Where do I even start?
I guess the best place to start any story is at the beginning, so let me take you back to 2015, when 14 year old me and my mother embarked on an epic journey to Boone, North Carolina. As we drove up that very large, very foggy mountain it was like driving from one world and into another. Those of you who also took that journey will know exactly what I mean when I describe the trip as completely magical.
For three days straight a small group of us lived inside a cloud, learning from speakers, shooting in the rain, and feeling completely alive while being separated from the entire world. It was refreshing, motivational and thrilling, a memory that will never die.
Fast forward a year and I’m flying across the country, heading towards a castle of all inspiring places, to spend three more days with this amazing group of people. Modeling, shooting, talking, learning, growing, laughing, and giving tons of hugs are only a few things that filled the days.
Each year there are so many inspiring speakers at the Promoting Passion Convention, like Nirrimi Hakanson, Jennifer Thoreson, Me Ra Koh (2015), Lindsay Adler, Joel Grimes, Alex Molina (2016) and so many others. With each speaker something completely unique and special to them is brought to this group of people.
Joel Robison, Jessica Drossin, Roderique Arisiaman, Vivienne Gucwa, Jeremie Saunders, Mindy McGinnis, Ryan Muirhead, and Jesh de Rox were all the amazing speakers this year. Some I didn’t have the chance to hear but was still inspired by, some I heard twice, each times they’re words hitting home.
None of this would be possible without Brooke Shaden, each year she gathers these amazing artists in these amazing places and invites people to join her there to learn and create and be the silly, wonderful weirdos that we all are.
The convention came up so fast this year that I really didn’t have any time to form expectations for what I wanted to get out of the weekend. Because of that I was able to get more out of it than I could have imagined. I created when I wanted to and with ideas that I felt inspired to shoot. I went to whichever workshop I wanted to and did things that I was nervous doing. I hugged so many different people and shared with complete stranger stories that are very personal to me.
One of the most impactful moments of the entire workshop was when I jumped into a lake. Not a huge accomplishment, but I have this fear of open water and what might be lurking beneath the surface. You could say I have a bit of a hyperactive imagination. Nothing bad has ever happened to me in an open body of water but I still have the fear.
The thought of getting into this relatively small lake didn’t hit me until I was asked to model by the lovely Sabrina Fattal in the water. It was in that moment that I started to panic and wonder how I could get out of the situation. And it was also in that same moment that I remembered all the lectures, blogs, and videos Brooke has done on facing your fears and how if you’re afraid to do it you probably should do it. What better place to face my fear than at her convention?
So I found myself dressed in this gorgeous vintage pink dress wrapped in a bath robe, heading towards the lake, and I was utterly terrified. Taking the step from the safety of the sand into the freezing water was a giant step for me let alone a very cold one. The high was around 60 degrees in Java Center, New York and when you’re wading into water everything feels a lot colder.
The very first thing I noticed, after the freezing cold, was that my feet sunk completely into the muck on the bottom making it terribly hard to move anywhere. The second thing I noticed were the snails, there were thousands of them. Floating on the surface, lying on the bottom, and even in the mud making the slimy muck pointy in places.
Sitting down was the worst part, there were these dead plants floating around tickling my legs as Sabrina (who was a good sport and jumped in with me) and I waded deeper. But once I was in the water it was quite a surreal feeling, I was shaking all over and I’m sure many people who wandered by have pictures of my disgusted face. But there was a part of me that knew I was enjoying every single second of it.
Quite possibly it was the coldest thing I’d ever done, but it was also one of the most freeing, fulfilling, and thrilling things. Facing our fears might be the scariest thing we ever venture to do if we even dare to face them. When we can push past the initial thoughts that keep us from jumping into open water, talking to strangers, doing a photoshoot in public, etc. we will experience some of the most amazing moments of our lives.
