My Next Chapter- A Personal Truth

It was a beautiful, sunny, November afternoon on Coronado Island outside San Diego, California. My little family of three had traveled down from Seattle that morning for a much needed vacation of rest and relaxation. I love Coronado beach. I had visited this area many years before and fell in love with the cute little shops, swaying palm trees, and sand dollars that lay resting on the beach. So when I planned our family vacation to San Diego this past fall, I had a vision of taking my family there and enjoying a lovely afternoon of leisurely walks, picking up seashells, and frolicking in the waves. But that was not the reality of the day- not at all. Instead of a happy family enjoying time together, we were walking down the beach frustrated with each other. Jackson, tired from the trip down that morning was having a full blown meltdown. Scared the waves would wash him away, he was sobbing hysterically. There was no reasoning with him, he was done… and I was angry. Angry at him for ruining our time together. Mad because this “moment” that I had pictured and needed for our family was turning into a complete disaster. Frustrated at myself because instead of consoling his tears I was feeding them- yelling and barking at him to stop crying, embarrassing myself and my family. I am sure most moms can relate to this moment. The moment that feeds your adult fears of becoming the worst part of yourself. The moment that you know that everything you are doing is completely and utterly ridiculous and you are going to regret it, but you are past the tipping point of reason. I can be honest, right? It is okay as a woman, a mother, a person to tell the truth about our lives? In a world with social media at our fingertips, there’s an expectation to display our “perfect” lives for all to read and see, isn’t it? But that is not my reality. The truth is we were a hot mess on that beach. Jack crying, me angry, and Dan walking behind us praying for peace. My family was in complete disarray and I realized in that moment- something had to change.

We arrived at our little beach house that evening, exhausted from the drama of the day. I looked at my son’s eyes, red and bloodshot from exhaustion and crying and picked him up to tuck him into bed. Wrapping his blankets around him, he was asleep before I even kissed him goodnight. I had wanted to talk to him about the day, apologize and cry a bit, but silence fell on my emotions and I turned off the light and shut his door. I had just enough energy to grab some comfy clothes out of my suitcase before passing out on the bed, the last thing I remember was my husband pulling the cool sheets over me…..

I woke the next morning to a stream of beautiful, golden light peeking through the curtains. I heard laughter right outside the bedroom door and closed my eyes, sneaking a moment to take in the sounds and feel the light on my face. It was a new day, in more ways that one. I opened the bedroom door and was greeted by my happy and loving child- completely unaware of the day before. He threw his arms around my neck for a hug and kissed me on my cheek. Dan rose from the puzzle they had been working on to embrace me. Tears came to my eyes. I felt so vulnerable and embarrassed of the way my family had seen me the day before- but all was forgotten. They had one simple request- “Mommy can we go to Starbucks?”

Five minutes later in a ball cap and sweats, we were a family of three walking down the boardwalk of Mission beach on our way to get breakfast. Jack was laughing and playing, Dan was holding my hand, and slowly I could feel the tension in my shoulders relax and the smile return to my face. The sun was unseasonably warm and felt alive and rejuvenating. The energy that surrounded us was amazing- everyone was outside, on their bikes, running, surfing, so different than our Seattle home. We walked a mile down that beach, enjoying the sights, the sounds, the smells, and tucked into the local Starbucks store. With our coffee and snacks in hand, we settled into a small table in the corner and Dan looked at me and said “It’s time for us to make some decisions.” At first I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at. My sweet, loving husband typically avoids the “big” conversations. But he was ready- he had something to say, and he wanted to talk about our future as a family.

How ironic it was that the place that brought me to Seattle where I met and started my own family served as the backdrop for this big conversation. It had been a heck of a year leading up to this cup of coffee. I had worked hard at my Starbucks corporate job, worked hard to build my photography business, all while being a successful wife and mother to my family, right? As Dan talked more and more at that table, his emotions spilling out in a way completely uncharacteristic of him, I began to realize the price we had paid for the last year. We were unhappy, disconnected, and frustrated with each other. Dan felt like a live-in baby sitter taking Jack every weekend for months while I went on photography jobs. I couldn’t ignore the tears in Jack’s eyes each time I had to leave him behind to go take pictures. Most afternoons I would leave right from my Starbuck’s job to go to a photography session, then the weekends would come only to be gone for weddings and family sessions. When I was home, my face was buried in my laptop, editing pictures or I was dead asleep from exhaustion. The truth was I was spending more time with everyone else’s families than my own. It was evident that something needed to go, that doing it all didn’t mean having it all. Dan looked at me and said “Babe, it is time to leave Starbucks and pursue your dream.”

His words hit me in the face like a ton of bricks. Not because of fear, because of shear relief. Yes, we had talked about me leaving my corporate life behind, but that was a couple years away, right? No- nothing could have prepared us for this past year. It had been such a blessing, but also a curse. I always had people stop me in the halls at Starbucks and say “I don’t know how you do it all.” Well, it comes at a price and I realized that it can’t be my family that pays the toll. As we sat in that beach house for the next week, our plan began to unfold. The more we talked about it, the more I could see it come to life- we were accepting the reality and were smiling, happy, relieved. We spent that week with no cameras hanging around my neck, no work computer to check emails. We laughed, we built legos, we read books, we walked on the beach, and most importantly we reconnected as a family unit. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we needed that horrible, exhausted, angry walk on the beach. It was a turning point for all of us to realize where we were and where we needed to go.

The past 3 months since that monumental week in San Diego have been busy. Not taking pictures, but building the foundation for our family and a new business. For the first time in a long time I put my camera down for 5 weeks to commit to reconnecting with my family through the holidays. There have been numerous conversations sharing fears and excitement, business plans drafted, classes taken, and it has all led me to this moment. On April 24th I am officially retiring from my corporate life of 27 years to focus solely on my photography and my family. I am so excited, but I will be honest and say that I am feeling every emotion from bliss to fear. I am a project manager after all, and thrive in an environment of stability and structure. But is it time to stretch myself, see what I can do- test my limitations. That’s what life is supposed to be about- focusing on your passion, loving your family, and being the best person you can be. I am ready, I am motivated and I can’t wait to see what is on the horizon.

So that is my big news. I am trading in my Starbucks partner status to Starbucks customer. I am giddy and terrified of everything I am going to experience and learn in the year ahead. I know with life’s greatest challenges comes it greatest rewards and I am excited for the opportunity to serve the community, the people, and become the best part of myself. I think as a woman and mother it is important to be transparent and honest about who we are. I am beautifully flawed and make mistakes- that is okay. It’s about what I do coming out of the tough times that will define the good times. I can’t wait to have more time to pursue my passion and my family. This decision is for me and them and I am so proud of myself for making the leap.

As I look through my pictures, I can clearly see my journey this past year.  They represent me and how I view the world.  I am drawn to pictures of things that are most important in my own life- family, community, love, and growth.   I welcome you to browse around my site and see the work I have put into the past year. I have added a new portfolio of personal stories to help share myself and the new chapter ahead. Thanks so much to those that have been a part of my journey and for those yet to come. I look forward to writing the next chapter…. Thanks for reading.


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