the online world and the physical world.

I’ve been taking some time off social media. Every few months I’ll do a social media fast and each time I feel less and less inclined to come back. I question why I spend time on social media anyway. Why I feel the need to share what I’m doing, seeing, feeling, thinking, breathing with strangers.

There is nothing wrong with sharing. In fact, I think sharing is an essential part of relationships and building a trusting community, but I’ve been questioning why I feel the need to share online, as opposed to with my immediate circle I physically see or talk to on a day to day basis. There is beauty in the online world. It’s an incredible experience being able to both share and be inspired by people all over the world. But I feel like, as a millennial, I’ve missed out on some organic conversations and experiences because I’m so used to having these conversations and experiences online.

I’ve always found New York’s subway system to be an incredibly inspiring place. There are lots of people zoned out on their phones, of course, but there are also the entertainers, people reading newspapers or books, journaling, or even talking to the stranger next to them. Life on the subway exists as it did before everyone had a cell phone in their hand and I love this. I loved that about when I lived in New York. So much of my 20s was spent with my head in my phone, scrolling mindlessly through social media, that I fear how much I missed.

This holds especially true now, with my daughter in the picture. I absolutely refuse to miss a second of her life because I’m scrolling online. I also don’t want her to remember me as someone with her head in her phone. I want her to remember me for actually doing stuff. Reading books, writing, trying new recipes, painting, gardening, going on a hike, creating a beautiful photo shoot, volunteering, talking to my neighbors, going on road trips, traveling the world. Soon she will start to imitate me. I want her to imitate what’s real, not what’s online.

I also wonder the long term effects on kids whose entire lives have been broadcasted online. It’s one thing for me to show my life to the world on Instagram, but it’s another thing for me to show my daughter’s life to the world on Instagram. She is her own person with thoughts and feelings and even though she doesn’t know it yet, she has consent. I don’t feel it’s right for me to share every detail of her life online without her permission. If I did this, I wonder what she would look back and think about it? Would she be embarrassed? Would she feel exposed? Would she feel misinterpreted? I don’t entirely know but I feel like this is what I might feel if my childhood and teen years had been posted all over social media by my parents.

I’ve also seen kids acting up as soon as a phone is around or not around. On Instagram, I see stories of these little girls who are playing and in their own world, and as soon as they notice their parent is filming them, they start posing like models in Vogue. It’s heartbreaking and something I definitely don’t want my daughter to do. And then, of course, the child who acts up because they don’t know how to sit still for 5 minutes without an iPad in front of their face. I’m not trying to be judgmental here. Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and sometimes you will do anything just to have 5 minutes of peace and quiet. I totally get it. My point here is more that sometimes I can’t even sit still for 5 minutes without scrolling through my phone. If I can’t do it, my daughter sure won’t be able to, and so the behavior change has to start with me.

It’s refreshing not being on Instagram (and I’m only referring to Instagram because I haven’t had Facebook or Twitter for a few years). Occasionally, I will log back on and it feels like information overload. It’s also been freeing for me to do stuff for the sake of doing stuff as opposed to doing something so I can share it online. It’s allowed me to get back into some old hobbies, not so that I can share it with anyone, but because these hobbies make me happy and bring joy to my life. Reading more, lettering, I even started to sew. I’m not doing these things to become anyone. I’m doing them because I enjoy them.

I was sharing too much before and it was causing the things I love to lose their significance. Things had to look perfect as opposed to real and that is just not me. What’s real is being right here, with my words, where things are quiet and I’m not competing with the thousands of images people are scrolling through. Sometimes Instagram feels like an auditorium full of people each shouting to try and get the attention of the stage performer. Look at me! That’s not where I thrive. I’d rather shrink into a hole with 1 or 2 friends and whisper secrets in the dark. And I’m not saying everyone online is shouting but there are a lot who are and so it’s hard to find the quiet ones now.

I want physical community. Late night conversations in my living room with a few friends, a few drinks, some music playing in the background and perhaps a few books laying on the floor. We talk endlessly into the night about our interests, beliefs, insecurities and love lives. We’re vulnerable and we’re honest and sometimes we disagree but we learn so much and we eventually get to the point where we can barely keep our eyes open and so we say our goodnights and we each head home and we lay our heads on our pillows and our hearts are full.

I want to sit on my back patio with a friend or two and talk about how crazy mom life is while our kids run around in the backyard laughing. I want to cook together. I want to eat together. I want to go swimming and hiking and hold hands because I don’t know how to ice skate even though I love ice skating. I want to kiss more. I want to hug more. I want to go to the drive in theatre and throw popcorn at people from the backseat. I want Row to learn the stars in the sky and the names of the clouds and that you can cut an earthworm in half and each half will still live. I want her to grow her own vegetables and write her own books and build her own playhouse.

I want everything that is real and here and now.

6 things 6 months of marriage has taught me.

It's a day shy of our six month wedding anniversary and oh my, does time ever fly. We're getting way better at this marriage thing, and each day I can honestly say I wake up more in love with him and more excited for a lifetime together. But, I will say, there have been difficult moments. Here are six things I've learned through six months of marriage.

