5 states. 3 houses. 2 dogs. 1 fiancé. Those are the big things I think of when I reminisce back on the past four years. Four years ago I, and my parents, packed up everything I owned and moved me along with my ever-faithful doggie-companion Bailee to Tallahassee, where I became a Tallahassee Photographer, instead of an Indiana Photographer. 14 hours away from everything and everyone I knew. And yet, I wasn’t scared. Even after my parents had helped me settle-in and drove away, I didn’t think to myself “did I make the wrong decision?” Instead, I was at peace. There was a calm inside me. My heart and my head both were telling me this was the right direction for my life. I remember the exact moment, the time of day, the place that I realized I needed to move to Florida.
I was at work, as a graphic designer, for the Ball State Daily News Advertising agency. It was my second senior year of college (I double majored in Fine Art Photography and Advertising, completing both majors in exactly five years). The sun was beaming through the windows behind me. It was the time of day we (myself and the other two designers) would close the blinds because otherwise our section turned into a sauna and we couldn’t’ see our monitors through the glare. My boss, Joy (who was the BEST mentor I could’ve ever asked for during my college years), was out for her afternoon break and the grad-student intern was in her seat, proofing tomorrow’s newspaper edition for accuracy. I don’t know what struck me, maybe I was browsing through photos I had taken during my most recent spring break in St. Petersburg, Fla. when I realized I didn’t just want to vacation there. I wanted that to be my backyard. I wanted to take Bailee to the beach every weekend and watch the sunset over the ocean more than just twice a year. I dreaded winter, shoveling out snow, having to wear layers, shivering numb toes from November to April. Literally, dreaded it. Even as I type this, the thought of snow makes my soul sad all over again.
The grad-intern asked me how the job-search was coming. I very distinctly remember the sunlight streaming onto my face as I turned around, standing up to close the blinds, and said “I’ve decided I’m moving to Florida. So I guess I need to start looking there.”
I wish I could say is was all poof, magic and the day after I graduated I moved but that wasn’t the case. God had a few more great things in store for me before Indiana was through with me. I spent that summer unemployed and sad. But I also had a lot of time to think about Poppie Studios – which I started pursuing a few years prior but hadn’t made it into anything more than a Facebook page. So, during my depressed unemployed summer, I built my first website. I started creating content for my Facebook page. I made a logo. Granted, all of those things have since evolved (thank God!) and become a much better representation of who I am and my talents.
I struggled for a full year after graduation, but every job lead me closer to my Florida-dream. Every job helped me hone my skills and develop my own style. Every job lead me to great friendships that have withstood time and distance. And of the things I miss the most, are a few friendships with beautiful people I don’t get to see everyday anymore (except when I creep on their Facebook pages, which kind of counts as friendship – right? Right?!). But eventually, and I kept interviewing for positions in Florida for the next two years, I got a call for a graphic design specialist job in Tallahassee, Fla. My first thought: “where is Tallahassee and how close is the nearest beach?” Turns out, Tallahassee is the capital of Florida and is about 90 minutes from my most favorite beach, St. George Island. After the first call with that company, I knew. I felt it in my heart. This was the one. And three weeks later, on October 5, 2012 – I became a Floridian.
How quickly four years has flown! And how awesome that I’m now a Tallahassee Photographer! The connections I’ve made since moving here have been monumentally important to the growth of my business, and my personal development. I discovered the Tallahassee Professional Photographers Guild, which lead me to Shannon Griffin, who reminded me why I fell in love with and should fall in love with film photography again. Which lead me to Becky + Jesse, who coached me into being brave, taking the leap and focusing on being a film photographer again. I rediscovered my passion for film photography after moving to Tallahassee. Those connections have also lead me to beautiful people I’m now so thankful to call friends. And to a handsome man I’ll soon get to call my Husband. And to an adorable three-legged dog, who annoys Bailee, but gives us lots of laughs. These people (and fur-children) have opened my heart more than I thought was possible. Whether as an employer, coworker, parent, sibling, friend or fiancé – I value the roles you have in my life and how everything combines to lead me down the path that I’m on.
So here’s a toast to Florida! And every state, and stage of life, in between.