Thriving (at least trying to)

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, 
but to thrive; and to do so with
some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
– Maya Angelou

I'll be honest, moving my business to Birmingham was not what I expected.

By the time I'd move to Birmingham I'd already grown a thriving business in the Bay Area, where I lived, a great client base in New York, shot in several other states and out of the country, and was making more than what I would have made if I was still an architect.  How hard would it be to grow another base in another city? Pretty freakin difficult if that city is Birmingham. Culturally and financially and stylistically there's overlap between New York and California. I found clients in New York who could relate to me and appreciate my style, and most importantly, find value in my pricing. Here in Birmingham it's a whole other market. It seems pretty obvious as I'm typing it, but I really had no idea.  I can't seem to navigate the wedding industry here where couples are paying tens of thousands of dollars on their weddings but only willing to pay two thousand dollars for their photographer. I don't know how to navigate through a city where everything is word of mouth, but most of my friends are married. I'm constantly wondering if people are not booking me because I'm not white. 

I had pretty good success my first year here booking shoots and weddings, mostly by the grace of God and dumb luck, but my sophomore Birmingham year was a huge struggle. I learned a whole lot about hustle. I'm having to rebuild my business, trying to remember all the things that worked for me eight years ago when I first started it. There are definitely moments I feel like a failure. I'll find myself in the middle of conversations with people about my business, and I'm too embarrassed to really elaborate on how my business has had to shift from shooting to editing. Or how I'm only making a fraction of what I used to make when I was living in California.  

Recently as I was reflecting on 2016, all this "failure" started to hit me to a point where I actually started talking about that shame and failure I was feeling, and it felt like a turning point. I'd always been open about giving credit to God for my success. (He truly is the reason I'm where I am today.) My old adage was that the plans God has for me are far greater than any I could ever imagine for myself. But those words were just a cloak to mask the fear I was actually feeling. I wasn't truly holding onto those words I'd live by in years past or really trusting God fully with my business. Would I find more work? Would I survive? All those insecurities were building up behind the happy face I was putting on. So that was it. I needed to make a change. I needed to be open with my fears. I needed to shine some light on the struggle I was living with. I'm at a place now where I'm trying to remember that God really is in control, and all I have to do is trust in Him and move forward, to take one step at a time as He leads. 

Who knows why God is leading me down this path. But now at least I'm reminded, that whatever that path is, it's part of His plans for my life, and that's a good place to be. I don't need to walk this path alone; I'm surrounded by friends and family who've supported me from the beginning and will continue to do so. So please keep me in your prayers as I try to put my trust fully in God and navigate this new frontier.  

Like the quote above, I don't want to just be surviving. I want to be thriving. 

 

Samford University, Birmingham, AL. 2016 | Canon Rebel XSN. film developed by Indie Film Lab

Know Thyself

"Observe all men; thy self most."
- Benjamin Franklin

The other morning I woke up in the biggest funk. Maybe it was that awful nightmare I had. Maybe it was seeing a missed opportunity. Maybe it was realization of something too unexpected. Maybe it was being cooped up. Or the rain. Or the tube strike. Maybe because it was Monday. Who knows.

Whatever it was, I was feeling quite anxious.

I remember the first time I heard the word anxious used in a context other than in reference to anticipation and eagerness; it was used to convey worry, nervousness or unease, and I thought, "That's me. That's me right now." At times I suffer from anxiety; I feel so overwhelmed that I want to cry or it makes me so physically exhausted that all I feel like I can do is sleep. Anxiety makes me feel like I can't think or mentally process anything or that I'm spiraling into a bottomless pit. Sometimes it's set off by something, but other times it comes upon me for no apparent reason. 

When I realized what was going on with me was anxiety, it suddenly became easier to deal with, even if ever so slightly. It was like I suddenly put a name to an answer to a question I never realized I was asking. I started to get to know myself better, seeing what worked and what didn't work. I eventually learned what would help me when I felt anxious like taking a step back and just stopping what I was doing, taking a walk, laying down and decompressing, reading or talking things through with someone. 

So yesterday, that's what I did. I did all those things. Lance and I walked over seven miles through west London. We pored over books in several bookstores. We talked about life and serious things and laughed at silly things. We read. While my anxiety lingered with me throughout the day, I was able to manage some of those feelings enough to not let it ruin my day. Sometimes I face struggles that I feel I cannot overcome, but over the years I've learned the answer can often be found in simply knowing myself better. 

 

Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, AL | Canon Rebel XSN. film processed by Indie Film Lab

Let's Study Abroad

It's kind of funny how life takes such unexpected turns.

