January 2020 seems like a different decade. It’s honestly kind of shocking to look back and realize the events that happened over the past year are all…in the same year.
Beyond what happened in the wider world, my personal experiences felt extraordinary and overwhelming. The only way to survive it was to keep my head down, work hard, and do as much as possible in as little time as possible. Everything was kind of compressed and intensified.
*Heads up: This is kind of a rambling blog post about how my year personally went. If you’re here just for my favorite images of 2020, skip the text and scroll below to see those!*
In early January I returned to my day job in West Virginia as a public radio journalist after maternity leave. I knew I was going to go full-time into my photography business in 2020 (it was part of a five-year plan) but my husband Austin was finishing graduate school to be a nurse practitioner and I was carrying us on my employer-sponsored health insurance. So needed to stick with radio reporting until he got a new job.
Being the major planner that I am, on January 26 I wrote myself this note as a loose outline of how I thought the next few months would go:
May 2 Wedding [photography gig in Virginia] — take a truckload of stuff down when we go
May 8 Put in notice for [leaving] public broadcasting job
May 17 Austin graduation
May 18-22 List house [in West Virginia]. Pack up house this week and load uhaul [for move to Virginia]
May 23 Sheru [brother-in-law’s] graduation
May 25-June 11 Scotland trip [for annual vacation]
Goal for year : 25-30 weddings
Almost none of that happened.
The May 2nd wedding became a two-person elopement and a larger wedding event was rescheduled for 2021.
I didn’t end up quitting my public broadcasting job until August, which meant I was working two full-time jobs with a toddler at home for most of the summer.
Austin did graduate and passed his nurse practitioner boards, but didn’t walk because of COVID.
Needless to say, our trip to Scotland got canceled, like almost everybody’s travel plans. My photography shoots were mainly in the Shenandoah region of Virginia, but we didn’t move back to Virginia, our home state, until mid-summer when I couldn’t take the four-hour drive back and forth any longer. (It took our West Virginia home several months to sell.)
And I didn’t photograph 25-30 weddings…I shot 34 — most of which were elopements.
Meanwhile, due to COVID, we elected not to put our daughter in daycare.
If you have kids, this will come as no surprise, but babies and young toddlers are super curious. They are akin to really cute destructive tornadoes that need to be followed around so they don’t accidentally harm themselves. In other words, when you have a young toddler and that toddler is awake, it is very difficult to do anything other than manage the toddler.
So most days of the week, I get about three hours a day to do everything besides mother tasks — that is, from approximately 9 a.m. to noon before my husband goes to his nursing job from 12:45 p.m.-11:30 p.m. I also get maybe an hour or two during afternoon naptime. Or an hour or two after bedtime if I have enough energy at that point.
Which means in just three hours I need to:
Respond to client emails
Post on social media
Update my website
Keep up with bookkeeping
Do client consultations
Update engagement, elopement and wedding guides
Research locations and ideas for elopements
Housework (the bare minimum)
Yardwork (Austin or my dad does it, or it doesn’t happen)
Self care, such as a bit of yoga or working out
On shoot days Austin was either home, or my parents, living 50 minutes away, came and babysat for us.
This is all to say it was just a very intense year and I’m honestly pretty proud of how we handled it. Was it easy? No. Did things not happen? Yes. Our house was rarely clean. There were always mountains of laundry to be folded. The grass only got cut when we were at risk of losing a dog in the wildness. I never lost the baby weight. And intentional family time was exceptionally hard to come by since Austin and I were sharing childcare by passing the baby back and forth, with occasional help from grandparents.
Except for, of course, when we were all home under quarantine because we got COVID from Austin’s work. Yay.
Yet this year…
I created some of my best work ever. I worked with extraordinary people who trusted me to guide them on their day and take beautiful images of their experience. (You can find my favorite images from this year in the blog below.) And I hiked almost every day during the summer and fall — either with clients or in the afternoons with my daughter.
Both my husband and I met personal and professional goals. We were able to watch our daughter grow from helpless infant to active toddler and develop a close relationship with her. And probably the true winners of the year…our dogs were almost never, ever alone ;).
I truly do believe in silver linings. Even if this year was hard for you or didn’t go how you hoped it would, I hope you were able to reframe it and find beauty in the gifts of the year. Thanks for journeying along with me <3.
The Ultimate Small Wedding Planning Guide and Checklist