As a child I loved to read. (Still do!). I remember this huge bulletin board in my elementary school lunchroom that had a chart tracking accelerated reader points. My name was typically at the tip top, and, yes, that is a pretty good indicator of just how cool I wasn’t. When I graduated high school and began college at the University of Georgia, I waited a semester before I chose my major. I was considering education, but I hesitated for a semester. Education was on my list because my love of literature never left me, and I’d been working with children in teaching and volunteer capacities throughout high school. My hesitation was because I desired to do something more creative, but ultimately, I just had too much fear. I thought I had to have a major that would lead directly to a career path that would provide constant stability, meaning a guaranteed paycheck and benefits with little risk factor. And of course there was that lingering fear that I just wasn’t good enough to do something in a creative capacity. I graduated with a degree in Middle School Education with an emphasis in English and math, married my high school sweetheart, Alex, and moved to Clemson, South Carolina to begin my first job as a 5th grade teacher.
My very first classroom was at a small elementary school. The classrooms had a unique setup in which every two rooms were separated by an orange divider wall. And I mean it was ORANGE. I wanted a warm, welcoming environment for these kids to learn in. Fresh out of college and tight on cash, a family member graciously gave me a gift card to decorate my classroom. So I purchased special fabrics and papers and covered that whole wall into childhood dreams. About the time I’d finished, the principal dropped in to tell me it was beautiful and that it was also against fire code and needed to come down. So why do I tell you this story? It’s not because I’m trying to share a sad moment, but because this is a perfect example of how important visuals are for me. I wanted to create a warm, welcoming environment and my instinct for doing this was to adjust the appearance of my room to provoke certain feelings from my students. (And don’t worry, despite the decor debacle I had a fantastic first year teaching and made some great relationships with that first class.) In my next 4 years of teaching, I taught 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grade. The constant change was not by choice but due to being the youngest teacher during an economic recession and therefore being moved as others who had tenure were being moved from higher positions back into the classroom. It wasn’t easy, and in some circumstances it was just plain unfair. I couldn’t see it then, but there was a purpose.
After teaching for 4 years, I found out I was pregnant with Baxter and decided to leave education to be home with him. My husband and I both always knew this was the way we wanted to do things, and I’m so thankful that I was and still am able to be home with my children during these little years. My newborn experience was not an easy one. Those first couple of weeks were a struggle, and I battled several issues that made my recovery and caring for a newborn even tougher. But again, there was purpose I couldn’t see. This was when Alex gifted me with my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel t3i. I got right to work photographing every little moment of Baxter’s life. The love of creating something visually appealing was still working in me, and I was constantly striving to make each photo show the picture I had in my mind, to show the way I saw him
Not long after, we moved to the northern Atlanta suburbs and through a crazy (and now I can see, God-given) circumstance, I ended up being asked to photograph a wedding. Well, I said no. Then after some, or a lot, of prodding, I accepted. Now remember how I told you I was at the tip top of that accelerated reader chart? Once an over-achiever always an over-achiever. I dove headfirst into every bit of photography education I could get my hands on. I read my camera manual from front to back, twice. I took notes, I practiced every single day. I worked and worked. I remember reading education materials and tutorials by successful photographers and thinking that I would never make it to that level, the one where I’d be considered the real deal, a professional.
When I finally gathered the courage to make my first little blog to showcase samples of what I’d been doing with photography, I was terrified to share it. I felt like an imposter, and was embarrassed for people to see I was calling my self a photographer. One friend commented on it and left words that resonated and still do; “It’s about time.”
Now here I am, 5 years later. And I am thankful. Now I can look back and see how some hard seasons of life have paved the way to where I am. Being moved from classroom to classroom, ranging from 1st – 7th grade gave me experience with a wide variety of age groups. Showing me what to expect and how to connect with each, preparing me for interacting with countless children in family sessions. A difficult transition into caring for a newborn made me extra sensitive to needs and possible struggles of brand new parents, teaching me to create a soothing and easy newborn session experience. The longing to constantly organize, arrange, rearrange, and adjust to make something beautiful out of every situation, even a big old orange wall, pushing me to capture moments just so that the beauty shines through. It’s so mind blowing to look back and see how God weaves our lives together.
Five years of practice, five years of constantly learning, five years of accumulating the best equipment, five years of wonderful clients who have trusted me and made it all so fun. I’m happy to say, I no longer feel like an imposter. And now I just hear those 3 little words left in the comments the first time I announced I was pursuing photography , “It’s about time.”