For as long as I can remember, all I've ever wanted to do with my life was write stories and take pictures. Plain and simple, yet to my heart's fullest content.
I still have notebooks full of stories and "books" I started to write on the floor of my childhood bedroom (which had real cute lime green walls. I insisted it lent itself to creativity). I had so many ideas swirling in my head and not nearly enough time to write them, in between soccer practice, devouring every book in sight and hanging out with my friends. I made character lists, and wrote details down to what each character liked to wear.
When I got to high school, it was a natural choice to join the newspaper my sophomore year. I loved being part of the staff. I wore my proverbial "reporter for the Winnachronicle" badge with pride.
My senior year, I was elected as the photo editor. I had completed photography classes my junior year and knew how to wield my Canon SLR (notice the lack of "D" for digital there) like a pro. I went to sporting events after school almost every day and learned how to load and reload film with the best of 'em. I was a photographer.
But after a personal conflict with the teacher advisor, I quit after a semester (something I still regret). I went on to a small, mostly business college outside of Providence, R.I. I had been convinced by many that it was the “right thing” to do. Getting a business and communications degree would make me a "well-rounded" job applicant. It would open up a lot of doors. Increase my skills. Give me an edge. And best of all, I would make a lot of money doing it. I majored in communication and believed I was doing the "smart" thing, bypassing a liberal arts school full of students destined to teach English in the 'burbs.
And with that, I left behind my creativity and my love of telling stories through words and photos.
You know how a lot of people have “that moment that changed everything?” My first one came my senior year of college. I took a narrative non-fiction writing class as an elective. It opened my eyes to a world beyond newspaper journalism and corporate technical writing. These were stories alive with imagery, color and personality. They were true stories. They were heart-breaking and uplifting. They were where I belonged.
I realized I had wasted my college experience studying and doing things I didn’t love – in fact, I downright hated it at times. I knew I had made the wrong decision in my choice of colleges. But I knew redemption was only a decision away.
So after I got over my initial disappointment, I knew I had a big choice to make: enter the workforce upon graduation or continue to pursue my reignited passion. I chose the latter and a 1,700-mile car ride landed me in Waco, Texas, as a graduate student as Baylor University.
I felt at home at Baylor. I was with like-minded classmates who had similar passions. I learned a lot and made lifelong friends. I worked as a reporter at the local newspaper and grew tremendously in my writing and reporting abilities.
Working the night shift at the paper was often slow and gave me a lot of time to wander around the Internet. I became obsessed with photography and wedding blogs – not because I desperately wanted to get married (I didn’t) but because of the way the images told the unique love story of each couple.
I looked into taking a photography class at Baylor but you had to have your own DSLR (I didn’t) or rent one. As a broke grad student, it was just not feasible. And once and for all, I decided photography was a thing of the past; something I could admire and drool over but it would never be something I did.
To say I was excited that my post-graduation job included photographic duties was an understatement. I nervously examined the camera, unsure of how to operate all the dials and settings. I knew taking photos was secondary to my main function of writing and editing but I secretly hoped I still had it. I was intimidated and insecure but I pressed on.
I took classes and studied photography voraciously. I was rusty at first but soon got the hang of it. The more I photographed, the better I became. I researched and purchased new lenses. I had a professional critique my portfolio and shooting style.
Every year at evaluation time, my top goal was, consistently, “grow in my photography skills.”
It’s important for you to know the back story so you can understand where I am now. I switched positions at my organization about two months ago. When deciding whether to make the switch, one of the things I worried about leaving behind was photography. I would still be taking some photos but nearly as much. I was terrified I’d have to turn in my camera and return to longing instead of doing.
After a lot of conversations with my wonderful husband, I decided it was a blessing in disguise. I took the new job but it made me realize how important photography was to me and how much I wanted to pursue it outside my job. I know what you’re thinking – you JUST realized this? Yes. I did. Because it took me that long to see that I was good at it. That I loved it. That I wanted it to be a part of my life.
So here I am, with a new blog and small but growing portfolio. I’m more passionate about this than ever before. To my friends and family, thank you for your support and encouragement over the past few years. To those who are still reading – thank you!
I don’t know where this will take me but I know I’m ready to chase this until the door slams on my face. Or more keep opening.
Here’s to following your dreams.
I'm Chelsea - a photographer, writer, adventurer, traveler, wife, Christ follower and mama to the most adorable rescue pup. I'm passionate about telling authentic stories with meaning and purpose and spreading joy through photographs. Grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile.