Oh yeah, this is going to be fun. Please enjoy some of my favorite photos from my Mom's archives.
Honestly, if the food is good enough, this is still not an unusual sight. But hopefully I won't be grimacing at you.
If you had to pick one word to describe me, I hope you'd pick 'unique.' (Or just plain weird. Weird is also accurate.)
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.
(Pictured left: me being a super-tourist in Thailand, 2017)
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 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. Yeah, I'm still not sure where that one came from!) I was fascinated with the first archeology image I ever saw when The Valley of the Golden Mummies was 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, 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.
The only thing I unearthed were "tootsie-rolls," from the sandbox. (These were a near-constant "gift" from the neighbor’s cat which always required a rigorous and involuntary hand washing or bath upon discovery.)
I don't know how many afternoons I spent wondering about the giants that could have been sleeping just under my feet. Furthermore, these were more than just statues-these were representations of someone. Possibly someone royal, or maybe some kind of deity; someone with a story. That’s where my love for mythology began. My father told me of Anubis, Perseus, and Fenrir and they were better than any stories I’d ever heard before. (Sorry 'Toad On the Road.') My love for mythology spread from one ancient world to the next. I think that's about the time 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.') (No, 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 every week. Entire afternoons could be spent 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 habit 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. If it's good enough, sleep can wait. There will be snacks, of course, but mostly, there will just be reading.
My middle school library had a book called, 'In the Forests of the Night.' It was about vampires (this was long before Twilight), AND she was a published author at just 15. "I want to be a published author by the age of 15," I thought. With the help of a schoolmate, I started writing chapters on an old (four-inch-thick) laptop my grandfather had outgrown. This thing was a tank, and the power supply alone about the size of a brick. I'd write furiously and edit to the best of my ability. Then, my trusty friend would have me print out the chapters and she'd edit them again. (She'd even use a red pen! So official!)
(Pictured left: Somehow, despite this, I still love sunflowers)
One sunny afternoon as I was nearing the completion of my first (no doubt of many) best-selling novel, disaster struck. 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 up there anyway. That cold, sparkling can must have just been too much temptation for the poor thing. Upon landing, the furry girth of her midsection 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 my writing career ended, sticky with sugar and horribly orange.
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 am so grateful for.
By the time high school was half over, I knew I wanted to continue my education but I didn't know what to study specifically. College is not cheap.
(Pictured right: in my natural habitat. Occasionally I still eat like this.)
I was terrified of picking something I would regret, never really "use," and/or spend my 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 had adored Psych and AP Psych in school, but the market was already so oversaturated. I wanted my education to make things easier, not harder. After studying Culinary Arts and Graphic Art and Design at a local tech, I still didn't feel the pull of either of those. I really wanted to get into ceramics, but the class always filled immediately and I was never able to try it. I settled on photography instead-and man, I hated that class!
The dark room was by far the best part. Learning the chemicals and their purposes (and distinct scents) were so fascinating. Unfortunately, the cameras we started out with were beat-to-heck pinhole cameras that apparently the class of '65 had made. After that, 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 a local hospital still trying to figure out what to do with myself. All my friends said their goodbyes and moved into dorms, met exciting 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 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. It. Was. Incredible.
(Pictured left: me annoying big brother)
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 hiring. What did I have to lose? I filled out an application, promptly forgot about it, and continued working at the hospital. I was still dreaming of those mountains and deserts, though.
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. By the end of it, they told me, 'Alright-we think you'll be a great fit! We'll need you here in fifteen days to start our next training seminar.' I agreed 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. After filling my little '97 Accord to the brim, I hit the road, my trusty co-pilot (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! Classic Mom.)
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. Don't give yourself time to be afraid and then justify those fears - just do it.
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!)
(Pictured right: big brother annoying me)
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. I locked myself in the bathroom for this call, trying to hide the fact that I was sobbing from homesickness. (I didn't always feel brave and powerful; change is both rewarding AND difficult).
My grandfather suggested I look into doing photography professionally. In his experience, life is too short to be miserable or stale, so do something. Just try it-if you don't like it, you'll know and be free to move on. Inspired, I booked a couple portrait sessions with friends and found I really did enjoy it. Then I started hunting the world wide web for how to become a professional photographer. Would you believe I found an incredible photography school in New England? Even though I loved my Utah adventure, I was ready to be home for a while. Much like my Utah job, I figured the worst thing this school could do is say no, so I applied. I received word that I had been both accepted AND awarded a $10,000 scholarship! I packed my car even fuller than before, and hit the road home.
Hallmark Institute of Photography ended up being the best place I could have gone. I was introduced to so many people of varying ages from all around the world that also had a love of photography. We were instructed by renowned professionals that were still active in the industry with the best technology and were privy to incredible guest speakers.
More than the education, I made some amazing friends. Most of my core group ended up in NYC.
(Pictured left: looking for adventure! (Or maybe trouble.))
Hallmark had helped find me a full-time salaried position IN MY FIELD before I had even graduated-amazing! My friends and I have since traveled all over this country togethers (and a few others). Some of us work on movie sets and with magazines, some tour the world with bands as official photographers-we're always up to something fun.
Post photography school, studio jobs while living in New York City, and traveling every chance I get, I've found myself back in New England yet again. (Yes, still with that dang camera in my hand.) The only question left is, are you coming with me on the next adventure or what? Let's go!