I was going to do a "Year In Review" post like everyone else at the start of 2015, but it didn't feel right. Last year, my year didn't feel like it started on January 1st. The date that sticks in my mind from the entirety of 2014 is March 10th. That being said, you've been warned that the following blog post will be full of earnest feelings, lots of personal details and some instagram favorites.
A year ago today, I was sitting in a rental property in Panama City, Florida typing up and sending the most difficult email of my life to date.
Three months previous, I had graduated from the University of Missouri and had since been applying to dozens of internships and jobs across the country. For those of you who haven't experienced it yet, job searching — to put it simply — sucks. It's like walking into a bar, approaching the best looking guy/girl in the room and putting your heart in their hands, hoping they give you a chance. There are few feelings worse than rejection, and job hunting is months on end of what feels like sending carefully crafted cover letters into a black hole. During those three months I had only gotten one interview, BUT it was with the organization I wanted to join the most. A couple of weeks after the interview, I got the call: I was offered the internship. Major League Baseball wanted me to be their photo intern in New York City as soon as I could possibly be there. HOLY COW. I was in shock. I accepted. I told my parents and they were thrilled for me. But then, it slowly sunk in that I had no money. No money to move to New York. No where to stay (besides friends' couches until I hopefully found a place to call my own). The monthly stipend they were offering just wasn't enough for me. My parents — who God bless them, had put me through five and a half years of college, some of which was out-of-state tuition — had finally cut the cord. I could take out a "loan" from my grandmother, but once I finished the internship and was on the hunt for another position, did I really want that looming over my head?
I have a lot of feeling about how companies "pay" their interns (most of the time... maybe you have had different experiences than I). If you're lucky enough to find one that isn't only "for credit," you're most likely not going to make enough to support yourself on your own. And for those of us without the finiancial backing of a family member or enough savings to move across the country temporarily, you have to turn down once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because of it. I could rant about this for a while, but instead I'll link to a New York Times article about "Intern Nation."
So on that day, in Panama City, I wrote an email to the senior recruiting manager with my deepest regrets and said "no" to my dream. I wish I could say I handled it like a champ and used it as fuel to move on, but I didn't. I cried every day for the rest of my week-long vacation. I cried all spring while trying to launch a freelance career in a city where I knew no one in the industry (or at all, really). I constantly wondered if I had made a huge, life-altering mistake, if there were some way I could have swung it and I just hadn't tried hard enough. I blamed myself daily. I was depressed the majority of that summer. Some days I struggled to get out of bed. I picked fights and shied away from the people I loved most in my life. I was genuinely unhappy. While my client list grew painfully slowly, I thought of the life I could have been living in New York with all of my friends there. I thought about the job I could have had and loved going to every day. Instead, I was in Kansas City, Missouri, struggling to find a foothold.
But I did find that foothold. I did make friends — in the journalism industry and in my personal life. I got into a daily routine. I dug myself out of my depression.
September 29th my cell phone rang. A 212 area-code flashed across the screen. It was Major League Baseball. The editor I had interviewed with and had offered me the internship was calling to see if I could shoot the American League Wildcard Game... Which turned into photographing the Royals' entire, unpredicatbly long post-season run. I worked a World Series not even having been a full year out of college. Despite the detour, I was finally where I wanted to be. After months of looking back to that day in Florida, I could look forward thanks to a renewed sense of confidence.
"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us."
My first year of freelancing was not an easy one. I had hurdles — both physical and emotional — to jump, but I did it. There was a time that I thought I honestly wouldn't recover from the decision I made a year ago today, but I have. I may not be raking in the cash or changing the world (yet), but I'm proud of what I have accomplished. I've had five-column photos published in the Saturday print edition of the New York Times Sports Section. I've toured candy facories for the Wall Street Journal. I've been flown across the Midwest and experienced new cities with USA Volleyball. I've stood in the Kansas City Royals clubhouse, drenched in champagne as they celebrated winning the American League for MLB. Sure, some weeks still involve pajama pants and Netflix binges (and a little self-doubt), but I finally have the perspective to see the open door(s).
That day last March broke me, but it made me better. It made me hungry. A year later, I am so happy to be where I am with the community I have built in Kansas City. It's been a rough first year, but I am overjoyed to see where the next few years here lead me.
A big, BIG "thank you" to all of the people in my life that helped me through the dark days and stood by me, encouraging me all the way. To quote Kevin Durant, you da real MVPs ♥