(Wo)man in the mirror

Self-portrait


Oh, the selfie.

Since everyone and their 9-year-old niece seems to be sharing them, the humble selfie has practically risen to its own art form. Everyone has that friend posting personal photos with familiar captions every other day:

Hangin’ with friends selfie!

Tired mommy selfie!

OMG no makeup selfie!

I have been known to post a few self-portraits myself (and am certainly not poking fun at those who do), though it’s not usually my bag.

But taking pictures in mirrors? A slightly elevated form of the selfie? I can totally get behind that.

The photo above was snapped in October 2010, just weeks after I bought my first big-girl DSLR camera. My Canon Rebel has been my near-constant companion ever since, and anything and everything suddenly became a photo opportunity. (Seriously: anything.)

It was fall. The leaves were just starting to turn golden. I’d met Spencer six months earlier, and he was over at the house building my mom a closet. Like, from scratch. During this home renovation process, an old mirror from my parents’ bedroom was taken outside and out of harm’s way — and that’s how I came to capture myself reflected in the backyard.

To date, it’s one of my favorite self-portraits — or just personal snapshots in general. It’s certainly not a technically perfect photo, but I look happy and calm (and felt that way, too). My makeup and hair aren’t perfect, I’m wearing a T-shirt — but who cares? I’d just upgraded to a new camera and felt the tendrils of a new obsession opening, I’d fallen in love, my favorite season was just starting . . .

I already look back on that fall with nostalgia and pleasure. It felt like so much was beginning.

And it was.


Changing leaves

Spencer cutting

Rudy

Wood


Linking up with Blogtember on a self-portrait today.


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The great English transition

Paper


I didn’t start out as an English major.

Wanting to follow in my dad’s footsteps, I started college planning to go into journalism — be a reporter, work at a newspaper, become as intrepid and adventurous as he is. I spent my first year in community college wading through the prerequisites before transferring to the University of Maryland in the fall of 2004, where I learned I’d have to apply to the College of Journalism.

And then I kind of panicked.

When I imagined my lofty journalistic goals, they had nothing to do with . . . well . . . real journalism. In my daydreams, I imagined myself typing self-righteously on a keyboard in a busy newsroom, covering some explosive local news event. I saw myself at the end: polished, professional, well-respected. I visualized all the sparkly, exciting parts without any sense of reality. I never thought about the hard work. I didn’t think about muddling through the middle, working hard to rise to the top.

Isn’t that how it always goes?

Between my sophomore and junior years of college, I actually interned for our local newspaper’s community section. I answered phone calls and emails, tried my hand at laying out pages and wrote a few features on local folks doing good in Southern Maryland. I’ll never forget seeing my name in print for the first time: the extreme thrill, the pride and awe. I still remember my first article on a local theatre director and his immense collection of costumes. I remember my lead, too.

By the time I started schlepping up to College Park every day that fall, I was a little burnt out on the newsroom. I love to write, of course — I’ve always loved to write — but I had an immediate, sinking suspicion that reporting wasn’t going to be my bag. I bonded more with the copy editors and editors themselves: those who craft their own sentences from time to time, yes, but mostly tinker with others’ words.

I like tinkering.

But reporting? I’m not a reporter. I lack the edge, the finesse, the dedication of a real journalist. Between my summer at the local paper and the following year’s internship at a D.C. daily, I accepted something I might have known all along: I’m better behind the scenes. My favorite week at the Examiner came when I left the Washington office to proofread pages in Virginia. I’m just better at tinkering.

My journey into the wide world of English came when I was finally honest about that. Though I was nervous to tell my dad I wasn’t planning to get into the newspaper biz, my parents were very supportive as I changed my plan. The same sunny afternoon I called with my idea about switching to a Bachelor of Arts, I marched over to the English building and declared a new major. It was the first time I felt really excited — and not anxious — about the future. I never looked back.

That was the first of many “adult” decisions I made in school: these little transitions that put me on a different path than the one I’d first started marching down. It was a scary moment to veer off a course I felt had been laid for a long time, but I’m proud of having made the decision — especially because it was the right one for me.

Of course, ironically, I did still go into journalism . . . though not as a reporter. I was hired as an assistant editor in 2007 and have spent all of my young career here. In 2009, I was tapped to write a local personal column that has evolved into more than I could have ever expected — and despite veering into English rather than journalism, I’m still living the dream I had as a kid: writing. Writing for a living.

So life takes us where we need to be, I’d say.


Linking up with Blogtember today on a time my life took a turn.


Wishing, hoping: some advice I’ve heard

Wish

I’m back from New York — and coming to you with
some Blogtember words of wisdom today!


I’ve never been good at living in The Now.

It feels nebulous, hard to pin down.

When I was in elementary school, I couldn’t wait to be a fifth grader — oldest in the school — for the sense of power and sophistication it would grant me. Then I turned 10, got to fifth grade and . . . well, it was fun, but not all that I expected. And I couldn’t wait for middle school.

Then high school.

Then a driver’s license.

When I was single in those early days, I couldn’t wait for a boyfriend. Then I got a boyfriend — one in a string of wrong boyfriends — and . . . just wanted to be single.

I wished for freedom, for work, for life to begin. I remember visiting my future college with my dad one summer, back when I’d just received my learner’s permit. He let me drive the 45 minutes to campus on the Beltway, ever mindful of passing traffic, and I fell in love with the sense of independence that came from walking around the University of Maryland. Though I still had my senior year of high school to look forward to, it lost its appeal.

I suddenly couldn’t wait to get to college. I wanted to be older, wiser, grown up.

And now I’ve been done for six years.

Growing up, I used to bounce from activity to activity, constantly asking my parents “what we’d be doing next.” Whether it was playing Uno, watching TV, making dinner or scratching out some math problems, I liked having A Plan. I wanted to always know what we’d be tackling, where we’d be going. And I simply “couldn’t wait” to get there.

But I don’t say that phrase much anymore. My mom and dad drove home one salient point as I got older: Don’t wish your life away. I spent so much time waiting, waiting, waiting to hit Point A or Point B, wanting to reach some achievement or other, when I could have been taking a nice, cool sip of Right Now.

Right Now, I’m less than 70 days from my wedding. And just three weeks from my sister’s.

Right Now, I’m enjoying the creative inspiration that comes from a fresh, new office with so. much. natural light.

Right Now, I’m going through my bridal shower gifts and writing thank-yous and thinking about how lucky and grateful I am to know such amazing people. And to be marrying into a wonderful family.

Right Now, I’m remembering the first few sips of the first pumpkin spice latte this fall.

So the Right Now? It’s pretty awesome. And standing on the brink of so much change, I can’t help but feel fortunate.

The time, these fleeting moments . . . they’re precious. With so much to look forward to, I’d never wish that away.