Happy New Year, everybody!
I hope you rang in 2016 exactly the way you wanted: making memories, making history, or making drool on your pillow.
Here is my 2016 challenge for you: make this the “Year of You.”
I challenge you to stop blocking yourself with excuses and bad habits. It just happens to be the start of a new year, but you don't ever need a reason to start making positive changes. The time is always right now to pause and remember what makes you the awesome person that you are...
I am aware that many women have a hard time looking in the mirror to describe who we are aside from our daily duties. When I ask, “Who are you?” I don't need to be told you are a mother of three, working as a real estate agent, collecting canned goods on the weekends for charity. Anyone can make those observations. Dig deeper. Remember the moments that shaped you... the times where your beliefs were formed or your desires were reshaped. Think of the times you laughed the hardest or cried the most, for that is the story of what makes you unique.
We need these reminders. Photographs are reminders.
We need to remember that no matter how life unfolds for us, we each have a purpose, we each are important, and we are each uniquely beautiful. How much more grand would your life be if you were reminded of these things every day? Even if you're reading this and have someone in your life who does this for you daily, all the more reason why such statements should be commemorated.
Yes, commemoration. A picture. A photograph. A solid, visible piece or collection that perks you up and displays your most valiant form, and all because you do more and are worth more than you give yourself credit for each day. You don't need an excuse to gift yourself with this kind of appreciation. My mission as a portrait photographer is to help you understand that a stunning photograph of yourself hanging on your wall is not vain or frivolous but is a necessary boost for your self-esteem, so you can keep being heroic with a smile!
Last year ended with a general lack of motivation for me (it happens occassionally with creative folk), but this year started with renewed spirit. BF and I were celebrating in Michigan with his family, so, being away from my computer and my work, I took some time to muse on why I enjoy photographing women.
I thought about how much I do like this time of year... when even though January 1 is just the next calendar day after Decemeber 31, there is no denying the tingle of energy and reflection in the air. Whether we make new year resolutions or not, events and emotions around us make us think of who we are and how we'd like to evolve. We think about our fears, our accomplishments, our goals... and we adjust ourselves accordingly, often without realizing we're making small changes.
I thought about the major points in my life — the people I've met and places I've been along the way — and how they all connected to bring me to my present moment:
My parents taught me art and culture, giving me a desire to create and see beauty.
This upbringing led me to attend an artists’ college where I helped another girl learn some artsy things.
The same girl later got hired at Harpo Studios and returned my helpful gesture by suggesting me to the Creative Director as an addition to Harpo's design team.
Working there, I met my darling BF and spent eight years learning much about life and myself.
Eventually, I earned the exclusive position of personal retoucher to Oprah, who daily encouraged me to “Live Your Best Life!”
When Oprah made the decision to close Harpo's doors in 2015, I, like a good child, did as Mommy Oprah said... and began a business of passion where I could work for myself.
Okay... so, "Meka, start a business!” was not her actual instruction, but I knew that living my best life meant having real creativity and excitement about my work, looking forward to connecting with new people, making my own schedule... getting paid my worth. I had already spent several years after college freelancing in various design specialties... but the memory of floating around without a secure base, often working for high-strung people, having to negotiate rates, and being micro-managed every detail along the way did not appeal to me anymore. I'd spent so much of my life catering and adapting to what other people demanded of me, that I'd had enough of denying myself. It was time I made myself happy.
I know what it feels like to be so many things for so many someone-elses. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I neglect myself at work and at home, for my spouse, children, friends and co-workers.” I think it's the plight of women, especially. We're nurturers; we take care of everyone else naturally without thinking. Because that's our responsibility. And it costs us nothing to be kind, right?
In fact, it can cost a great deal if we forget to be kind to ourselves. It's very easy to get caught up in daily life and forget to take care of our own needs and wants. Things as simple as enjoying quiet time in the morning, or calling up a good friend.
A while ago, I felt very low-energy. I realized that it had been months since I'd ridden my bicycle — something I used to do regularly that made me happy. I sat down to make a list of other forgotten activities and was amazed when 12 things easily poured out onto the paper. Twelve happy-makers that I had simply stopped doing because I filled my days with too much work and focus on everything but me. That was a wake-up.
Taking care of self must reign at the top of the list. This was such a hard lesson for me to learn since it sounds incredibly selfish. The kicker is that this is not selfish at all — taking care of yourself is the first step in being able to help others. We have no energy unless we sleep and eat well. We can't inspire others if we ourselves lack inspiration. Parenting or being a good spouse or employee are not reasons for self-deprivation. So why do we deprive ourselves so much?
There are hundreds of reasons we could list here to seemingly answer that question, but all of them are nothing more than mere excuses — little nuggets of daily practices and bad habits that, when we speak about them to other people like us, get a nod of understanding, a pat on the shoulder of sympathy, a returned story of woeful camaraderie. Misery loves company, and it's easy to be miserable because that doesn't require any effort.
The truth is that it takes a lot more effort to stand in front of a mirror and have a good look at ourselves. Who are you besides a loyal employee? Who are you besides your children’s mom? If you cut out all the things that you do for everyone else... what makes you you?
Life happens — this is a truism. We cope, we deal, we don’t deal, we block, we push away, we take on too much, we conform, we fight, we fatigue, we kick, we complain, we laugh only to keep from crying. We do so much external combat that eventually our activities on the outside start to eat up who we are inside.
There are a few lifestyle improvements I've made to help choke my bad habits and refocus on taking care of self. I will share them soon in this blog. For now, suffice it to say that my list-making moment strengthened how I feel about my photography's mission. I mean it! Let's work together to make this a true “Year of You” without stopping or forgetting or losing steam. I hope to encourage all of you to believe in the fantastic being that is you... and, of course, I'm on board to help you commemorate yourselves with a stunning portrait.
If you made it all the way to the end of this article and are inspired to take a step towards appreciating YOU with a photo session — for no other reason than just because! — then give me the code: "YEAR OF YOU" when you call to schedule your session experience. The code awards you:
• No session fee & One print free!
• 10% off your entire purchase
This code does expire January 31, 2016, so hurry to schedule your photo experience now!