When you’re young, you see the world as some mysterious thing to conquer. There’s no road map. For some, that’s a scary idea. For me, it was exciting. I was the crazy kid as a senior in high school who took off to Orlando, FL to see Godsmack, in a car that shouldn’t have crossed the state line and an oversized atlas from Wal-Mart as my guide. Let’s just say I got off on a wrong exit and ended up at a very scary convenience store and had to get out and ask for directions. I also had zero idea how toll roads worked, so imagine me, with a line of cars behind me on the turnpike on a Friday night, trying to figure that out. I guess I did at least have my Nokia phone with me. Maybe it had minutes on it. Who knows. How in the world I survived childhood out in the woods with snakes and who knows what else, and my crazy adventures, I’ll never know.
From a very young age, I lived in my head. I suppose that was to create a world where I wasn’t moving a lot, or always the new girl. It felt safe there. In my little made up world that I went to sleep to, no one argued, no one was mad at me, I hadn’t let anyone down, I hadn’t messed up anything. I remember always having such a vivid imagination. It served me well.
I typically fell asleep listening to music through headphones. That music ended up being the soundtrack to my imaginary movies playing out in my head until the day was over and the sun was back, shining through my window the next morning. In that world, I had confidence. In that world, my life wasn’t boring. It’s kind of funny for me to look back and remember some of those made up scenarios from different stages in my life. It may all sound strange to anyone who has never been that kind of person, but for me, I am grateful my imagination carried me through the tough times in life. I could have very easily chosen a darker path. I thank God every day that I didn’t.
If you’ve been following along here, you’ve already read about my love for the ocean. One day, I vividly remember getting off work (don’t get me started on all the not so great jobs I had, starting at 14), and on my way home, I prayed that if I was supposed to go to the beach, please let my income tax return check be in the mail. It was. All $300 of it.
I cashed it and grabbed my camera and some film and headed off to what would later be thought of by me as my escape…Amelia Island, FL. I can’t count how many times I made that drive overnight just so I could sit in the lifeguard stand at Main Beach and watch the sunrise with my Dunkin’ Donuts hot chocolate (I still can’t believe I didn’t drink coffee until my town got a Starbucks in 2004). There were many trips for the sunrise, and there were many rolls of film that saw it with me.
Me, being the little dreamer that I was, you know, ruined by all the romcoms and songs about love, just knew that one day, I’d find mine. I wasted WAY too much of my time dreaming about that. Pretty sure I could have blazed some kind of trail if I could have used my time in a more intelligent manner. Oh, to be young and stupid.
Anyway, through a lot of twists and turns, I made my way through graduating from high school, trying to make my way through our local technical college (which I actually loved and was two classes away from graduating when I quit), I finally made it to ABAC for music. It felt surreal to be a student there, even though at the time, it was a two year community college. I didn’t care. I had people in my life who believed in me and helped me fill out all the paperwork, helped me with math, and made me believe I belonged there–and for music.
While there, I had an advisor tell me I should submit some of my photography to their literary magazine. I clearly remember laughing because my photography skills were not skills at all. I was always mad that I couldn’t capture what I could see.
I took his advice, bringing in a few printed 4×6 images, with the title and info written in pen on the back. I remember him being so supportive. To my surprise, they actually published them. Even more of a surprise, I won second place. That was my first time being published in anything other than high school things, and it was my very first award for photography. The Pegasus, Spring 2003.
That girl who used to have to play imaginary scenes out to fall asleep at night had finally grown into someone who liked herself…in real life. That girl who still didn’t have cable and instead had Bed of Roses or Knotting Hill in her VCR. I had been living in my little tiny house (before they were a thing), and I had somehow learned how to start making much smarter decisions in life. I was finally living one of those stupid romcoms I watched all the time.
There was a small reception for the award winners that spring, and I remember it feeling like such a huge deal to me. I remember everyone who was there and how nervous I was to be introduced to new people. It was one of those amazing days where somehow, everything just fit and felt perfect.
As life would have it, I ran out of money to be able to continue at ABAC. I got two whole semesters there and then it was back to finding another job somewhere. I wouldn’t trade those two semesters for anything, though. I met several of my lifelong friends in that music building.
Fast forward through A LOT of heartache and life lessons, because of diving back into the writing world, I was told about Submittable. I was on there, looking at different magazines to submit my photography to, but also kind of looking around for possibly submitting some writing one day as well. To my surprise, there was a post from ABAC. The Pegasus was celebrating its 50th issue, and it dawned on me that this makes twenty years since I was first published and somehow won that second place award. Listen, it’s so evident that I used my popup flash. It’s embarrassing, but we all start somewhere, right?
I knew I had to at least try to be a part of this issue all of these years later. I submitted five images (the max number you could submit). Most were from Amelia Island, but two were from Savannah, GA.
It wasn’t long before I received an email back saying they had accepted my work. I thought they had chosen one out of the five and I was thrilled even with that. What a full circle thing to me.
Well, my sweet cousin, Emily, went by ABAC, picked up a couple of copies and mailed them to me. I got them today and found out they published all five of my photos. It was so neat to hold it and the words they placed with some of them were so perfect. I was honored to share the pages with the writers. It was so strange to see my bio in the back and think about how much life has happened in the last twenty years. How much happiness, adventure, sadness–growth.
I’m thankful for my adventurous spirit and that I’m typically not scared to just go for things–or I do them scared anyway. Who cares if they don’t work out? Most of the time, they don’t, but I wouldn’t have half the crazy stories to tell if I’d let good old logic talk me out of things.
Thank you so much to the entire staff who worked on these magazines. You made my year(s).
The next time you have people trying to talk you out of something with their logic, but you see a bigger picture, just grab your film and go for it. You never know where you’ll end up, but you will surely have some stories to tell. Maybe you’ll be the one who encourages the next person on their journey. After all, we all need an atlas or else we may always end up somewhere we’d rather not be.
Go be someone’s atlas.