There was a phrase on the memorial card at my dad’s wake that I’ll never forget.
It read, “life has not ended, just changed”.
I was 12. While it would take up until now (and then some more) to fully understand this phrase, for the rest of my teenage years instead of dreaming, I’d be grieving the expectations I had had for what I thought my life was supposed to be and questioning what else the future held in store.
I’ll spare you the details, but as those teen years passed so did my first heartbreak, the beginning of a severe eating disorder, a torn ACL and meniscus, a broken back, mono, and flunking out of the University of Southern California my first semester after two previous failed attempts for acceptance there.
All that was left of me was a drained, disassociated, frenetic shell of myself.
Those periods of injuries and illness also brought on stillness and sedentary routines. I began reading more by late poets in attempt to both find consolation and perspective for my own grieving.
One vivid piece by Sylvia Plath always stuck with me, as she sits under a fig tree, paralyzed from making a decision and watching her opportunities rot away in front of her. I don’t remember when I first read that, but I do remember laying in my bed as I was recovering from mono, feeling the smallest atom of comfort that I was not the only one to have felt this way.
I also could see the role I was playing in my life was full of pain, sickness, and sadness. I began questioning how I could do things differently. I also starting to think how could heal from all this.
During my junior year at USC, I had been badly neglecting myself of a creative outlet. I thought of Sylvia again, sitting under her fig tree. How familiar that felt to me.
I saw how many branches of my own life were beginning to expand and bear fruit. I saw careers and high mountains completely unrelated to each other. I saw options that were just symptomatic of dreaming and feeling envious over skills I don't feel especially akin to, and I saw options that others would be happier to speak about than if I had actually done them.
Where was the harmony? Where was the healing?
I didn’t expect photography would be a panacea for all the chaos at the time, but picking up a camera did immediately imbue me with a sense of purpose I had deeply longed for. It was my permission slip to explore, both myself and the world around me with intention and curiosity rather than the familiar shame and judgment all my life before.
Partnered with my camera in hand, that familiar mixture of frenetic energy could be focused, slowed, and enjoyed. This energy brought me to new places and opened me to new perspectives.
I began regularly camping, backpacking, and traveling around the country in my car. I started planning ahead of trips I could take to places that piqued my curiosity.
I found myself dreaming again.
I saw the connection between photography, people, and my unrelenting desire to heal and grow when I began regularly photographing those who held the closest relationships to me.
Out of those experiences bore opportunities to give more people, as well as myself, something I had previously tried to give in so many other fruitless ways - a moment to be seen.
To feel safe.
Components that all allow space within oneself to heal, understand, and love.
Decidedly, since you are reading this now I can say with confidence that I have picked out a branch, harvested some fruit, and would like to share that I now am turning my dreams of creating space to recognize healing into reality.
Now I work with individuals and brands revolving around healing, sustainable farming, mental health, honoring movement, and new systems.
If you’re on a healing journey too and ready to enter a space and recognize yourself in the process, reach out, and let’s dig in.
Bird Valley Organics
California Arts and Sciences Institute
Eden Rift Vineyards
Pacific Lighting & Standards Co.
Tree Hugger Containers