1. Marriage shows you your selfishness. 

    I never thought of myself as a selfish person, in fact, pardon me for saying this but I always thought I was a very selfLESS person. But no, marriage has shown me how selfish I am, which is actually a really great thing, because selfishness is a horrible trait to have. Marriage is not about you, it’s about the person you’re married to.

2. Marriage is really fun.

    Obviously, duh, but I had some fears about the whole marriage thing, and the stats aren’t great. So far, every one of my fears has been proven wrong. Marriage is fun for a million and a half reasons, and more. So much of marriage is how you react to one another. You can choose to respond in frustration when you are really tired, or you can choose to respond in laughter and silliness when you’re really tired. 

3. Find your “thing” together.

    Life happens really quickly, and it’s been so healthy for us to find our “thing” together. Now we have certain days where we do certain things, and they are something that, each week, we look forward to. For example, Sunday afternoon sushi dates, or evening walks in the park. Being able to share our traditions together, and make new ones, allows us to reconnect, no matter how busy the week has been. 

4. Protect your marriage.

    If you don’t protect your marriage, it’s easy to let things come in the way of it, and I’m not talking about the big things (like cheating or affairs), I’m talking about the little things. The little things where you don’t realize at first how detrimental something may be. Whether it’s comparing your marriage to other people’s marriages in a negative way, or keeping white lies from one another, or showing contempt to one another, these are all things that can cause great damage over time. So protect your marriage. Get rid of anything toxic, including toxic thoughts.

5. Marriage is like surfing.

    I’ve only ever surfed once and it was really, really hard, so perhaps this is a bad analogy, but marriage is like surfing in that marriage comes in waves. There are hard times, there are happy times, there are boring times, there are exciting times, there are all of the times that are going to happen in life and that therefore happen in your marriage. You just have to ride it out. Ride out the hard times, whether it’s something you’re dealing with, your spouse is dealing with, or you’re dealing with together. Ride the waves. Things get better. 

6. Marriage is about embracing one another’s differences. 

    I remember one day telling my husband that I wanted him to make the bed a certain way. It was probably after I had told him that I liked the kitchen a certain way, the living room a certain way, the bathroom a certain way, and the car parked a certain way. Instead of being annoyed at me, he replied, in all of his gentleness, “ya know, I think you’re more type A, but I’m more type LMNOP.” Recognizing our differences as a good thing, and embracing the other person’s differences, has only strengthened our marriage (and allowed me to have a lot more fun, too). 

How to be a better Me.

Lately I’ve been feeling…off. I guess that’s the word. I haven’t felt at all like myself, and it’s simply too embarrassing to document my behavior other than saying that I’ve been acting like a crazy person. I finally decided it was time to kick this funk in the ass, and get my act together. I call this, the Kim Intervention, or, steps I’m taking to be a better me. These interventions happen often (though sometimes not often enough), take some serious soul searching, often end with me in a puddle of tears and page after page of handwritten notes, but they also leave me feeling refreshed and like a whole new person. It’s amazing what happens when we simply stop and listen to our hearts on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I don’t do this on a daily basis. Until now (I hope).

 

So, here’s my guide to being a better me. I’m documenting this, publicly, well, sort of, for those who read my blog at least, because I want to hold myself accountable. I’m almost twenty-eight (oofda) and I’m tired of making excuses.

 

1. No more social media.

    “Okay, what? This is crazy! You are a photographer! You can’t be a photographer and not be on social media! Your career practically depends on social media.” I had this epiphany the other day where suddenly I realized that I was a PHOTOGRAPHER not a social-media-tographer. Lately, I can’t stand photography. That’s the honest truth. But after some deep soul searching I realized that I really do love photography, it’s social media I don’t do well with. I love photography because I love to create and I love personal expression. I love photography as an outlet. I’m an emotional person and I spend a lot of time in my head. I used to dance to get my thoughts out, I’ve always written to get my thoughts out, and in my early twenties, I began to take photos in order to get my thoughts out. That’s what it’s always been for me. Personal expression. Personal freedom. Social media, unfortunately, for me, is detrimental to my creativity. I want to say one thing: I don’t hate social media and I think it’s a really beautiful and powerful tool. But for me, and my personal life, I can no longer do social media. I read my journal from two years ago (and then the one from two years before that) and my goal is constant and clearly written on far too many pages: spend less time on social media. 

