not old enough

for the past 5 months i have been taking coffee orders and showing people to tables in which they will sit and have meaningless or maybe the most in depth conversation they have had in a while. i have witnessed very selfish people talk down to me and my co workers. i have witnessed very sad people come up to order coffee and end up telling me about their mother who just passed away. on the contrary, i have met some very soft spoken, level headed people who tip $10.00 on one order of coffee. last night as i sat a guest at their table, the man asked my name. not in a condescending way. and in my 5 months of working at that restaurant not one guest had asked my name until him.

i have gained both clarity and frustration working these two jobs. and i have understood how many people define your intelligence and life experience by the most insignificant quality, your age.

so for those of you who don’t know. i’m 19. and because of that little number, i have been put down multiple times. and i am not the only one. there are lots of men and women out there that are nervously sitting in the hallway of that job interview waiting to hear if they got it. while the managers are quietly whispering among themselves, “well she’s got all the credentials, she has experience, she graduated with a 4.0. but, she’s just not. old. enough.”

i am so done with society telling me i am not old enough to accomplish the things i want to accomplish.

when i was 10 i wanted to know why my parents got divorced. “maybe when you’re 13” was the response i would get.

when i was 13 all i wanted to do was learn archery. an older boy would come up to me every practice and make fun of me. i would cry in the bathroom stall. the teacher came and occupied the chair opposite, “maybe you’re just not old enough to handle that.”

when i was 15 i had my first boyfriend. i just wanted go to school dances with him and watch movies. maybe give him something for valentines day, because you know, that’s what couples do. he moved away and i cried because i loved him. i would lay in my baby blue covers, and as i did, “you’re not old enough to know what love is.”

when i was 18 i was told i needed to go to college. so i got into one. and then i quit because i didn’t know what i wanted to do. i asked around for advice trying to understand why everyone else knew what they wanted. my response was, “you’re too young to know what you want. you should wait until your older to go to college.”

now i’m 19 and i’m working two jobs, figuring out how to pursue the things i want in life. how to make myself happy. i sat three men the other night at their table, they started asking me what my dreams were, what i wanted to do ‘when i grew up.’ i told them. they scoffed. “you’re not old enough to be doing that.”

so, how do we deal with this? how do we not let these people tell us we aren’t good enough? old enough? pretty enough?

it took me a long time and i’m still trying to figure it out, but part of the solution is to go out and do it. there is nothing better than breaking stereotypes. the norms. to pursue what you want courageously and without fear. i live for the opportunity to tell people what i’ve done in life and watch their facial expressions as i tell them my age.

but this isn’t about me. this is about you. what are you doing to better your future? are you doing something you are proud of? will you look back at yourself and think good thoughts? if not, change it. push the limits of what you think is ‘right.’ fall in love. over and over again. with yourself, with the sunrises, with people, with that really good cookie, with your handwriting, with the way you make your coffee.

going into expedition photography is a very competitive field. and one that is not occupied with a lot of women. it doesn’t make a lot of money, if any, and can be dangerous. but quite frankly, it gives me life. it makes me create. it tests my limits physically, emotionally, and creatively. so if i’m told that a 9-5 job will make me happy because it will provide financial stability, i say no. i will go and explore the world and i will find a way to make that happen whether i’m 19 or 61. i know, only in part, hear just a sampling, behold merely a fraction, possess little. and in that, find enough. so i might stay here. or walk down the way. i want to continue to love extravagantly, listen intently, observe with wonder, and be present knowing i’ll never arrive.

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mni wiconi

09.20.16

i am on a train.

20 minutes before boarding this train i panic.

what the hell am i doing?

i don’t really know what i am doing and everyone keeps asking me what my plan is. why do i always need a plan?

the man two rows in front of me has slept the whole time and his snore makes me believe he is choking with every breath.

i have a lump in my throat and my left shoelace is untied. i have an empty water bottle that has been attempted to be filled 5 times this trip-but hasn’t.

my favorite pen has run out of ink. look at the vibrant trees.my wrist hurts. we wobble on the tracks-

snore-

choke-

snore.

I breathe lightly. we sing. it is norman’s birthday. happy birthday norman.

the conductor gives me a pen. it sucks. he tells me to give it back when i am done. i pinky promise i will.

I AM NOT TWELVE.

hunger, again. i walk. the kettle chips need more salt.

i return to my seat and the nice african couple has left. i didn’t even get to say goodbye. we were complete strangers, yet i felt connected to them by the fleeting smile they gave me as they boarded. i know only two things about them:

  1. english is their third language.
  2. he prefers coke over pepsi.

the montana trees have gone now. i liked them too. everyone is leaving.

more people need convincing that i am not twelve.

the alcoholic woman is mean to the 4 amish women. i say, “no, stop.”

she smirks, “what do you know, you’re only 19.”

they have acknowledged i am not twelve now.

blue. everything is blue. the seats. the carpets. the lights. the sky. it smells like beef and cigarettes.

a smile..

i am connected with yet another stranger.

it has been 6 hours. this man is still snoring. why can i not sleep this good??

the drunk comes back to me. he lectures me. he lectures me about thermodynamics and homo sapiens. to him, i am an incompetent young woman that needs his guidance.

“your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”

it is raining in the distance. the clouds appear as paint strokes. he asks if i am cold,

“yes”

the hum of the tracks below my body and the repeating rasp of a man’s tongue in my right ear.