I'm a firm believer that God's plans for your life are bigger and better than anything you could ever dream up on your own. Time after time God showed how marvelous his plans were for me.  From when I was laid off from my architecture job to then becoming a photographer, working from home, traveling the world, and meeting amazing people. To when I met Lance and he had characteristics, qualities, and interests I hadn't even considered looking for in a husband, but yet matched me so well. It was all part of God's plans for my life. Putting my faith in God and trusting Him really changed my life. 

Looking back on my life I don't have too many regrets, but the one thing that is most prominent is the fact that I didn't study abroad in college. At Cal Poly, my architecture program curriculum dedicated a year to studying abroad. You're meant to go travel and discover architecture of other countries and cultures. But it was expensive, so I didn't even bother applying to any programs. After college when I started traveling a ton, I realized the value of traveling abroad (and even out-of-state) in order to not only progress my career and design aesthetic but also to open myself up to difference experiences, to leave my Californian bubble. With my travels since, I feel like I've made up for it in a way, but there was still always that lingering regret. 

Flash forward to now and I'm in London with a study abroad program. Granted I'm not a student and I'm only here to be with Lance, I still feel like I'm finally getting to study abroad and it's thrilling. I get excited talking to the professors and students and hearing what they're seeing and learning. The students give me fresh eyes on the city, as they're experiencing it (and for some a big city) for the first time. I'm so thankful to be given this experience. 

I definitely would never have thought at the ripe age of 32 that I'd be in London with a study abroad program, but wonders really never cease. 

 

London, England. March 21, 2014 | Fuji x100s


My 17 in 2017

New Year's resolutions are both my thing and not my thing. I often start the year optimistic, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, having these grandiose plans for myself, but that over-optismitic, overachieving gung-ho-ness gets me every time. I want to make resolutions and keep them, but my goals are just too unrealistic or I don't give myself enough grace when I'm making those resolutions. The one time I recall mostly sticking to a resolution is when I committed to reading every day. That resolution worked because it already fit into my lifestyle of reading and just challenged me to slightly amp up what I was already doing. So for 2017 I was inspired by Advice from a Twenty Something to make some "refreshing and simple" New Year's resolutions that could actually be manageable and attainable.

  1. Be kind.
  2. Floss more. 
  3. Go to bed and wake up at reasonable times.
  4. Explore Birmingham.
  5. Take advantage of our back porch.
  6. Eat vegetables.
  7. Write.
  8. Take pictures for myself. 
  9. Keep my library borrows to a minimum.
  10. Start the Harry Potter books.
  11. Cook and eat at home. 
  12. Keep up with the laundry.
  13. Read through my collection of books.
  14. Blog.
  15. Sort my personal pictures. 
  16. Focus on the blessings. 
  17. Downsize and purge to live a more simple life. 
 

Disneyworld Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida. April 26, 2016 | Canon Rebel XSN, film developed by Indie Film Lab


Today.

Before now. 

I woke up at 7am raring to go. From our study I could see the sun was just beginning to peek out from behind the giant parking structure on the hill behind us. Lance asked me why I woke up so early today because it's so rare. But I just simply responded that I went to bed extra early last night so I could wake up extra early today. There's a ton to do before Christmas. I am in a fog. A Christmas fog. Is anyone else in a Christmas-chaos-lots-to-do fog? 

But anyway.... Thanks to the early-rising I finished a wedding this morning while watching two Bravo reality shows (seriously-guilty pleasures). I also managed to prep three lightroom catalogs and three galleries. And I watched the latest blog post/video from Negative Feedback, my current obsession. 

Now.

I'm considering a quick nap-break, but a quick half-hour knitting session while watching The Holiday seems to be calling me instead. 

After now. 

I need to get working on addressing my Christmas cards, which I ordered early/mid November and am only just getting around to sending them out to my fams. I meant to hand them out personally when Lance and I went to visit them in California for Thanksgiving, but I got massively sick, so I abandoned that wishful thought. So here I am needing to address some Christmas cards. 

My goal is to also finish at least two more weddings before I go to sleep tonight. I'm thinking it's pretty doable, right? Eeee.The running tally of editing I've just received/shot this week is as follows: 6 weddings and counting (but 3 finished) and one session (and some more to shoot). Cross your fingers I'll finish all my work and housework and cleaning work and life work before Christmas. yikes!

That reminds me... I also have to pack and send my film (and chocolate) to my fave lab, the Indie Film Lab. I'm hoping I get the scans back before Christmas. What do y'all have going on today? 

 

Caprices by Sophie, New York, NY. March 7, 2015 | Canon 5d markii 50mm 1.2