    Social media eats at my soul and my heart. I don’t know why. I don’t know why some people are fine on social media but I am not. I’ve always considered myself a fairly confident and happy person, but somehow, social media has turned me into someone I do not like. Social media has caused me to compare myself to others. I hate to even admit this, but social media has also robbed my bank account. I see so many photos on Instagram every day of women wearing these cool outfits and the next day, I go buy them. How gross of me. Why have I become so insecure that I absolutely have to have what everyone else is wearing? Who cares! Why do I care about what other people think of me? Why can’t I just be me? I’m so tired of thinking about how I look all of the time because of social media. You know what else is weird? Before social media, when I just took photos (and also selfies), I didn’t really care about what I was wearing or how I was presenting myself to the world. After social media, suddenly each and every morning I think about what I should wear and how I should present myself to the world, just in case someone snaps a photo of me and posts it on social media. That’s so messed up of me. It’s so vain and selfish and gross of me. So I can’t do it. I can’t compare myself to others, and I also can’t care about what other people think about me. It’s been eating at my soul: one that is generally care-free and very invested in the present world. Social media is also addicting to me. I can’t control my habit or put time limits on myself. I’ve tried, but I’m an addict, so, I have to cut it off for now. It causes me to think unhealthy thoughts and quite frankly, it’s now wasted brain space for me. 

    Yes, it’s going to effect my work. If I’m not posting on social media, that also means that not really anyone is reading this blog post of mine. But that’s okay with me. As much as I love to share what I create, I am ten times more happy and ten times more creative when I’m just creating for me and not for others. I feel free to be me. I feel free to express myself how I need to. I just am, ME. As for client work, thankfully, I can disconnect client social media work from my own social media work. I’ve started writing for this company in the UK (which is amazing!) and they post what I write to social media. But that doesn’t mean I have to post on social media. That’s the beauty of work. I get paid for it, so I do my job, I work really hard at it, I give them the best possible piece I can, and then I move on. There’s something about creating stuff for companies verses creating stuff for my own account. I don’t struggle in that area. I can create stuff for other people’s social media because it’s contributing to something and someone else, ya know, but when it comes to my own personal stuff, I don’t need to post about it. I’m fine with it. Right now, I want to work with companies I truly believe in and help them become the best company they can be. I don’t need any recognition for the work. If I’m passionate about it and believe in it, that is more than enough for me. 

    Yes, I will miss out on stuff. Yes, my exposure will go down which may mean I even miss out on job opportunities. But maybe it just means that my beliefs aren’t in line with those types of companies anyway. I don’t want to do anything half heartedly. I’m either in, or I’m out. The moral compass inside of me is just too strong. 

 

2. Drink water.

    This seems like a no brainer and also like a new years resolution, but for me, it really is a matter of life or death. I’m not exaggerating here either. A few months ago I had one cup of water in two days and by the time I realized it, I was surprised I was still functioning. I don’t know if this is a “thing” or not, but I strongly disliking the act of drinking…anything. I’ve heard it all, too–“drink lemon water, or put strawberries in it, crystal light, drink tea…” Trust me, I do, I do all of this. I even have water bottles I rotate through (some with straws, some with sippy lids, some that you unscrew) so that drinking doesn’t become tedious and I surprise myself and for a few minutes I go, “oh, this feels nice! Maybe drinking isn’t so bad after-all!” But then after a few hours I forget and I won’t drink again until the next day. It’s weird. It’s also very first-world of me, very privileged of me. Water is not something I take for granted. I know how lucky I am to have clean water, hot water and free access to water at all times. I just wish I could get water in me without having to drink. I also don’t drink juices, coffee, alcohol, you name it. I just don’t like drinking. Eating, on the other hand, I love eating. But for now, I really need to focus on drinking water. It makes my body happy and my mind happy and my body and my mind will always thank me for this. 

 

3. Walk your dogs.

    I don’t actually walk my dogs. My dogs walk me, and for this reason, I think everyone should own a dog. I am happy to sit my lazy ass in front of the TV for five hours but I could never cause such boredom to my dogs, so I take my dogs for walks, or rather, they take me for walks. And for that, I am forever grateful for Clementine and Scout. Walking is also good for my body and mind, and again, my body and my mind will always thank me for this. Oh, and I need to keep taking my vitamins, but I’m already pretty good at that, I just don’t want to forget.

 

4. Declutter your life, specifically, your closet.

    For months now I’ve been reading about Project 333 (which I’m going to try). I’ve also read countless articles (both online and offline) about this minimal trend and about how cool neutrals are. I’ve always fought against neutrals, simply because I *love* color, but you know what? I *hate* clutter. A cluttered house means a cluttered life means a cluttered mind means chaos. I can’t work if my house isn’t clean. I also can’t think about my really important to-do lists for the day when I’m staring at a closet full of things, over half of which I never wear (but keep telling myself I’ll wear on the right occasion). Welp, no surprise there, the occasions never happen, in fact, never in my life have I been invited to a garden tea party and I’ve only ever been on a sailboat once. Minimalism isn’t a trend, or at least it shouldn’t be. Minimalism is practical for so many reasons: you save money; you save brain power from making superfluous decisions about what to wear instead of the really important decisions later on in the day; you save closet space; you save time, and my time is oh so precious to me; and therefore, you save yourself from frustration and become happier. I’ve read a lot about how the human brain can only make so many decisions throughout the day, whether big or small, and so things like choosing what to wear are actually interfering with the really important decisions you have to make later on in the day. Whether it’s true or not, I whole-heartedly believe it for myself, so I need a uniform. Yes, maybe this means sacrificing some of my love for color. After-all, neutrals are so much more versatile. Neutrals are also less busy and therefore less cluttered, so I think I just need to accept it. And hey, I can keep a few pops of color here in there throughs things like shoes and bags. Decluttering my wardrobe (and slowly my whole home), is simplying my life. I like to think of it like this: the less I have, the more space I have to breathe and feel and live and dream. 

