redefining my future

choices. we all have choices to make. for some, that may be cereal or toast? should i really buy those shoes? should i marry this person? however, the choice i have recently been debating has been the one most parents and teachers despise hearing.."should i even go to college?" woah. did a 19 year old just say that. "if i don't go to college, i won't get a degree, and if i don't get a degree i won't get a job, and if..." all these what if's and here i am in an icelandic bar with one old man reading a paper, a glass of carbonated water at my right hand, feeling more in power of my future than i did sitting in a classroom with 500 people.

all these outside forces telling me i won't be successful if i don't continue, but as these people mindlessly tell me their thoughts and opinions of what they define as success, i look at them and wonder if they're truly happy. i know what makes me happy.

which is the reason i am not choosing to continue school at WSU.

this breaks my heart. my decision has been made tossing and turning in my hotel room beds, crying over instagram photos of my friends back in pullman, and the little voice that tells me i might fail if i take this jump. i love everyone at WSU, i couldn't imagine my life without them. but there comes a time in a person's life when they have to make a choice.

and i've spent too many conversations hearing about the stories of people who made the safe choice instead of the one that could have been great. after every one of those conversations, i kept telling myself i would never be that person that was too scared.

by now, i can only imagine your reaction.. ugh another one of those teenage hipsters that takes pictures in front of waterfalls, gets a lot of likes on instagram, and now all of a sudden claims she is some photographer- although i love these preconcieved thoughts, i'll have to push them out the window to further explain my goals.

****stop reading now if you really don't care about what i will be doing in the future*****

as a daughter of a photographer, going to photoshoots is something i have grown up with. i have had the immense pleasure of holding reflectors, making silly faces at the subjects, playing in sprinklers watering acres of peas, and much more. besides the endless memories, i was left with a small imprint of what was going to shape me as a person.

anyone who knows me, knows that i want to learn strangers' stories. their insecurities. the happiest moment of their lives. really anything they'll tell me. and with that emotion, i want to capture it. because of this desire to know people, i will be building my portfolio as my adventure continues in a few different countries. those are to be disclosed as of a later date, but until that day comes i will be living/working in seattle.

with many hours of work and saving every penny vigorously, i'll (hopefully) be leaving the country after the year is over. having a strong portfolio after my travels and an even stronger sense of who i am as a person, i will start the process of getting my BA in photojournalism at a university abroad.

only time will tell how my life will turn out. so these plans are definitely subject to change.  this post was only to help further explain why the hell i am doing what i am doing. to some it may seem a little crazy, scary, stupid, or any other adjective...

but, damn.

it makes me happy.

uncovering the silence

***trigger warning for those affected by sexual assault or rape***

i'm tired of asking what people's dreams are.

so, i'm going to take you on a nightmare.

i want you to imagine the person you trust the most. this could be a person of either the same or different gender, close to your age or not close at all, your teacher or your parent. when you have this person in your mind, picture yourself with them where you usually see them. you could be playing video games with your best friend, asking your teacher for help after school, or maybe you're just sleeping in your bed at home.

let's continue.

you notice that there is something different about the way they are staring at you this time. it almost makes you uncomfortable, but you know it shouldn't because they wouldn't do anything to hurt you.

...right?

they get closer to you and then all of a sudden you're on the floor and they have a grip so tight you can't get away. you think to yourself, "why are they doing this?" you tell them to stop, but they don't. your words mean nothing. you start fighting back, but come to the realization it's not going to change anything.

suddenly, your grip is loosened and you're letting your clothes come off, and not by the touch of your own hands.

you can see the bruises forming on your wrists. oh, and the body you were saving for someone special? it's no longer saved.

there is a strength that comes from inside you and somehow you're running down the street. your ribs feel cracked and you can't catch your breath. they're finally off of you. you cry, not knowing if it's relief because you're gone or sadness because you just lost the right to your own body.

you can't go anywhere. no one would ever believe that they did this to you. you keep to yourself and try not to replay that event over and over and over again.

let's close this nightmare and realize that,

you were sexually assaulted.

as i started my journey at washington state, i found that more survivors came to me with their stories. much similar to the one i just told. i realized that too many people i love were affected by malicious men and women who put their sexual desires before other's feelings.

why would i just stand there and nod along saying "i'm sorry" and then continue on with my life? i decided that this would not be the path i chose. i decided that standing up against sexual violence was something that i needed to do.

putting both my passion for photography and standing against sexual violence together, i created a photo project that gave people the chance to stand up for survivors and raise awareness.

i don't know what any of these people's affiliation with sexual assault is, if any, but i do know they want to help make a difference. and that's all that matters.

#itsonus

having nothing

It's 29 degrees outside. You have a coat and one blanket. And you have to sleep outside. Your stomach is aching because you haven't eaten today, your finger tips are numb from the holes worn in your gloves, and despite how beautiful the winter sunset looks, you are dreading the cold night that follows.

Homeless.

A rusted shopping cart holds everything you call your own and there is no place you claim as home.

That is the life of the 10 people I met today on the street. As I was driving home from the bank, I saw a group of people clustered together masked by their bundled scarves and puffy coats. These are the people I like photographing; the not so perfect men and women who have wrinkles that prove they once wore a smile. In a debate with my conscious of going home to a warm fire or photographing in the cold, I decided that I should grab my camera from and photograph the people.

With Bruno Mars filling the empty air in my car and my camera anxiously awaiting to be focused, I drove back to the bus station and parked. I found my heart pounding and my mind buzzing with thoughts of being kidnapped or robbed as I approached them. When I realized that this label, "homeless" is what makes society believe they have all done something wrong. That every penny you drop into their coffee cup goes to drugs.

My first subjects were Joe and Chris, a son and his mother. Her getting older now, he came to Walla Walla this weekend where they embraced for the first time since 2 years. Although her mouth didn't possess many teeth, her smile was full of joy when looking at her son. They were both open about their lives and how despite all they have been through together, they still love each other.

 

The majority of people at the bus stop were circled around one shopping cart and what they had called their Christmas tree. Decorated with a jar of mayonnaise, a snow flake from a church, and knitted scarves and hats so if anyone was cold that night they could take them.

 

Malcolm was the guy that exuberated happiness and begged for his picture to be taken, with his crocheted purple beanie and denim jacket, he made for a great subject. 

As I was photographing and talking with everyone, there was a woman who was giving out scarves, blankets, and free coffee. Despite having nothing, the homeless made sure I was warm enough. They gave me a scarf and gloves and offered the food they had on them. So what is it that makes these people who have virtually nothing, the most giving people I have met? The self reflection made me understand that they treasure what they have, not what they want. They know the difference between a house and a home. That it's not about where we crawl into the same sheets every night or the repeated outlet we plug our phone into; home is where we decide it is. For some it might be a lawn chair outside a church, the sidewalk on 9th street, your frequented coffee shop in London, or the 4 story house in the country. Where ever it may be, it only proves to be understood that you are the one that's got to die when it's time to die, so make your home where the hell you want it to be.

God Speed.