Every year I have a lot to be thankful for but I usually don't take the time to reflect on it, even during Thanksgiving, I suppose I'm usually a bit of a grinch in that way. But this year has been so much to me, I might not appear on the outside to be a completely new person, and I still have so much improving to do, but I've become a much more mindful person this year, and I'm much happier and more fulfilled. I wish I'd taken the time to make some kind of beautiful graphic list but done is better than perfect and blogging is one of those things that I want to get better about but I need to just get it done sometimes. So here it goes. I almost don't want to make a list because of all of the things I know I'll leave out, so please forgive me for all the things that don't come out here.
1. WPPI & Go Outside - for giving me something to look forward to every year, the one night of dancing (Airplanes and Blazers) that makes me feel like I'm partying amongst celebrities and gives me a reason to wear a ridiculous outfit and party with my best friend. For rooms full of people that get what it means to be a wedding photographer, for the chance to say hello to idols, for feeling more social than I ever could in real life. It's my summer camp.
I'll also add in Matt & Angie Sloan and Justin & Amelia Lyon here. I am so grateful that my favorite photographers are so giving and that I got to spend a few days with them in Palm Springs, making friends with some other amazing photographers, and getting a breath of fresh air. After a very busy year last year I really needed to feel inspired again and I loved getting out of my comfort zone (though how uncomfortable can you be in California?) to Go Outside.
2. Making Brands Happen - In March I started a three part webinar series with Emily Ley and Lara Casey of Making Brands Happen, and in that first webinar I had a brand evaluation with them that really helped push me to go ahead and dive in to creating a brand that meant something. As everyone who has run into me since then knows, I started The Challenge after that webinar and that was just the beginning of making 2012 my year (and I just can't wait for 2013!)
3. Making Things Happen- In May, I took the leap and went to the Making Things Happen Intensive. I sat in a room of about 20 other women and cried. Haha it was so much more than that, but I went thinking I'd leave with a more solidified idea of what I wanted to make my business into, and instead came out with a better idea of what I wanted out of my life. I left with a better idea of what a life worth living is, how to get more joy out of life, and what was really important to me. I had a feeling the intensive would be big for me but I had no idea just how much I would gain from it.
4. The Happiness Project- Around the time of Making Things Happen I started reading The Happiness Project per Emily Ley's suggestion and I made some changes that have really helped me figure out what it means to be happy, and some ways to seek that out for myself. I haven't stuck with it 100% but I know that exercising 4 times a week, getting a consistent 8 hours of sleep, and pursuing things that make me happy versus trying to fill my life with what I think I'm supposed to be doing are real keys to living my best.
5. Curtsy (Curtsey)- After going to a few photographer meet-ups in the past few years I knew I really craved a close-knit group of girls, but also that it's difficult to be completely open and encouraging in a group of girls who in your same field and market. I'd really enjoyed some of the wedding vendor meet-ups I'd been to and really wanted an encouraging group to be a part of. I met Holly Hollon (an amazingly talented calligrapher and designer in Birmingham) and mentioned wanting to start a group and her enthusiasm for the idea helped me to go for it. The group has about 12-14 girls in it, and we meet once a month, and we focus on a different topic or craft/field each meeting. We have two calligrapher/designers, a cake baker, a letterpress printer, a hair stylist, a videographer, a boutique owner, a blogger, a florist, an event stylist, and 3 photographers (and a few girls have a few other fields they dabble in). We aren't all wedding related but we are all young women in creative fields who really enjoy the community that our group has created. Through the group I've learned that we all struggle with starting a business, with balancing our time, making friends in a new place, battling jealousy or self-defeat. And I'm so lucky to have all of these girls to encourage and be encouraged by. I love y'all :)
6. My clients! - I absolutely would not be where I am without the couples that have trusted me to photograph their wedding days. From them I have learned so much more about love, each of these couples has their own story, their own personalities and priorities and struggles, but they are all linked together in love. I might have a really crazy work schedule and might spend way too much time behind the computer, but the days I spend following around these crazy in love brides and grooms just puts a permanent grin on my face. I love the wedding reception songs (who doesn't love to wobble?), I love the light, I love the moment a bride puts on her veil, I love first looks whether before the ceremony or down the aisle. I do really and truly love my job and it's because of you guys. You make me want to become even better and love even harder. Thank you.