 

5. Pray and mediate, every morning.

    I’m hoping this will be an easy habit to jump into, considering I won’t be spending the morning in bed on my phone looking at social media. I’m a feeler, and I need a lot of introspective time, and I know praying and meditating do wonders for me. They keep me grounded, they keep me focused, they remind me of what’s truly important in life, they humble me, they put my focus towards others, they allow me to have more faith, they allow me to let go of control, they really are wonderful things. The allow me to be a much better person throughout the rest of the day.

 

6. Write, daily.

    You know, I really do write, a lot, like, a lot a lot. But I don’t write daily. I tweet daily, but that doesn’t count. I really want to write every single freaking day. I started writing a book last month, a novel. An actual real novel. But it sure isn’t going to write itself unless I keep writing even when I don’t feel like writing. I also love writing because it means I get to spend time alone, and I’m a bit of a hermit, just me and my thoughts, we tend to do well with one another when we’re both nurturing one another. Writing also is a brain detox for me. And while I’m not trying to belittle my spoken voice, I truly can express myself better through writing than speaking, so I know it’s important for my heart and soul to keep writing. In fact, if I can write all of my thoughts out, I am able to speak better throughout the day. I am less distracted and more direct. It’s a win win for everyone.

 

7. Eat from the earth.

    Food is something I’m really passionate about but I also don’t talk too much about because I don’t like to be preachy. Food is something I categorize into the same topics as politics and religion, both of which I like, and both of which I do not generally discuss unless I feel safe with you, because again, I often am tongue-twisted and things are taken the wrong way. I’d much rather just write you a letter. But anyway, food. A few years ago I developed chronic idiopathic urticaria (aka: the worst full body hives you can ever experience that happen to you for no explained reason at any given time (often, the worst times)). But I’ve discovered that, Hippocrates said it right, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine by the food,” and I’m not just talking about allergies here. When I eat well, my body (and my mind) are on top of the world. This means eating whole foods, not processed foods. I’m not vegetarian, nor am I vegan, and honestly, this is something I really struggle with on a daily basis because I am not into the meat industry (for various reasons). The truth is, I have tested my body, and my health deteriorates so quickly when I don’t get protein from animal products. I hate to even say that because in my heart, I am vegan, but I haven’t been able to find the vegan cure that keeps me healthy (and I try really, really hard). I have so much guilt about this that I’ve never really discussed this with anyone. I feel bad about not being a vegan, and I will always continue to try and be one, but for now, I just have to give myself grace, try my best, and know that I am not perfect. The point is, eat from the earth. Eat naturally. Eat whole foods. Let food be thy medicine, let food by thy life. 

 

8. Work on your identity.

    This is my last thing, to define myself and to ask God who he defines me as. For a long time I have defined myself by what others think of me. I’m a people pleaser, so I end up sacrificing a lot of my core in order to meet the expectations of others, but it’s simply not healthy. It causes me to create a person I am not. Lately, I can’t even remember why I like taking photos or what it is about photography I like, and so I want to spend some time working on this identity of mine, and re-falling in love with my passions, and being okay to not like certain things (and not feel bad about it either).

 

So, that is me in a nutshell, at least in terms of where I am at. This might be my longest blog post ever. I’m not going to tweet about this or Instagram or Facebook or anything. I’m just going to leave it here in my quiet spot. My happy spot. My quiet, little blog spot. I’m going to leave it here and use it as a way of keeping myself accountable. 

 

I am so thankful for this life I have been given. Today as I was reading through my old journals I thought to myself just how blessed I have been, especially these last few years, including now. It’s humbling to know that someone out in this universe is taking care of me and giving me things I don’t deserve. I want to serve God better. And I really want to be me better. There’s only one of me. There’s only one of you. Let’s be the very best version of our own selves because our own selves are the best we can give to the world, and the world needs that.

"When you know, you know," or that's what they say.

I don’t entirely know where to begin my thoughts except that I know I want to write about real love. Real love can be hard. Real love can be work. I thought I had real love in the past. There was one relationship I was in where every moment of it was butterflies. The butterflies eventually turned into another girl in his bed, and now they’re married. There was another relationship where everything felt very picture perfect, but yet, there was no substance or depth to it, which in some ways, for me at least, was more toxic than the butterfly cheater. There was one guy who I really connected with but our interests were so far from each other that I knew it would only be a matter of time before we resented each other. There was another guy who presented me with a list of where I was to live and work and that he had already got me the job (I wasn’t even looking) and so to just move with him and it would be la-dee-da great. There were so many of these moments where I wanted so badly for love to be real, and while some of the feelings certainly existed, the love wasn’t rooted in anything.

