My business and more or less life motto is "Chase the joy." I even had a necklace made at Christmastime that gets pretty regular wear to remind me. My PopSocket even reminds me to chase the joy. Through the years and different stages of life, I've always been trying to capture and document the things that make me happy.
I've been chasing the joy since one fateful September afternoon in 2006 when my mom handed me her shiny digital point and shoot camera and told me to go keep myself occupied so she could visit with her friends. That tiny camera in my hand made me feel like maybe my world wasn't crumbling around me so much in a world where my sexual assault had happened and the only people who knew at that point were my boyfriend at the time and my two best friends. At least when I was taking pictures, I heard the quiet whisper of joy in my ear urging me to keep going, there is still hope for you here. Chasing the joy for me has always involved a camera in some form or another, whether it's digital or film or just the camera on my phone. 2008 was a dark year for me. A defining moment from that year was when all of my cameras were broken and so I picked up a pen and started writing. I applied to writing camp in Illinois the next summer and always brought the Minolta 35mm camera my Uncle Bill picked up for me at a rummage sale with me everywhere. Dropping off a dozen rolls of Illinois film at Walgreens became a turning point of sorts in my teenage years. Eventually, I started shooting less and less film and saved up to buy my own (kind of) nice digital camera. I started a 365-day self-portrait challenge on November 6, 2009, and I uploaded every image to Flickr. My dad bought me my first Canon camera on eBay for Christmas that year. I could never express how grateful I am to my dad for spending money I'm still not really sure he had to spend to allow me to pursue my dreams.
I am still bury-me-with-that-camera attached to it, even though shooting with it is more or less impossible now. Nothing will ever be able to replace the sense of self I found just by picking up that camera and turning it on myself for the last decade. Everything—my business, this blog, my entire online presence, and community—that I have built in the last ten years, I owe to that camera and my dad's willingness to help his kid chase after the very thing that put the light back into her eyes and made her heart soar with joy again. This chapter in my business and in my life is all for him, as the only way I have left to say to him, "Thanks, dad, for always believing in me." After he passed away in 2016, I made a promise to myself that I would go after my dreams just like he did at my age.
I am inspired to chase the joy more than ever before, just me and my camera around my neck (and maybe some coffee for good measure).