THE FIRST PHOTO I EVER TOOK AND AN OUTSIDERS PERSPECTIVE ON MY CAREER EVOLVEMENT

My friend Lindsay wrote this incredibly thoughtful blog post about my journey how I've helped her journey of growth and healing through my own person life decisions. Lindsay was also my first subject I ever photographed when I was in the fifth grade. See below...lets keep in mind I was, like, ten people! And to all my fellow MySpace days people, I had to reference PHOTOBUCKET for some of these photos. YES, Photobucket! I can't believe I remembered my password.

Lindsay, thank you so much for writing this about me and allowing me to share it over here on my corner of the internet. No matter where life has taken us, you've truly been an amazing friend and person to me - much like you've been to so many others! I'm so honored to have played such an impact in your life. I couldn't be more proud of the person you are today and all the changes you've made to become a happier, healthier person. I love you, always.

And without any more time to spare... here's Lindsay:

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“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –Nelson Mandella.

17 years ago,... the very first iPod made its debut. 

17 years ago,... JT and Brittney Spears strutted down the red carpet American Music Awards as the dynamic denim duo. 

17 years ago,... I moved into Ashley’s neighborhood and we became instant friends. 

As you probably know, a lot can happen in 17 years. If you were to go to through Ash and my first iPods for instance, you’d probably find a whole lot of Missy Elliot, J.Lo, Destiny Child, Alicia Keys, and Train. 

And if you were to go through our wardrobes back in 2001, you’d find a lot of denim and other questionable pieces inspired by our teen idols (can’t forget gaucho pants and Von Dutch hats…thanks Paris Hilton).

But, throughout those 17 years, music taste and style aren’tthe only things that have changed drastically in our lives (although denims made its way back around, and Alicia Keys will always be fire.) Our perspectives on life itself have changed, A LOT.  

And the impact that Ashley has had on my life has been illuminating. 

When I look at Ashley today, I see a bold, creative, intentional, inspirational and beautiful woman, walking in her authenticity and truth…But it hasn’talways been this way. It took years and years for her to build those spiritual, emotional, and mental muscles to stand strongly in who she is. 

Our experiences in life – good and bad, shape us into who we are. And unfortunately, Ashley’s journey included years of adversity.

 Senior prom

Senior prom

 Had to be 16 years old here!

Had to be 16 years old here!

When we were seniors in high school, it was time to start applying to schools. The pressure was on. Everyone knew you were only as good as your acceptance letter into a prestigious and/or big party school.  Looking back, 18 year olds are so young and naive.  Yet, at that age, we had social pressures telling us we needed to know exactly who we were, and what we were going to do as a career.  For those of us who didn’t have a clue of where we fit into this socially constructed “real world”, our destination was community college.

 Our high school graduation

Our high school graduation

I went to L.A Pierce College to play volleyball, while Ashley went to College of the Canyons (C.O.C.) to pursue psychology.  While at C.O.C, Ashley wasn’t happy at all. In her heart, she knew that she wanted to pursue photography full time, however everyone around her was telling her she should go to school. 

Now that she has a successful career, people admire and accept that Ashley took the road less traveled. But back then, some people scoffed at it. Yep that’s right. She unfortunately encountered a lot of nay-sayers. A lot of people who said, “you can’t make a career out of this,”“this is just a hobby,”’“you need to get a real job and go to school”. 

For a while, she let those critics comments’get to her. She gave into what they said, and had so much self-doubt. She started to believe that she’d never measure up, or be successful doing what she loved. 

After a while, there came a point where she had enough. She was so unfulfilled going to school, doing what everyone around her said was the ‘right’thing to do. It was draining her.  She realized that SHE had to live with her choices, THEY don’t.

Ashley told me one day, “They can say they know best, but they aren’t living in my body. I live with my choices, they don’t live with my choices.”

After this grand realization, she had a major ‘f#@$@ it’moment. She dropped out of college, pursued photography, and now is a well-respected and successful wedding, branding, and lifestyle photographer in one of the toughest markets: Los Angeles. 

So yes, while styles, and trends change over the years, I truly believe what’s in your heart will always remain.

Ashley took a courageous leap in faith to pursue what she knew in her heart she was born to do. Not everyone around her knew what she innately knew. But she cultivated the strength and resilience needed to make her dream a reality, despite the nay-sayers and “realists”.

Her strength and courage were inspirational factors that helped me out of a tough season in my life.  

After community college, I felt lost. I got a call for the Division 1 school I was supposed to play volleyball at letting me know my position was filled last minute.  I was so depressed.  I lost my love for the game. I lost my identity. I didn’t know who I was outside of being a volleyball player. I didn’t know where I was going. I felt I had outgrown old habits and friends I had always clung to. But didn’t know where to go from there.  I called Ashley and she sat and listened to me, nonjudgmentally, through a total melt down I was having. After a long heart-to-heart, she really inspired me to let go of the old Lindsay and follow my heart, despite what the reaction of others and past friends may be. 

Since then I’ve moved to Nashville, and have immersed myself in the arts:  singing, writing, videography, acting, improv. These little pieces have always been in my heart since I was a young girl, but I was always scared of people’sjudgment towards them.  After following Ash’s advice, I’ve never felt more myself. 

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It’s been exactly one year since I graduated from Belmont University here in Nashville. I may not have a successful career yet. I may have moments of anxiety. I may have moment of negative self-talk and self-judgment. But Ash’s story gives me hope. Hope that following your heart is enough. Yes, there will be trials, it will take hard work, there will be low points. Our minds might ramble on about how “you don’t deserve greatness.”Or “who do you think you are?”

But like Ashley says: “We live with our choices.”And in the long run, following our bliss will be oh-so-much more rewarding than following the crowd. 

When I look back on the years, I don’t want the only things about me that have changed to be my style, the music I listen to, and my age. I want my soul to have grown. If we aren’t looking inward and evolving, we’re missing out on such a huge part of the human experience. So many of us are in careers because they are comfortable. Because that’s what “we’re supposed to do”, or because it’s trending. 

I was numbing myself for a long time with substances and things that weren't good for me to cope with the fears and anxieties I had. 

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I’m beyond lucky to have such an authentic, strong, compassionate friend who is extremely empathetic, and encourages self-development, and self-reflection. Those are the best friends in life. The ones that hold you accountable. The ones that check in with you. “are you drinking that cocktail because you thoroughly want to drink that cocktail for enjoyment, or because you are stressed and think that will solve yourproblems, let’s talk about it”. 

I wouldn’t be able to experience the joy that I do today if Ashley didn’t help me stop self-medicating and get to the root of the problem: follow my heart and start the journey of living authentically. 

For that, I am forever thankful for you Ashley."

 

THE FIRST POSED PHOTO I EVER TOOK BELOW.

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