When I finally met my fiance, I couldn’t imagine being with anyone, let alone wanting to marry anyone. There was something about him though. I remember always being very curious about him, but there wasn’t a drop of love left in my soul to love someone romantically, and instead, we became really good friends. 

Looking back at all of my other relationships, I still imagined someone else while I was dating them. I’d love them and we’d be happy and have a great day, but in the back of my mind, there was still an image or a thought of someone else. I had no idea what he looked like or did or felt like or anything, but he existed somewhere deep in my subconscious. Even with picture perfect guy, I still had someone else who would enter my dreams, no matter how hard I tried to push him out. 

They say when you know, you know. I’d like to challenge that and say, it won’t necessarily be this instantaneous thing. Eric seemed to know with me pretty early on. I don’t know how he knew, but he says he knew. For me, while I was curious about him in a way I had never been curious about anyone before, I didn’t know right away. But eventually, as time went on with him, and we became closer and I finally started to give in to the feelings I was developing for him, one day (which really, was a collection of days and weeks and months), I realized there wasn’t anyone I pictured past him. I didn't know that this is what he would feel like or look like or do, but it was as if I had made it to some finish line, where there wasn’t anyone beyond him. He made up my subconscious in the physical. 

I’m learning that love is beyond an emotional connection. Some days it looks like laughter and other days it looks like disagreements. Some days it’s filled with adventure, other days it’s filled with tiredness. But there aren’t any days that feel too big to overcome. Maybe that’s the difference, because in the past, the days that felt too big to overcome were the days that would end with a break up. Now, on the bad days, I don’t want out, and on the good days, there is nothing sweeter. 

When you know, you’ll know, but it may take time. It may not look quite like butterflies and rainbows, or maybe it will. Things will line up in a strange and supernatural way, where you’ll realize you don’t need to try and have control of everything, because something else is connecting you two.

Dating, life and love.

I'm not the greatest human all the time or even most of the time. I can let my pride get in the way or say things I don't mean to or be stubborn or selfish. Most of these things, while I really have no excuse for them, I realize are rooted out of fear, self doubt or pain. I've been so scared to love whole heartedly because, quite honestly, I got so sick of deleting, yet again, another chapter of my life off the Internet due to a failed relationship (first world problems, AmIRight). Maybe it's a lesson to not overshare, but really, for me, it's a lesson on trust. It's a lesson where I have to allow myself to be vulnerable again in order to be the best version of myself for me and for someone else. It's a lesson where I have to confront all the issues about myself that I've swept under the rug for so long in order to love someone the way they deserve to be loved, and in order to love myself the way I deserve to be loved. I've been mean sometimes and I've said hurtful things, but yet, this guy stays grounded and keeps on loving me. He says he's loved me for a long time, and has loved me while I said I was thinking of moving to the city where he lives and then changed my mind and moved to New York. He's loved me while I've traveled even further, to the remote jungle of the Congo with zero internet access for weeks. He's loved me when I've came home and then decided to move, yet again, to a new city in order to pursue a school degree. He's been a tree, and I've been the wind. I know I've been the tree at times while he's been the wind. 

And it's just that. It's this constant back and forth-ness. It’s give and take, take and give. Love and laugh and cry and hurt. Forgive, move on, apologize, apologize again. 

Sometimes I think we have this idea of love where everything is supposed to be perfect. I had a relationship like that, where everything was perfect and we never ever fought. It was great and beautiful in its own way but honestly, it was boring. There wasn’t any passion. We weren’t fighting with each other, for each other, or for anything for that matter. 

I’m learning that human love is very imperfect. I think the kind of love they talk about for long term success is the kind of love where even when you are hurt or mad or upset, you choose to love them anyway. You choose to see past their imperfections and where they’ve done you wrong because you know they are only human. Thankfully, I’ve had someone who loves me this way, too, because I have done some very imperfect things, but he keeps on loving me. Im so thankful for that. Finally I’m with this guy where sometimes him and I fight and argue with one another, but now we also fight for each other, and for something greater than ourselves. Our faith, our love, our belief in life, love, passion, togetherness.

Our relationship isn’t just fighting, though. Mostly, we aren’t fighting. Mostly, we are laughing or sharing stories or ideas or exploring or creating or being weird. I am so thankful for those times, I love those times, I can’t get enough of those times.

But it’s during the ugh-this-really-sucks-right-now-why-cant-everything-be-perfect-times that he loves me anyway and once again, I am sooooo thankful. It shows me his commitment. Because forever is a very scary thing, and sometimes a very unbelievable thing, especially when I have no one in my past to compare forever with. Neither of us know if forever will work, but we both know we are willing to fight for it. That is really special to me.

Ive been reading Baby Boy Bakery’s blog a lot lately. This woman has experienced such great heartache with her son passing away. I’ve sat in my bed crying because I can only imagine a fraction of her pain, and it makes me so sad. But she has no idea how inspiring she is. Each day she keeps getting up and choosing to move forward without her son physically present, knowing that her son is looking down at her instead. Each day she makes a choice to fight for love and fight for life even if it really hurts. When it comes to love with a partner, I don’t want “fighting for love” to be this abusive thing, what I’m trying to say is that the healthy kind of love is most definitely worth fighting for! Jacqui recently wrote in her blog post: Together. We can do it together. We are doing it together.

