With Gratitude

Best Charlottesville Wedding Photographers

Six years ago I was a very different person. At 29 years old I had no direction; I felt like I was walking in the wilderness of my life. I had been working as a crew member at Trader Joe’s (where I constantly felt like Jennifer Aniston’s character in Office Space), a server at a struggling new restaurant, and as a shampoo girl, washing other people’s hair at a salon I despised. Nearly every day I would come home, jump into bed, cry, and, quite literally, hide from the world. I was absolutely, devastatingly miserable.

I couldn’t tell you why I was such a mess. I had a supportive, loving husband, two beautiful children, and a lot to be grateful for. However, I was crippled by depression, anxiety had me in constant knots, and I was drowning in insecurity. My personal mantra at that time was, “I am not good enough”. Regrettably, I was out of step with the world, and out of alignment with myself. I look back on that time painfully, as I was unable to be the mother and wife my family truly deserved.

I knew I wanted to be a photographer. I knew I wanted to pursue it as my job full-time. I had even started, then stopped, because I just couldn’t get ahold of myself. I couldn’t see that I was worthy of living a life I wanted. I didn’t feel that it was “my time”. I was waiting for a sign, waiting for someone else to give me permission to live my life.

In early 2013 I had agreed to photograph a wedding for an acquaintance from high school. I had been working here and there assisting other photographers in Hampton Roads to cut my teeth, so I wasn’t going into it totally blind. I felt confident enough to work the wedding, hire my own second shooter, and make the trek to Madison, Virginia on September 13, 2013.

I can close my eyes and be transported to that absolutely gorgeous late summer day; the winding mountain roads, the bluest sky dotted with marvelous white, cartoon-puffy clouds. It was on that drive that something changed in me.

As I think back to that life-altering drive, I remember making my way through some incredible morning light— dazzling, dappled, golden-glowing. It was alive, and, for the first time in a very long time, I too felt alive. I felt as though I had been baptized in that light, emerging as a new person ready to take hold of my life.

That day, Holly and Andy’s wedding day, set into motion a series of events that has brought me to where I am today. I am a business owner, five years in, and I am no longer hiding under my duvet, meek and sullen. I still have days, weeks, even, where depression can slither in and take residence in my mind and body for just a bit. Try as I may to combat it, I think there will always be a part of me that will battle those demons. The difference is that today I know that I am worthy of living a wildly beautiful life. I am ready to accept life’s blessings, appreciate them in a way that I don’t think I could have if I hadn’t been through those long, dark seasons of despair.

On this day I look back with gratitude that stems from the deepest recesses of my soul. Today, instead of burning bridges, I live a life that sets my soul on fire. Instead of living in bed, I live on purpose. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I delight in who I am and what I have to offer my family, friends, the world.

I’m not where I thought I’d be. But that’s OK. I know now that my plan is never THE plan, you know, the one that’s “supposed to” happen. It’s an outline, a rough draft. I know that six years from now I will look back on this day and see that I am exactly where I need to be.

My greatest learning experience thus far is this: I cannot let ANYONE determine how I live my life. I will never, ever get the green light from anyone else. Others may be encouraging, they may turn on the gas, but I have to be the one to ignite it. And that ignition has to come from a place of acceptance and self-worth.

There is no better time than NOW to realize that life is meant to be lived wholly, completely. You are here for a reason, we all are. If you aren’t living your life on purpose, what are you doing?! The world is missing out on all that you have to offer. Explore your gifts, find your purpose, and trust your gut. It’s there. The world needs it.

Happiest Anniversary, Holly & Andy. Thank you, as always, for taking a chance on me, and for helping me to step out of darkness into light.