PART TWO: 365? Challenge Accepted – Round 1
Remember when I shared part 1 of my business story and then blinked and a year had passed? Here is the long awaited part 2!
November 6, 2009. I was outside taking pictures in the backyard at my parent’s house and took a few selfies in the garage. I talked myself up and said, “Yeah, I can do this… I think. I hope.”
I edited and uploaded my first photo to Flickr titled 1/365.
The rest, as they say, was history.
The challenge itself was easy. Take a self-portrait every day for 365 days. The rest is up to you.
I had an old semi-professional Minolta digital camera. It took me approximately a month to buy a tripod so I could stop balancing my camera on window sills, and a little bit later came a wireless remote to avoid the ten-second timer dash I was previously doing. I was set to go.
For Christmas 2009, my dad got me my very first DSLR. A little Canon EOS Rebel XSi for $400 off of eBay. Everyone called it my baby because I was never without it. I became the girl who self-proclaimed she had a camera permanently attached to her hand. (And it kinda stuck!)
My first 365 challenge made me really fall in love with the art of photography. Turning the camera on myself every single day was the turning point that made me say, “Wow. Maybe I can actually make a career out of this.”
To follow those photography dreams, and be the first person in my family to go to college, I applied to three different schools: Lake Forest College in Illinois (where I went to writing camp the summer before), Ithaca College in New York, and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, GA. Most of them were very far away from Wisconsin, which I loved, and had good photography programs. I agonized over my decision for a few weeks.
Spoiler alert: I picked SCAD.
My 365 challenge saw me through a great transition in my in my life: applying to college, getting accepted, graduate high school, move to the south, and start my first quarter as a SCAD Bee (and endure my first set of art school finals).
And so much magic happened in the in-between.
I blossomed that year, channeling everything I was learning in therapy into a version of myself that felt authentic, confident, and unapologetic. Getting in front of my camera every day also gave me a lesson in body confidence. It taught me to accept my body as it is, and getting in front of the camera (especially when I least felt like it) turned into a lesson in self-love.
Running around with my tripod and remote and the sun, just me and my camera, became my solace every day. No matter what had happened, how I felt, how my day was going, how work went, that twenty minutes or however long it took to get that perfect shot was always a chance to do better, and if my ideas didn’t go as planned (and that happened more often than you’d think), there was always the promise that tomorrow I got a fresh start.
That summer after I graduated, I did senior pictures for a few of my friends and their friends. Doing my 365 simultaneously I think helped to pull me out of my shell and get creative, try new things and new ideas that were limiting when I only had myself to use as a model. I started doing creative shoots with my friends, styling and makeup and all. It was the first time I started calling myself a photographer and not just “a girl running around with her camera.”
When I left for Savannah, I was not prepared for how homesick I felt for those moments I left behind.
I missed the rush of closing at Adrian’s every weekend. I missed the familiarity of driving on back roads that felt like home. I missed my photo taking spots. I missed my friends and my family and my dog. I missed the routine and everyday life that I had become so used to.
Art school kind of flipped my life upside down. I learned how to balance college and classes and homework and projects and independence and having roommates and making new friends and I had to build a whole new routine from scratch. I walked that fine line between hot mess and having it all together most of the time. I was learning how to inject creativity into my every day life in a different way than my 365 had already taught me. My drawing class pushed me the most. Let’s just say, there’s a reason why my medium of choice involves a camera and not charcoal…
Toward the end of my 365 challenge, I pushed myself to get out of my dorm room and adventure to somewhere new to take my daily self-portrait. I found new parks and pretty squares to sit in, a new coffee shop and smoothie place on my weekly walk to and from CVS, and on the very last day I had only one goal: find a good adventure.
I grabbed my camera and tripod and started walking.
I picked a direction and went with it. My feet took me down to River Street and all through the cobblestone streets of the historic district. I talked to strangers sitting in the square. I bought a Savannah Rose made from palm leaves that the citizens of Savannah gave to the Civil War soldiers as a plea to save their city from destruction. My 365 project had done that for me, taught me how to channel all my energy into drive and motivation instead of self-destruction.
I remember taking a moment, sitting down by the water on River Street, and thinking, “Everything is good and nothing hurts.” I felt an overwhelming sense of peace that day and knew, no matter the outcome of my final picture, that I had created something that had changed my life forever.
I often find myself going through my OG 365 now, a decade later, when I am uninspired and stuck for ideas and don’t feel like taking photos at all.
I ask myself, “What would my seventeen-year-old-self do?”
And then I pick up my camera and chase after that sense of joy.