I remember the day my mom drove me to Eastern Kentucky University. Her little Hyundai was filled to the brim and so was the “turtle” on top of the car, with all of my prized possessions. From the back seat of the car, I waved goodbye to my dad as we drove away, my fingers clutching the folded up letter he had slipped in my hand. His words of pride and love written on that piece of paper, I would often replay in my mind throughout the difficult semester. Going out of state for college was only feasible thanks to many grants, loans and a hefty scholarship. Little did we know that the terms of the Academic Common Market Scholarship could change in the middle of my program for reasons out of my own control. That day in the Bursar’s Office, was one of the most emotional days of my college career, as I begged and pleaded to change my major to anything that would help reduce my bill and allow me to finish school.
When it was all said and done, I was back to packing up my belongings to return to home in Maryland. I returned to my old high school job at Ritz Camera and would work enough and save enough to pay for a semester at college. Then, I’d take a semester off to work the extra hours needed to earn more money for the next semester. I was on the long, very long, road to finishing my degree.
Justin and I met and some date nights were spent on the couch with me studying and him watching TV. We got married, started a family and the day Jordan was born, I realized the life I had known before was insignificant in comparison and my purpose in life was so much greater than I ever thought possible. I immediately wanted to be a better person, someone this little girl would look up to and want to follow in her footsteps. Finishing school and having a lucrative career wasn’t just for me, but for a life I wanted to provide for this little girl.
I gave up my photography “hobby” and gave away all of my gear to a friend that was a high school art teacher. My college credits started to finally amount to something, and I was offered a job that made all of my previous paychecks pale in comparison. I remember thinking that I may still be in the process of finishing my degree, but it was finally paying off. I was going to amount to something.
The job had long hours, a long commute and was always so stressful. Even on a good day, I didn’t walk away feeling whole or as if I had made my mark on the world, but at least I was helping provide for my family. This degree I was working toward was for a life that I started to wonder if I really wanted after all. I wanted to be with my family more. I wanted to have the type of career that made my heart happy, and impacted the lives of others.
As we laid in bed one night, I told Justin that I needed to get back into photography. He laughed at me and what he thought was just an afterthought. I quickly chimed how I was dead serious. This wasn’t just a whim or an afterthought. I needed a camera and right away.
It’s been almost three years since that late night talk with him. I live on cloud nine when I’m photographing a family, wedding or birth and he can see that spark in me I didn’t have before. It’s a crazy business to be in when the quality of work you provide is all subjective. It’s not like in an office setting when your boss gives you a tasks, a deadline and then your work is either right or wrong. With this, I can pour my heart and soul into a photograph, and then the only thing left to do is wait to hear whether that person loves it just as much as I do. When looking through their photographs, do all the same feelings they felt in that very moment I captured that memory come back to them?
As we celebrated my birthday this week (yes, I get a birthday week), the cards, emails and texts from family, friends, and clients all had a similar theme. In all my years, this was by far the best birthday I have ever had. It wasn’t because of any lavish gifts or vacation, but for the confirmation by so many that they believed in my talent, were proud of me for chasing my dreams and succeeding. The validation, the love…was overwhelming and I’m still a sappy mess over it all. At 33 years old, I can finally appreciate that everything really does happen for a reason. It’s never too late to chase your dreams.