior and senior year, but didn't feel the pull of either of those. I really wanted to get into ceramics, but every year the class was full and I was never able to try it. I settled on photography instead-and man, I hated that class!
The dark room was the best part-learning the chemicals and their purposes (and distinct scents) were so fascinating, but the cameras we started out with were beat-to-heck pinhole cameras that apparently the class of '65 had made (no, we didn't get to make our own), and then we went right into digital, which was very "meh." The teacher and I just didn't jive; I could never tell if he was being serious or genuinely didn't care-it was just all bad. I passed easily enough, but it will go down in history as one of my least favorite classes EVER.
Post graduation, I was working at Concord Hospital, still trying to figure out what the heck to do with myself. As all my friends said their goodbyes and moved into dorms, met cool, new people, and moved on from my small hometown, I stayed behind and watched them all go. It was a strange empty, yet full, feeling. An older friend a year ahead of me was attending school in Utah, and suggested I go out to visit, so for my birthday that fall I treated myself to a plane ticket and packed a bag. And it. Was. Incredible. The people were so cool! They came from so many different background, but bonded over things like going to see local music, hiking, eating burritos, etc-things we never really did at home! I was glad I had packed my "meh" digital camera, because everything was so beautiful. It was one of the most refreshing experiences of my life-to go somewhere completely new and enjoy all these places and hobbies with a group of new friends. I returned home feeling so rejuvenated, but also sad to leave the new, exciting piece of my life behind. My friends had an open room in their apartment, and said I could try applying at a call center; that's where a few of them had worked and they were always looking for help. What did I have to lose? I filled out an application online and promptly forgot about it, while I continued working away at the hospital and dreaming of those mountains and deserts.
Then, I got a phone call. I was on break at work and actually answered the strange area code. It was a rep from the call center wanting to do a quick interview. It was all the basic interview fun, and then I think they had me try to sell them a ballpoint pen over the phone-whatever it was, by the end of it, they told me, 'Alright-we think you'll be a great fit! We'll need you here in sixteen days if you want to catch our next training seminar.' I said alright and hung up the phone. Then I crashed back into my scrub-clad body and thought-"what have I done?! Did I just accept a new job? On the other side of the country?! AND I NEED TO BE THERE IN TWO WEEKS?! I have to tell my boss!" I gave my notice, went home, and started packing. I filled my little '97 Accord to the brim and hit the road, my mom by my side. (She certainly wasn't about to let her 17-year-old daughter drive across the country alone to go live in a strange state with people she'd never met, no sir!)
It all happened so fast-and man, am I glad for that. If I had given myself time to think about this job opportunity, this new adventure, I would have never gone. I would have talked myself out of it, weighing the cons heavily against the pros, and I'd probably still be working at that hospital trying to figure out what to do with myself. Sometimes, you just have to go for it-no thinking, just instinctual reaction.
The job at the call center sucked, frankly, but I was still on cloud nine from the recent 180 my life had done. I felt brave. Powerful. (Amazing what a change of scenery can do!) I enjoyed my roommates and their shenanigans thoroughly, we hiked and explored often, and even road-tripped up to Oregon and Washington over holiday break to visit a roommate's family. And I always had that dang camera with me! A few times I had heard, 'these are great photos-you're a really good photographer!' But I never took it seriously until a phone call with my grandfather (where I had locked myself in the bathroom and tried to hide the fact that I was crying because I was so homesick-I didn't always feel brave and powerful; change is both rewarding AND difficult).
My grandfather suggested I look into doing it professionally, so I started thinking about it more and knew my pretty-introverted-self would have to be comfortable with people if I was going to be a photographer. I booked a couple portrait sessions with friends and found I really did enjoy it! I started the hunt (probably via Google), 'how to become a professional photographer,' and found an incredible school in New England(!), which was perfect-even though I loved my Utah adventure, I was ready to be home for a while. I figured, much like my Utah job application, the worst thing they can do is say no, so I applied for the school and their $10,000 scholarship. I was accepted AND awarded the scholarship, so I packed my car even fuller than before, and hit the road home.
Post photography school, studio jobs for a few years while living in New York City, and traveling every chance I get, I've found myself back in New England-yes, still with that dang camera in my hand.
UP FOR AN ADVENTURE? FOLLOW ME!