2017: Year in Review

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This year was full of accomplishing dreams and dreaming new ones. It was full of every single emotion you could think of: ecstasy, astonishment, heartbreak, dejection, and reinventing, and so much growing pain. Moments of risk, failure, self-deprecation followed by bravery and the strength to keep moving. Of running far away just to end up back at home, feeling so blessed, refreshed, thankful, and at peace. But his year was a happy ending. Let's reflect with a collection of photos that can only begin to capture the fullness of life and amazingness of the people in my life.

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The beginning of this year I was 100% committed to pursuing commercial and editorial, fashion and portrait photography. I spent every second of my free time planning photoshoots and created photos I've been dreaming of for years. My life was photoshoots and I would often times do up four a week, which I would plan, shoot, edit, retouch, and publish before another weekend of more shoots. To this day, this collection of work has been my most passionate work. Photography has given me so much joy, fulfillment, and pride that only comes back tenfold the harder I practice. And I've made so many friends along the way. Some of my favorite shoots were Take Out Kidz, my sand dunes series, nudes, and dancers. It was fashion photography I aspired to do but fine art photography that stole my heart. For me, it's less about the clothes, but the shapes, the light, and the emotions. See more at studiosophy.com/work

After the longest, most stressful month full of commitments, school, and side hustles (May pretty much sucked), I finally finished school! I'm so fortunate to have spent a last few months in beautiful San Luis Obispo, soaking in every place and memory from the last five years. College was the best years of my life.

I also finished the longest project I've ever worked on: my thesis. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for my major, I actually worked hard on this project, designed a real building for a real client and children in need, and won an award! (Best. Surprise. Ever.)

After five. long. years. This grandma finally has her degree! What a beautiful whirlwind of a (scorching hot) graduation day full of family, friends, professors, and bittersweet goodbyes. We did it! #calpolyproud

Then I got my first real job offer from one of my social media role models, but turned it down for an unpaid internship in the most expensive city in America. NO. REGRETS. With fervent ambition and blind optimism, I moved to New York City with whatever little money I had saved up, interned for one of my most admired photographers, and courageously chased after my dreams :) Because what is life without risk?

Over the next three months, I grew so much and learned even more as I transitioned from school into the real world, from a full-time student to full-time adult (kinda). New York met me with endless amazing opportunities but also harsh realities. I met new friends along the way who showed me it's okay to be lost and that my dreams are valid. But as days passed, I realized that maybe ambition and happiness don't necessarily go hand in hand. Was life in this concrete jungle what I really wanted? The bad days outweighed the good, and I became hopeless and depressed.

Towards the end of my New York venture, I decided to dream a little more and shift my career goals into something else I could also love. I'm talented in more ways than one. Why am I not using that to my advantage? I decided to protect my love photography for by keeping it away from advertising (and therefore, money), and work in another exciting field that also inspires me.

Around November, my life was at an all-time low. I was crushed by my dreams, heartbroken, betrayed, jobless, and homeless. But my spirit was not broken. I became my own hero, and changed my life. I led myself down a new path - one of hope, positivity, mental health, and newfound inspiration.

I quit social media, took a chance in the tech industry, surrounded myself with good-hearted down-to-earth people, gave love another chance, and quietly started a whole new life in the Bay Area. And I'm loving it. Of course, the cherry on top of all of that is my new job! (Finally!) I've been working two weeks so far and I really really like it. :)

This year was a year of transition. After leaving school I lost the community I had (friends, coworkers, classmates, professors). Friends get separated and you start losing them. Moving to the other side of the country didn't help. And I needed to find a new community, a new home. New York did not turn out to be the community I wanted. I'm glad I finally found one here in the Bay Area, at a start-up company I like and am excited to grow with.

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This year was insane. The highs were high and the lows were so low. But when you're betrayed by your dreams and hurt like you've never been hurt before, you can either wallow in self-pity forever or rise again with newfound strength and power in your resiliency.

Life is honestly what you make it. In the darkest and most hopeless of moments, the universe will acknowledge how hard you've worked and open a door to something unimaginably great. Everything happens for a reason. Those rejections/failures/shitty situations mean something much better is coming your way. There is no light without darkness. Trust and be patient. 

And enjoy where life takes you. You may be lost, but there's always beauty to be found. Some other cool things I did this year: Went to New York Fashion Week, saw perfect summer days in Canada, experienced real autumn again, photographed celebrities and agency models, got to be on Hollywood sets in LA and NY, had a film I made premiere at a real theater, got a magazine full of my photos published after finishing up my beloved job at Cal Poly Corporation, learned to put together floral arrangements and wedding bouquets, spent Chinese New Year in Chinatown, worked as the lead UI/UX designer for an app (that is now finally in the app store, woo!), sketched nudes, had my photos exhibited at OWN, got Phase One Certified, saw a Broadway show, rode a tandem bike at Catalina Island, tried bikram yoga and pole dance, saw Van Gogh's Starry Night, took my grandparents wine-tasting, fished for the first time, went to a spa for the first time, spent my birthday at a disco roller rink, attended a handful of amazing holiday company parties!

Other great things that have happened: The Women's March, a solar eclipse, sexual assault predators exposés, Ed Sheeran's gem of an album, seeing him in concert, (my favorite) photographer Jamie Beck's life and work in Provence, drawing with the Apple Pencil, revisiting some of my favorite places in California, spending time at home with dear family, getting to see Kurt back on his feet, reconnecting all my friends upon my return from New York, spending time with family over the holidays.

Some life lessons: Never take California for granted again. Life without risk is not worth living. Why not fully experience everything life has to offer? The super shitty depressing parts and the ecstatic happiness - without one there isn't the other. And this year was a roller coaster of emotions, the end of the year rewarded me with more love than I could imagine, a dream job, and finally a home. The importance of self-love: having that blind faith in yourself to forgo fear and do the impossible. Learn your own worth. Value it. Don't let unworthy people undervalue you. If you want more out of life, you get more out of life. And finally, happiness is found in challenges and new things.

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Underneath what can be called a "success" of a year for me, I still feel like a failure. I don't remember the things I accomplish and I constantly feel shame for not having my life together. But I'm taking this year in review as a chance to pat myself on the back, recognize and be proud of what I've done, how far I've come, and who I've become. Although I wasn't "happy" much of this year, mainly due to anxiety about being jobless and an uncertain future, I'm optimistic about what's to come.

Thank you everyone who saw the potential in me and never gave up on me even though I did. Thank you to the true friends who don't change after months (or years) apart. To all the people who love me through thick and thin: I owe you the world. I am so grateful.

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2018

Resolutions? Let's keep it simple: Learn how to be happy, truly happy.

Luckily for me, I've already started on this one complicated resolution. I'm currently reading "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin and listening to her podcast series. Her advice is inspiring me to change myself for the better and anticipate a new year full of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.