Once upon a time, my biggest dream was to be a VCU Ram living it up in Richmond, Virginia. And that dream actually came true. I still remember crying tears of joy and shaking with excitement for hours when I received my acceptance letter. You know how I believe in taking big risks? Well, I did exactly that. I enrolled in a university and moved away from home without knowing whether I would get into the art program I was applying to later in the semester, but knowing full well that art was the only thing I wanted to do there. I had no back-up plan, but I took a leap of faith and simply believed I would succeed. My first semester at VCU was a beautiful, amazing dream come true. I absolutely adored the city, my school, my church, and all the amazing friends I made.
Time flies when you’re having fun! The semester came and went, I sent off my application to VCUarts, and then I checked the mail daily for the big exciting news I had waited so long for.
Only it didn’t turn out exactly how I imagined it would.
I fell to my knees sobbing when I received the letter that I unfortunately was not accepted into VCU’s art program. I felt like I was being told to my face that I wasn’t good enough at the one thing I loved, and I was devastated by the rejection. I knew that my heart was completely in the arts, and my passion was in photography and graphic design – the only things I felt that I was decent at and actually truly enjoyed. I knew I had to do whatever it would take to chase after that passion. But I didn’t realize it would mean losing everything I thought I wanted. I never questioned God more than I did during that painful season. My days were filled with tears of despondency and asking Him why.
But here I am, all this time later, after picking myself back up. It wasn’t easy. But now I know why they say to trust in God’s plan. Now I’m thanking Him for leading me to my calling instead of questioning Him for breaking my heart. I’m happier than ever because I get to spend each day doing what I LOVE – serving you through my passion for photography.
Believe it or not, this passion began way back in 2010. There was actually an exact moment that it really hit me. I was exploring Stratford Hall in northern Virginia with my family and my tiny point-and-shoot camera. I happened to see a butterfly resting upon some flowers, and I snapped this photo:
I thought it was an AMAZING image. Looking back now, I laugh to myself. But at the time, it was just about the greatest photo ever in my 13-year-old mind! From then on, I did a lot of nature photography during any free time I had. Eventually I started to take pictures of my friends, too. I took these two images in 2011 and thought they were pretty dang awesome at the time:
Years later, I took photography and graphic design classes in high school. I had the best teachers ever (shoutout to Pullum & Solliday!), and I had so much fun in my art classes. I never really knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up,” but during this time, I realized that I wanted art to become my career. I was leaning towards graphic design — my family said it would be the smart thing to do because it was more stable, and according to them, that’s where all the real money was at… not in photography. But during my junior year of high school, I was assigned to interview someone in the career field I was interested in, do some research, and complete an essay based on my findings. I couldn’t decide between graphic design and photography, so I chose both for this project and did double the work.
It was such an eye-opening experience. I realized that my heart was 100% in photography. I wrote in my paper, “More than anything, I just want to make people happy. People love to have photographs that capture all the emotions and moments of a time in their lives, and that is something I wish to give back to the world – something more than a memory, but something physical that people can hold onto to remind them of a time in the past.” It didn’t matter to me if there was risk involved, if there was less money in the market, if it would be harder to run my own business rather than working in some huge corporate office. What mattered to me was my passion. And since that point, I’ve let my heart guide me in my decisions. Despite the critics and naysayers who didn’t believe in me, despite the doubt, pain, and stress I have endured… I found peace when I finally believed in myself. I have chosen to be authentic and honest with myself about my passions and dreams, and I have chosen to chase after those things relentlessly. Through all of this, I have learned to embrace challenges because I’ll be thankful for them later. I’ve learned that things rarely go as planned, and that’s okay, because most things happen for a reason. I’ve learned that I don’t want to get too comfortable; I want change and spontaneity. I’ve learned that nothing worth having comes easy, and dreams don’t work unless you do. And most importantly, I’ve learned to always be myself…