That really resonated with me. My circumstances are so different from hers but she is right. The thought is simple. Together. We can do it together. We are doing it together."

No matter where you are or what you are going through, remember that. 

Together. We can do it together. We are doing it together.

Little Mountain Neighbourhood House

I’m feeling so blessed and full tonight! Full of happiness and amazing food.

While living in San Francisco was a wonderful experience, towards the end of my time there I grew very unhappy and was quite lonely. I wasn’t fulfilled or happy with the lifestyle I was living. The riches were great but I wasn’t giving back and everything began to felt very superficial. I wanted more than that. I wanted to help people. Photography started to become a chore rather than a passionate job, and with the stress of a few different things, my health began to take a toll. It was then that I started researching nutrition, and understanding that food affects so much of our being, both physically and mentally. I applied to Bauman College in Berkeley and was accepted. I was excited for a new career as a Nutritionist. I wanted to work with women and help them develop food plans they could take home and use to care for their families with.

At the same time, however, or perhaps slightly before this, I had discovered Kinfolk magazine. What I loved about Kinfolk (other than the beautiful photography) was that it was based around small gatherings. Small gatherings of food that brought people together. Food is community. To fight off some of the loneliness I had felt and wanting to feel community in a very busy city, I started hosting dinner parties at my apartment in SF. Those are some of my most cherished memories there. Food is a necessity and it’s something we can share with others, where great conversations happen and relationships deepen. It was always a dream to work for Kinfolk, but the opportunity never presented itself. That is when I decided to give up photography and pursue nutrition. 

It took a few months of my heart stirring and praying a prayer I wasn’t entirely sure was being heard, and then I finally felt some direction. I left San Francisco and decided not to pursue nutrition. A few months later Kinfolk emailed asking to work with me (dream come true!), and now I’m going to fast forward to a year and a half later, where I decided to go back to school to finish my degree in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice.

Unlike the Nutrition program, my plan with this degree is not to give up photography. Instead, I went back to school because I wanted to get connected with organizations that would allow me to work with women, help women, and use photography as a tool to tell stories. For one of my classes, we have a practicum and tonight was my first night. I cannot tell you how exciting it was! I am working with a non profit in Vancouver called Little Neighbourhood Mountain House that provides nutrition education, along with cooking classes, English classes and so much more. Most of those who come to this non profit are immigrant women who are looking for a place to connect and learn about the city and how they can support their families here. Tonight was my first night volunteering with the company and we all cooked a ginormous meal together and then sat around a table and shared stories. As for my specific involvement with this non profit (other than cooking with these women), I am working on a cookbook with them where I will be creating all of the photographs! Along with that, we are going to interview many of the women so that we can put their stories in the cookbook, along with their recipes from back home.

I am so excited about this! Finally, I am connecting all of the things I am passionate about into one: photography, nutrition, women and helping people. It feels like it took years to get to this point and finally find my “niche”, and well, it did take years, but it also took a whole lot of faith, patience and perseverance. I don’t know what will happen after the cookbook is finished and once I’m done with my degree, but for now, I can’t wait to take more photos, cook yummy food, connect with incredible women, share stories and build relationships.

Here is the meal we cooked tonight:

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Recipes:

Roasted Vegetables: A casserole dish of seasonal vegetables that is so easy to prepare. It can be made a day ahead - just reheat before serving. Lemon juice can be submitted for balsamic vinegar. Serves 12.

  • 1 small butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat over to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the squash, red bell peppers, sweet potato, carrots, and Yukon Gold potatoes. Separate the red union quarters into pieces, an add them to the mixture.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together thyme, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss with vegetables until they are coated. Spread evenly on a large roasting pan.
  4. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.

Sweet, Sticky, and Spicy Chicken: This chicken dish uses skinless, boneless chicken breasts and tastes delicious. It's great as an appetizer or as a main dish served with rice and veggies. Serves 4.

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger root
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seed
  1. Mix together brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and hot sauce in a small bowl.
  2. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken strips and add flour. Stir altogether.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken strips and brown on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.

Decluttering.

The only time we have is right now. I’ve always thought this way, but I’ve never acted this way.

I owe a lot to technology and social media. Through social media I’ve built incredible relationships, had exciting job opportunities, found inspiration, passion, laughter, adventure, and so much more. But social media has also become my crutch. It's something I’ve used to fill a void in my life. Late, lonely nights, it’s me and my phone. Me and my phone staying up until 2am because I “can’t sleep” and so I’ll just keep scrolling through Twitter and Facebook. It’s been me and my phone sitting on the couch together, browsing through a saturation of information, and oh yeah, my boyfriend beside me, too. It dawned upon me the other day while we were watching a movie together, both consumed in our phones, that I had this amazing guy sitting next to me and yet, I wasn’t even spending time with him. We both put our phones down and I leaned over, putting my head against his chest, and squeezed him. Connecting with a real human being felt so much better. Wrapping my arms around him and just feeling that moment. That real moment. It felt so real, and made me ask why I’ve missed so many special moments like this because I was too busy looking at my phone.

