When I started this blog, I knew I wouldn't be able to only write about photography. I struggled with this decision because so many people said that the only way to have a successful blog was to only write about two, maybe three topics, but no more. I agree, to a point. As much as I want to have a successful blog/business, I also want to share about my life, my mistakes and my victories, in an attempt to encourage + bless those who come across my blog. I feel burdened to share what I'm learning, to share my heart, not just technical terms and tutorials.

so here I am

today is my birthday, so I thought I'd share are a few things I have learned, plus things I wish someone had told me when I was in the vulnerable early to late teen years. I struggled a lot, but I am stronger because of the trials, and my hope is that this post will bless and encourage you to always keep growing stronger + bolder + learning who YOU are. 

1. People don't notice as much as you think.  I am a very observant person. Very little escapes my notice, which leads me to think that every other living soul is just like me and is noticing every little mistake and bad hair day. I'm sure there are a handful of people just as observant, if not more, than me, but the majority of people are so absorbed in their own life they hardly notice. I have struggled with the fear of man's opinion for far too long. I want to focus less on what others are thinking of me (probably nothing) and focus on them - how can I make their day better + brighter. Less inward focused and more out-ward/people focused.

2. You will be happiest being yourself.  Not much to say here, other than it's true. I'm still learning every day who I am, but I'm pretty sure I'm happiest when I'm not worried about others and am just being myself.

3. Don't neglect taking care of yourself.  What we do in our teens and early twenties has a huge impact on how we age. While there are some diseases, and just age itself, that can't be avoided no matter how well you take care of yourself, so many adverse conditions can be avoided by taking care of yourself. Make exercise a priority. Drink more water, less soda. Get enough sleep. Learn to manage stress. Switch out your toxic makeup and skincare for natural alternatives. Wear sunscreen. Clean up your diet. Over the past two years I have been able to become about 95% natural in my makeup & skincare, just signed up for a gym membership so I can start lifting and strengthening my body + bones, and am working on limiting my gluten, sugar & dairy. It takes work but knowing that I am building a healthy foundation helps me to stay focused

4. Live every day like it's an adventure. Growing up, (specifically ages 19-22), it was really hard for me to not wish I could have a life like the handful of adventurous people I knew. People who somehow had the money (or had a parent paying) to travel wherever they wanted, to live wherever they wanted, to hop on a plane and go on yet another adventure. " Your single years are the best ever! When else are you going to have the time to travel and not have to answer to anyone?". Those words were spoken over and over again. I agree with the truth of the statement, but it was never really a reality until recently. I didn't feel comfortable traveling alone to places where I knew no one, I had jobs that I couldn't just leave at a moments notice, and honestly, I couldn't really justify spending the money at certain times. I am freer now, but having that pressure back then was really, really hard. One thing I wish someone had said to me was that it was okay to not be the single person who had traveled the country or world by the time they're 21. The most important thing you can do is say yes to adventures when you have the opportunity, and in the meantime live every day like the beautiful, wild adventure it is. Every day you have life and breath in your body means you have another chance to love well, be grateful, and take care of yourself and others. By all means, travel and have fun, but don't think travel (or whatever it is that you're striving for) equals happiness or a full life.

5. Learning how to think is super important. We live in a world where every question can be answered in a matter of seconds. This can be very helpful in certain situations, but I have noticed that the more access I have to the internet, the less likely I am to use my brain. Not sure how to decorate a space? Check Pinterest. Feeling bored? Scroll through Instagram or watch Netflix. While these things are okay once in awhile, I am borderline alarmed at how much I rely on them and really want to change that this year. I want to put my phone down more and actually think through a problem. I want to keep my brain in shape by actually using it. I want Google to be the last resort, instead of the first thing I turn to.

6. Accept help and wisdom, but think for yourself. For many years I was afraid of making a bad choice, for instance, in taking a job or finding a church, so I just let other people influence my decision. But here's the thing. When faced with a decision that only I could make, I was so afraid of making a mistake. Here's what I'm realizing, though: very rarely is a mistake life-changing. A few things, like who you marry, for instance, hold life-altering consequences. But probably 95% or more of decisions aren't going to wreck your life. You can quit a job, grow your hair out, change majors, and find another church. One of the biggest things I have been learning is that mistakes are OKAY, and I need to quit putting life-changing significance on every freakin' thing.

7. Jesus must be everything. I realize not everyone who comes across and reads my blog is a Christian, so let me first say that choosing to have a relationship with Jesus is literally the most life-altering, yet best thing you could ever choose to do with your life. The hope He gives even in the middle of confusing life challenges is incredible. If you have questions, please never hesitate to shoot me a message.

For those of you who do have a personal relationship with Jesus, whether it's been going on for a few months or many years, the sooner you realize that He is everything the sooner you will have peace in your life. Right now I'm realizing that I haven't been putting Him first, that I've been distracted, and I'm really feeling it emotionally and spiritually. Deep down I know how important it is, and yet it's so easy to push off consistent, meaningful time with Jesus when life gets busy. But Jesus literally is life - if it wasn't for His sustaining love and mercy I would be, quite literally, dead, because He alone is the giver of life. So why wouldn't I want to soak up and bask in His love for hours on end every day? Because I have sin that rears its ugly head, and that little voice in my head that tells me that "x" is important than that time with Jesus. The more time goes on, though, the more I am realizing how important this truly is. I want this year to be full of Jesus + being intentional when it comes to spending time with Him.

To sum it all up....

I hope that this is the best year of my life yet. Not because of all the trips I have planned, or the money I hope to make, or the success I hope come my way this year, but because of my mindset. I feel like the past 24 years have been building blocks that have built a foundation for the year to come. Somehow I know that the struggles I've had are not in vain, and while I wish I hadn't had to experience some of the difficulties I have, it has shaped me in so many ways. I hope this year I can sift out and permanently throw away some of those not-so-great habits that are clinging on and fully embrace a life of mental, physical and spiritual strength and excellence.