Working for Yourself: 2 Years

Two years. I can’t believe it’s been two years. The texture of the state agency cubicle walls has almost faded from my memory. Dry eyelids stinging as I blink myself awake at some unpleasant hour in the morning: a rare occurrence now. Life now is consumed with the “new mundane”: charging batteries, checking emails, and always making sure that backups are backing up.

Last year, I wrote a small count of things accomplished since hanging up my agency lanyard. Since then, I’ve been actively changing focus in how I want my life to be. It’s interesting: when I worked and had no vacation hours, I thought traveling was a fantasy. It was something so far beyond what I could afford — in both time and money — that I discouraged myself from being interested in travel. But now! After making very good headway into getting over my (somewhat crippling) anxiety, travel is my friend. In the gap between last July and the end of the last month, I’ve visited Cabo, Japan, Marfa, San Francisco, Tulsa, and Los Angeles. And next month I’ll be on my way to Montana, a state I’ve never visited before, to photograph a wedding!

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I am far from becoming an “international wedding photographer.” But… I am becoming a bit more of a traveler, and that’s always a good thing.

. . .

It’s weird; I feel like, for the most part, I’ve always worked the way others expect me to work. Homework, college essays, deadlines, 8-hour days. It’s been difficult to wrap my head around the idea that I don’t need to ask permission to act the way that I want to. I remember hearing another businesswoman say at a small conference that it was this light-bulb moment, that she didn’t have to ask to do something, be something. The beauty of being your own boss is that you can make a choice and then follow it. It’s freeing but also terrifying, as this direction can bring you goodness or it can be the start of an unraveling.

Though I have taken a long time to understand that I don’t have to ask permission from anyone, two years later, I’m finally starting to embrace the freedom. I’m learning how to dance for the first time, and I’m traveling more than before. And during the slow season this summer (as Texas wedding season slows down during the hot months) I’ve decided I’m going to write a book — kind of like NaNoWriMo, but in August instead of November. I am excited to discover — or in the case of the writing, re-discover — hobbies.

Onward and upward; here’s to year three!

Wallflower.

The music was loud. I could feel it reverberating in my spine and down the back of my calves as I stood watching the crowd of people dance. After two days of 14-hour lectures with few breaks, the 100 or so photographers were letting loose and dancing. The throng pulsated; there were shouts and shots and glasses held in the air. Somehow, the group hired a DJ and he sat crammed in the corner of the bar, spinning the latest hits as the crowd roared with approval.

They were beautiful, this crowd. And I stood watching, as I always do, guarding the purses that had been tossed onto chairs and under soggy coats.

The mass of people parted as one man — one speaker — tall, so he could see over the tops of other bobbing heads that I wasn’t dancing, made his way out. Eye contact with me. Smiling. Arm outstretched. He was inviting me into the group, to experience what they were experiencing.

And I clutched a chair and shook my head side-to-side, quickly, no, but he pulled me in, and someone else grabbed me and carried me – carried me – twirling and laughing. And still others grabbed my hands and moved me around like a rag doll. I felt stiff and self-conscious, and I yelled over the music, “I didn’t even dance at my own wedding!”

I’m a wallflower. Always have been; always thought I would be. My sister is the dancer in the family — she’s taken a million classes, was employed by a professional basketball team, and now dangles off aerial silks for fun. Me, I took one beginner jazz class to get a class credit in middle school; the instructor, knowing who my sister was, smiled when she saw my feet, but quickly learned that I was just one flapping, uncoordinated mess. I could see what she was doing but having my body mimic the movement just… did not work.

So I never danced.

barringer houston aerialists

I love to watch dancers. Sometimes I feel a sad sense of loss, like — had I shown any interest when I was a kid, had I been pressured, had I applied myself, could I be more graceful? Coordinated? Limber? Could I dance at parties instead of hovering by the door? Would I have more spacial awareness of my body? (I still run into counter corners and doorknobs.)

I devour dance movies in gulps… good, bad, documentary, fiction. Sometimes I feel like Lady Catherine de Bourgh: “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.” Well, maybe not that proficient, but I would have been better along than I am now.

It finally occurred to me that I can’t just lament my lack of dance knowledge anymore — not if I want it to change. I’m going to be 30 this year and I want to be able to at least feel comfortable on a dance floor.

Last month, I signed up for beginner ballet lessons. Tuesday, I went to my first class. It wasn’t what I was expecting, in that I was expecting a bonafide ballet studio complete with mirrors, piano accompanist, and a wooden barre. It was smaller, our instructor was young and smiling, and we did our exercises to old ’90s R&B. And because it was the basics, we held positions and learned vocabulary and learned how to stand. But every journey, no matter how random, starts with a small step.

And so this is mine.

I’m going to learn how to dance! Probably not well. Probably without rhythm. Probably against my body’s protests. But I’m going to learn!

Wish me luck :)

barringer aerialists barringer aerialists

Images are from an aerialist shoot I did at Houston’s Barringer bar. Aerialists are Chieko (my sister) and Ori.

Sophia & Shaun | Malverde Wedding

austin wedding photographer

Simplicity really can be an art form, as evidenced by Sophia and Shaun’s classy and modern wedding in May. A gorgeous white dress without any tulle or fluff that draped her body, a bouquet of happy sunflowers and roses, and wearing a sleek side bun and Badgley Mischka heels, Sophia was a Grecian goddess-like vision at the Westminster Presbyterian Church. Shaun clasped his hands nervously as she walked towards him for their first look, and the anxiety in the air dissipated as they held one another. “Show me your suspenders,” she said, and Shaun made motions as if he was going to strip right there in the church!

Their reception, held downtown at the Malverde cocktail bar, was packed full of well-wishers and dancers, Mexican food and round cakes. Food, festivities, and fun were the themes of the night, and it was a truly special and wonderful time. Here are just a few of my favorite images from Sophia and Shaun’s wedding day.

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More vendors: Saja Wedding dress; Jack Victor suit; DJ Johnny Bravvo; Upper Crust Bakery; makeup by W3ll People; Mantis Salon