I’ve been an anxious person at times. I hate that about myself. After everything that fell apart in San Francisco, which basically was me jumping overboard off the only ship in site, I reclused into the stormy waters. I isolated myself because I was so tired of performing. It was incredibly freeing, to finally not have to perform, talk to the right people, suck up, show off, network. It’s not that networking is wrong, it’s really not. But: it’s not me! I was so tired of living someone else’s life and pretending I was okay with that. And so, for the first time in my life, I decided to stop putting my dreams aside and start chasing them. And I did, and I still am.

The thing is, when I was spending so much time alone trying to find myself, I also started picking up my phone more and more. It started out of an innocent place. At first, I was picking up my phone because I had fled to the other side of the country and the only way for me to stay in contact with my loved ones was to be on the phone, calling or texting or facetiming or whatever-ing them. But afterwards we would hang up and I’d stay on my phone, lonely and often tired. My phone became a crutch, or a bandaid, a temporary fix for the lonely, anxious feelings I was feeling. The really shitty thing about this all was that my phone only started making me more anxious. I thought that by staying present on Twitter and Facebook and whatever other new app I could download, I was connecting with others, but all that was really happening was me disconnecting from others, and disconnecting from myself.

I also started to discover this version of myself that I really did not like. My friend once told me that the reason she doesn’t like social media is because it’s filled with people bragging to the entire world about their latest accomplishment, instead of calling their mom and telling their mom about their latest accomplishment (or maybe their spouse, friend, whomever). That really stuck with me because I was doing the same thing. I love my mom, but I don’t always call her when I have a new photo acheivement, partially because I don’t think my parents really understand what it is I do for a living yet. But, it bothered me that I started tweeting something exciting instead of calling my boyfriend and telling him about it. I started to realize that I was more concerned about receiving praise from a bunch of strangers I didn’t know than from him. It bugged me that I was finding so much of my validation, purpose and worth through anonymous people on the Internet and not through my closest relationships, or myself. It became that question of, when is enough, enough? How much money or praise or validation or clothes or degrees or makeup or cars or food or whatever it is that you are using as a bandaid, a temporary filler, how much of that thing will it be until you finally feel satisfied? For me, the answer was: it was never going to be enough.

And so I stopped.

I stopped going on Facebook. I stopped going on Twitter. I stopped spending hours on my phone every night when I was lonely and “couldn’t sleep” and I stopped spending hours on my phone in the morning trying to wake up. And you know what I discovered? I can sleep! But not when there is a glaring light shining in my eyes at midnight and I’m reading all sorts of rabbithole bullshit. Obviously! I also started to realize that when I woke up, I felt fine, awake, ready for the day, but within 5 minutes of reaching for my phone and checking social media I started to feel anxious.

It’s only been a week off Twitter and maybe three off Facebook. I didn’t deactivate them like I normally do because this one time I needed to find a photo for a greeting card that I knew was on Facebook. I didn’t deactivate them because I don’t feel like deactivating them is the solution. Not using them obsessively is the solution. For me, right now, that means not using them at all, but they can exist, sure, fine. They can exist just as long as they don’t interfere with my own existence.

It’s been really nice. When something funny has happened, I’ve called my boyfriend, and what would have only been 140 characters has turned into us laughing for hours, learning more about each other and growing closer to one another. I’ve been less anxious. I’ve stopped comparing my life to others. I've stopped feeling judged. I’ve stopped finding my purpose and worth through the comments of strangers and started finding it in myself and in my faith. I’ve listened to the encouraging words of my friends instead. I’ve started writing more. And what’s also been cool is I’ve been focusing more on photography, too. I still use Instagram. Instagram is the same for me as when I used Flickr (in the olden days, ha). It’s a place I find great amounts of inspiration. But I don’t rely on Instagram. I let it serve as inspiration and then I move on and I actually go take the photo.

There is fear involved with disconnecting online. For me, as a photographer, the biggest thing is that now less people see my work. If I don’t tweet about my latest photo shoot, no one will know to go to my blog. This has taken me years to get over. I take photos because I love taking photos, but I also take photos to eat and pay my bills. If I don’t market myself, how will I get jobs? It’s a real fear of mine, but something else happened. I started taking photos for others and in doing so, lost all the passion. Truthfully, the reason I got into photography? Because I absolutely love it. I love to create. I love emotions and I can express my emotions through my photographs. I love art, I love style, I love design, I love mashing all of these things into a photograph to create a new piece of art. In a lot of ways, it’s a very selfish ambition, but it’s what keeps me going. Through it all, I hope it helps others. I hope I always remain authentic in my photos and writing and with that authenticity, I hope it helps others do the same. I hope my photos and writing can raise awareness, tell stories, bring truth, inspire, all of that. But all I can do is hope, and then I just have to keep doing my own thing, which is to create. At this point, so what if no one sees my words or photos. I’m not being creative for others, I’m being creative because it’s what I love to do. I believe in magic and faith and love and all of that and I believe the ones who need to see my work will see my work, and the ones who don’t, don’t need to be marketed towards. Maybe it’s naive of me. Maybe it’s a bad business move. But I’d rather create with passion and have no one in the world see my work because creating makes me feel like I’m really living than create with no passion, have lots of people see my work but feel kinda dead inside. For me, love and passion will always be greater than the money. I’m willing to risk less people seeing my work. Why? It’s also because now that I’m not focused on tweeting my work, I’m more focused on my actual work. It’s allowing me to practice and experiment with my craft more. It’s allowing me to focus on the quality of my work rather than the quanitity. This doesn’t mean I’m taking less photos, it just means I’m taking more intentional photos. 