7. My assistants! - Last year by chance I obtained my first intern, Nancy, who was one of my groom's sisters, and is now a great friend. I laugh when I think about the first time I had her come into the office, it was summer and I was a mess, 2011 was a crazy crazy but awesome crazy year. I can't imagine that Nancy didn't think I was crazy but she at least kept it to herself until after her brother's wedding, at least. This January, Brittany Arias (one of Nancy's high school classmates, actually), contacted me about working with me during her winter break, and I completely lucked out again to have such awesome help in the office. I loved teaching Brittany all the things I've learned from my mentors and from experience, and somehow I managed to convince her to switch from Canon to Nikon too (win!). But really, she is so earnest, kind, and considerate, and I cannot wait for her to graduate and take the wedding world by storm. It's so crazy to think about all of the help I've had this year, from Heather Durham, Hillary Gamble, Rachel Stricklin, Elizabeth Pettey, Becca Paul, Rebecca Mill, Morgan Trinker!, Avery Durbin, Emily Kicklighter....And apologies if I've missed anyone, 2012 has been a whirlwind! I couldn't do what I do without this help, and I'm so so grateful for you ladies!
8. Calligraphy- I've felt a lot of pressure on myself to widen my horizons and pick something else to get involved in so that my work doesn't completely consume my life. I don't have a proper bucket list but taking a calligraphy class had always been on my imaginary half-formed one. Holly had encouraged me to take a class with Deb Warnat, the teacher she learned from some five years ago, and it wasn't until fellow photographer Sunny Jones mentioned wanting to take a class on facebook that I really looked into it, and she and Paula Coldiron, Jackie Seay, and I all took the class this August. I'd had nibs and ink and felt markers and instruction books since childhood but I really never put the dedication into learning, and though I'd been playing around with scripts this past year or so, taking a copperplate class was just the best thing ever. I needed the push to really do it right, and since then I've been taking over instagram feeds with whatever comes to mind, inspiring quotes I find, and the few random projects I've had the pleasure of taking on. It's so therapeutic to do something that feels creative but is not photography, and I am so excited to have a hobby! Do what makes YOU happy!
9. Friends and Family - I definitely can't list everyone here, there is no way I wouldn't leave someone out, but I am so grateful to the listening ears, the dressing-room assistant helpers, the affirming word-sayers, the workout partners, coffee dates, lunch meetings, advice, letter exchanges, and editing sessions. I am so grateful to the encouragement my husband gives me on every wedding day. This year I've felt even closer to the people in my life that I love and I'm so thankful for the deep meaningful relationships I have.
10. I'm thankful that 2012 isn't over yet, for friendship pacts that mean that there are new goals for my brand that will get done, for people to be accountable to, for a new idea of success, for a gratefulness journal I've been keeping here and there that makes this sort of reflection a more than once a year sort of thing. I'm not glad about the bad things that happen, and I am more deeply emotionally effected by things outside myself this year, but I am grateful to be reminded that life is short, that I have so very many things to be grateful for, and that seeking happiness is even better when it means improving the lives of those around me.
I want to push you to seek an environment you will flourish in. Surround yourself with people who love (who love their work, who love their friends, who love strangers, food, hobbies, themselves), and find people you can be open and honest with. Seek out the best for your life and in doing so you'll be better for the people who rely on you. Find people who will encourage you, keep you accountable to your goals, and every now and then give you a little push or make you take a break when you're spending another hour behind the computer on a Friday night. As you snuggle into the holidays go ahead and start here, where you are, with little things that will make January and all of next year a year not of resolutions, but of positive steps and changes that will make 2013 your best year yet. I sound all mushy but it's real and you need to hear it. If you're looking for a sign, this is it.