Fear is trying to keep us safe, some fears will keep us safe, but most fears will keep us from enjoying life to the fullest. All of us experience fear of some kind, there’s no denying it, I’m scared of a lot of things including the possibility of a shark being in a fresh water lake (yes the thought did cross my mind). And like that thought most of our fears can be unrealistic and crazy, brewing inside our mind until it petrifies us.
When we look fear in the face and conquer it one small step at a time, we are building up courage in ourselves and are creating unforgettable memories. We are building up courage in ourselves and are creating unforgettable memories when we challenge our fears. With each one that we defeat it will get easier and easier to face them, it may even become fun to watch as they wither in front of us.
Jumping into that lake was really hard, I was scared beyond belief but I can tell you I had a lot of fun and I can tel you that I’m going to be jumping into every body of water that crosses my path from now on. I encourage you to fight against your fears to create a life that you love living. It may be hard and it can be down right terrifying, but you won’t regret it I know I don’t. Thank you so much Sabrina for giving me the opportunity to jump in a body of freezing cold water, you pushed me to my limits and I found that I didn’t break.
Getting into the lake was one of the many moments that I felt completely alive while at this convention, but the moment that stands out more than any other was spending an entire morning with a small group of people listening to Jesh de Rox. From the moment I stepped into that small room and told him I would be taking his workshop to the moment everyone reluctantly got off the floor at the end to go to lunch I felt completely welcomed and connected to every beautiful soul there.
I’ve tried with so many people to describe the emotions and experiences everyone shared that day, but it’s nearly impossible. To say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the group is one thing, but to say we were all crying and nobody was saying anything or showing anything is something completely different. Sharing such a raw and deep connection with a stranger as you stare into their eyes and share your story through hand gestures is such a unique and precious experience it can never be fully understood. Everything about the workshop was ineffable, it truly cannot be described in words.
With all the tears I cried I felt my strong hold on the past loosen and I was able to experience the moment as it was happening in the arms of someone I hardly knew. A new beginning, a new start, a chance to completely remake myself in anyway that I wanted to. Starting that morning I started to scribble on all the possibilities and hope I could think of onto the blank slate of my heart.
I let go of a lot of my fears, fear of rejection, of strangers, of feeling emotions, and accepted the fact that we can start over whenever we want to, we don’t have to grip tight to the past and cling to what used to be. With the future comes a new beginning, a dawn on a life that we can actually enjoy living, without fears and without guilt, a future where we can feel emotions deeply and connect with others who are broken in the same ways.
We may still fear and have days were we wonder if we can go on. But after every night there is a dawn. After every sunset there is a dawn and those of us who are brave enough to look for it we will see the hope it holds and the future that it leads to.
I may have shot the image you see above before I went to Jesh’s workshop, but I was able to edit it while sorting through all the words I heard and all the tears I cried. Pushing those emotions and memories out of me and into the picture I was able to capture the sunrise that I experienced that morning. By showing the water I was able to show how fear can be dark and immense, however we can also see the the dawn reflected across the surface.
There is light ahead, waiting for us to turn to it. Look for the dawn, face the waters, and you will find freedom in the light. There are so many words jumbled up inside my head that I want to get out onto this computer, but there are literally no words to describe the amount of feelings trapped in my body and the thoughts swirling around my head. It is because of that that I named the image Ineffable, what better name to call the image I poured myself into?
I want to give my thanks to all the amazing people at Promoting Passion that impacted my life, you are all amazing and wonderful and such beautiful people who I hope to learn more from in the future. There are so many ways to send your thanks to someone who impacted your life so much, but none of them would be enough to express how thankful I am of Jesh. He impacted me from the moment I met him on. I’m so glad I took his workshop, without it the image above would not mean to me as much as it does now.
In a few days I turn 16 and what better way to start off this year of my life than with a new beginning and a blank slate? There are so many things to do in a year, and I plan on doing 16 very special things before I turn 17, things that will make me feel alive and push me to face my fears. I hope to accomplish more than what I thought I could ever do, more than I could possibly imagine, and I owe it all to Promoting Passion.
Here’s to the dawn!