I think the best thing since removing my life and my thoughts from social media is that I feel more free. Free to be me, free to love the ones I want to love, even more free to love the ones I don’t always want to love but should love, free to create, free to explore. I’ve learning more, growing more, seeing things more clearly. I’m worrying less. I’m walking more. I’m listening better. I’m being more intentional.

And so far now, you can find me in real life, or through email, or through my website, or yes, through Instagram. But as far as all the other channels, you probably won’t find much of me right now. The only time we have is right now. And right now I choose to be free. 

You're doing a really great job.

I’m going to be honest with you because I feel like the Internet can be a very dishonest place, or at least a very distorted place. Not intentionally, no, but many things are glamorized, which makes it hard not to think that everyone has a perfectly successful life aside from you. I’m going to be honest because I’ve been told so many times before to not talk about this, maybe it’ll look bad to clients and you won’t get hired, or yada yada yada. But honestly, this is me.

I’m a starving photographer that has to work every second of the day to be able to afford to eat. On a good day my blog gets like 30 hits. I try and take pretty pictures but I’m telling you, out of the 400 photos I’ll take on that one photo hike, there’s like 9 of them, tops, that are any good. I literally take thousands of photos that look terrible. I only post the ones that are good. This past year was filled with so many adventures and I feel very blessed for all the opportunities I received. But please don’t think I live a glamorous life. Please don’t think I am better than you, or that my work is better than your own, or that my life is more glamorous than your own, or that I'm a higher up photographer than you. I'm not. I'm just me. I show you the parts I feel okay with showing you. My online life is exactly like my portfolio, I show the good bits, the successful bits, but that doesn’t mean it’s all great. There are good days and bad days, just like I take good photos and bad photos. I say this only so that you don’t compare yourself to me. I say this because I don’t want you to ever look at my online presence and think my life is more exciting than your own.

I say this because I am constantly comparing my life to others on the Internet and it makes me feel like absolute shit. 

I say this because I don’t want you to do the same things I’m doing. I want you to do you. I want you to focus on your work, your voice, your desires, your passions, and not mine.

The Internet is amazing because it gives people a voice. “Finding my voice” is probably my greatest struggle. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life, and I’m sure it’s something I’ll continue to struggle with. I’m an introvert and have blamed my “feeling like I have no voice” on that. It’s hard to have a voice when your voice is literally (physically!), very quiet. I couldn’t yell if I tried. I don’t even know if I know how to yell. And so the Internet makes me feel good because I don’t have to yell, I don’t even have to speak, I just get to type. Verbal communication is not my strong point and so through typing I feel I can properly express myself. I suppose through photography I feel the same.

The thing is, we all want voices. We all want to be heard. We all have opinions and things we want to say and share, and the Internet is filled with just that. But the Internet is also filtered. We leave only tidbits of information for others to see. The pieces of information we give are what people then take and make our life out of. I remember many years ago a guy once emailed me and asked me why I was so depressed. I was puzzled, and it took me a few days to write back. I was not depressed in the slightest. I wrote back asking him why he thought that, and he said to me it was because everything I wrote about was always so sad. I laughed, because in reality I wasn’t sad at all. But I realized the sad moments were the only ones I ever felt like writing about and posting about. On the Internet, I seemed really sad.

Fast forward to just this last year and a friend messaged me on Twitter. He told me that I sounded so happy, free and alive. Again, I was puzzled, because at the time I was going through a more difficult time of my life, and yet here I sounded like my life was amazing. But it was him saying that, saying that I seemed so happy, free and alive that made me realize that I actually was so happy, felt so free, and felt more alive than I ever had in my entire life. 

I don’t know if many read my words. I don’t write for that reason. I write because writing makes me feel alive. Writing helps me process. Writing is my therapy. And I write sappy things like this because I’m a photographer, and I know that an image can speak a thousand words. Despite a pretty picture, I don’t want you to glamorize my life. I want you to focus on your life. I want you to look at all your accomplishments. I want you to look at your own desires. I want you to stop looking at what everyone else is doing and start looking at what you’re doing, because, as much as the Internet inspires, sometimes we look at it and we glamorize it and we forget that our own life and the things we are doing are equally as important.

You’re doing a really great job. Please don’t forget that.