ON FINDING PASSION, CREATING MAGIC, AND LETTING THE UNIVERSE TAKE YOU ON A RIDE

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When I was in high school, I was never more certain about anything than the fact that I would be a photographer. I was bone-sure that photography was my career. There’s something so magical, so enthralling about when you finally get that perfect shot (and a tip: most of the perfect shots are happy accidents)! In my junior and senior years of high school and a gap year I took after, I mentored with Studio 563, a local studio that specialized in weddings as a part of a program with my school, I shot a story for Racing Minds Magazine ("Hummingbird"), I had been accepted to a school in Austin as a photocommunications major, hung photographs at Bennu Coffee, showed in a group exhibition at Gallery Black Lagoon, won a Silver Key on the national level for the Scholastic competition and accepted the award in Carnegie Hall, photographed the final show at Austin Fashion Week and a smaller show the week before, and had begun my own very small photography business where I partnered with local businesses and did one session of senior portraits.

So how did I get from all of that to studying English Literature, creative writing, and psychology in Austin? It’s been a crazy three years since I was fully immersed in the world of photography. But it’s taught me a hell of a lot about myself, about following your instincts, and making the life you want to live.

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I first started selling my photography because of the thought that if I love it, if I wanted to open a studio, why not start gaining some experience and helping out local businesses at the same time? It was awkward and amazing, but somewhere along the way I lost my passion for photography -- or at least I thought I did. I ran into a model release issue with the one girl I did senior portraits for, I couldn’t find the inspiration for some product shoots in a timely manner and handled things less than ideally, and was completely overwhelmed by the sheer level of professionalism displayed by other photographers at Austin Fashion Week, when I was just a teenager with a Nikon D40X and a dream.

I’m not sure exactly when I stopped taking photographs, but it seemed like I went from literally carrying my DSLR around my neck 24/7 to it sitting on my bookshelf and gathering dust. I took a year off after I graduated from high school, gave up my spot at the school I had been accepted to, got accepted to Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland as a photography major, deferred my position at PNCA so I could take general education courses at Austin Community College, and got my first “real” job as a front desk coordinator at a local salon. I had cut ties with a lot of people I went to school with, kept in touch with a few, but felt stranded and like I was drifting without the ironclad certainty about my future that I had carried with me for years. In my gap year I ran a blog, Indigo Sunshyne, that was about fashion, photography, travel, and other lifestyle topics that came to mind. It was just starting to get traction after months of hard work when I decided to stop blogging, let the domain expire and move on. As a full-time student I didn’t see the time available to dedicate to something like blogging, not with tests and papers and other things all happening at a seemingly five hundred miles per hour.

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My experiences at ACC were mostly wonderful and it was there that I took Introduction to Psychology -- one class, three credit hours, that completely changed the course of my life. The teacher I had was phenomenal, and that’s putting it lightly. His passion for the material was infectious, my classmates were engaged and the discussions were intriguing and alive. I felt like I barely had to study and I would make A’s on all the tests, psychology clicking with something deep inside me in an effortless way I had no way of understanding. In my second semester I decided to pursue a degree in psychology instead of photography, informed PNCA of my decision and signed up for Theories of Personality. I was interested in pursuing an Associate Degree but decided to explore Bachelor Degree options instead, and ended up transferring to the first school I had been accepted to out of high school as a psychology minor -- everything seeming to come full circle, two years of life to end up at the college I would’ve attended in the first place.

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Enter Fall 2011, one year ago. I moved out of my parent’s house for the first time at age 19, had my first semester at a four year college, lived with a roommate for the first time -- something that was very strange, being an only child. I attended Dallascon, a convention head in Dallas for the TV show Supernatural which was an amazing, amazing experience. I made friends I still have to this day, I spent hours exploring my campus and finding the best places to study or read with a cup of hot tea or coffee, I learned how the rhythm of the campus changed from day to night. There was Dungeons and Dragons, late night iHop and Gourdough’s adventures, picnics on the floor of the dorm room with meals from P. Terry’s, making pancakes and grilled cheese in the community kitchen. It was a whirlwind, I was in Adolescent Psychology as well as other general education courses, and it felt right.

In the spring I had a severe falling out with my roommate that was due to an extremely complicated issue, and ended up moving into a different room for the last month of school. I took a poetry workshop which quite literally changed my life, ended up in a senior level career class -- Counseling and Guidance -- and as a sophomore managed to pass by the skin of my teeth. I was in a literature class that was really lovely most days, but others, as with all classes I think, I never wanted to attend a lecture again. But it was through the combination of everything, every stray detail and decision, the courses I was in, that led me to make the terrifying leap from majoring in psychology to majoring in English Literature with an emphasis in creative writing. My love for psychology never diminished, and I’m minoring in it, but I’m more interested in how psychological theories function in the story-telling and character development of literature, poetry, television, and film than in learning how to practice as a psychologist or psychotherapist.

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This semester marks my first as an English Lit major, and I couldn’t be happier. In the broad spectrum, that is. This feels right, just as all the other major and life changes felt right, but I can finally say that I’m getting closer to discovering what my true callings in life are. I’m in American Literature 1 and I absolutely loathe it, but I’m doing everything I can to learn the material to the best of my ability. I’m taking Film Theory and Analysis as an elective and that class is proving to me that a job in the film industry, one way or another, is a very soul-deep calling. I’m writing poetry in moments between classes, on mornings I wake up early or nights that I can’t fall asleep. I’m making a point to read at least one not-for-school book a month, and so far I’ve gotten through The Age of the Image by Stephen Apkon, The Genius in All of Us by David Shenk, and Deathless by Cathrynne M. Valente. I’m making a point to blog, because this outlet is something that I feel essential to who I am -- a place where I can curate everything I love and am passionate about, where I can share that passion with the world and cultivate a place that inspires me and hopefully inspires you. I’m getting back into photography, which is like falling in love all over again and I’m looking at upgrading my DSLR. In January I’ll be studying abroad in France for four months, which is an amazing opportunity and a challenge that I'm up for. But the most important thing for me is that at 21, I finally feel like I’m becoming who I’m supposed to be, but I wouldn’t be here with you right now if I hadn’t trusted my instincts and follow the crazy journey life has been for the past three years.

[lightgrey_box] All photographs are self-portraits except for the first one which was taken by my friend Jasmine[/lightgrey_box]

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