10.01.16

i am at standing rock camp.

i hear chainsaws and horse hooves.

it smells like campfire smoke.

the wind. it comes from all four directions and plays with my hair until it becomes knotted.

i can’t move.

it feels as though there is a poison in my body that freezes my words & numbs my bones.

minority. minority. minority.

i have always heard this term but i have never fully understood it until now.

everyone stares. they stare at the fare skin and wild, blonde hair.

i feel as though i should apologize for being white,

i am ashamed and embarrassed of what my ancestors did to the native americans.

can’t they see this in my eyes?

they continue to tell me i am one of them and i feel as though i am.

my nights fall to the pounding of elk skin drums beating and my mornings begin with a loud voice over a microphone saying,

“good morning relatives, it is a beautiful day to be yourself.”

i learn to live without a phone. my clock is the sun and i am finally free from knowing whether trump or clinton is winning.

i am alone.

everyone is closely connected because all we have out here is one another for help or company.

we take a walk along the river. our footprints sink in the deep sand and the tide teases my toes. it is ironic how we are here to protect the water, yet

my footsteps are planned around avoiding the trash ridden beaches.

humans are destructive.

they hate the police.

the police hate them.

we are both fighting against each other for the same human rights.

is it really free speech if we have a gun barrel pointed at us as we talk?

10.10.16

I am back on the train to seattle.

i am tired and worn out.

there is landscapes rolling quickly and i leave a part of myself with each one i see.

people seem to be normal this time. no alcoholics.

i hit my head on the ceiling as i stand and he laughs.

i cuss in front of a blue eyed baby. the parents glare.

coffee.

i have no connection to the world.

there are no likes on my recent picture and no snapchats to look at for 10 seconds. no one is friend requesting me, except the man i just met from israel at lunch.

he brings a book to the dinner table, he wears blue glasses and he does not seem to know what to do with the limbs of his slender body.

a man my age sits next to me during dinner.

we all exchange glances and ask where the other is going. we continue to assume our judgements about each other are right.

no, they are most likely wrong.

we chat and only exchange names until we get up to leave the table. almost as if to make one attempt to be friends.

people come and go quickly here. it is 2 a.m. and i have a whole new train car of acquaintances. we all observe the other with side glances.

it snows. outside looks cold.

the air conditioning is on full blast and i fail to understand this.

i order a hotdog and the kettle chips are salty this time.

the sun is setting behind this round woman and her rosy cheeks. i can see the snow dust being kicked up as we move through the tracks. it whirls through the air chaotic and rushed, then softly floats down.

never mind. no one is “normal.”

no one on this train can just sit in their fucking seats and read a book.

a couple-

wait, maybe brother and sister, have conned the conductor.

the brother/husband needs to go to the hospital.

my toes curl and my fists clench.

i hate stuff like this. it makes me feel ill.

we stop for this “ill” man in,

shelby, montana.

it is a small town.

i look out the window to see a turquoise shack and ambulance lights. it eerily reminds me of christmas.

the train carries on after he has been shipped to the hospital.

the man and his sister/wife are gone.

and everyone forgets about this small tragedy. they all read their books and type on their computers.

redefining my future

choices. we all have choices to make. for some, that may be cereal or toast? should i really buy those shoes? should i marry this person? however, the choice i have recently been debating has been the one most parents and teachers despise hearing..”should i even go to college?” woah. did a 19 year old just say that. “if i don’t go to college, i won’t get a degree, and if i don’t get a degree i won’t get a job, and if…” all these what if’s and here i am in an icelandic bar with one old man reading a paper, a glass of carbonated water at my right hand, feeling more in power of my future than i did sitting in a classroom with 500 people.

all these outside forces telling me i won’t be successful if i don’t continue, but as these people mindlessly tell me their thoughts and opinions of what they define as success, i look at them and wonder if they’re truly happy. i know what makes me happy.

which is the reason i am not choosing to continue school at WSU.

this breaks my heart. my decision has been made tossing and turning in my hotel room beds, crying over instagram photos of my friends back in pullman, and the little voice that tells me i might fail if i take this jump. i love everyone at WSU, i couldn’t imagine my life without them. but there comes a time in a person’s life when they have to make a choice.

and i’ve spent too many conversations hearing about the stories of people who made the safe choice instead of the one that could have been great. after every one of those conversations, i kept telling myself i would never be that person that was too scared.

by now, i can only imagine your reaction.. ugh another one of those teenage hipsters that takes pictures in front of waterfalls, gets a lot of likes on instagram, and now all of a sudden claims she is some photographer- although i love these preconcieved thoughts, i’ll have to push them out the window to further explain my goals.

****stop reading now if you really don’t care about what i will be doing in the future*****

as a daughter of a photographer, going to photoshoots is something i have grown up with. i have had the immense pleasure of holding reflectors, making silly faces at the subjects, playing in sprinklers watering acres of peas, and much more. besides the endless memories, i was left with a small imprint of what was going to shape me as a person.

anyone who knows me, knows that i want to learn strangers’ stories. their insecurities. the happiest moment of their lives. really anything they’ll tell me. and with that emotion, i want to capture it. because of this desire to know people, i will be building my portfolio as my adventure continues in a few different countries. those are to be disclosed as of a later date, but until that day comes i will be living/working in seattle. (which is where my brother is. yay!)

with many hours of work and saving every penny vigorously, i’ll (hopefully) be leaving the country after the year is over. having a strong portfolio after my travels and an even stronger sense of who i am as a person, i will start the process of getting my BA in photojournalism at a university abroad.

only time will tell how my life will turn out. so these plans are definitely subject to change.  this post was only to help further explain why the hell i am doing what i am doing. to some it may seem a little crazy, scary, stupid, or any other adjective…

but, damn.

it makes me happy.

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uncovering the silence

i’m tired of asking what people’s dreams are.

so, i’m going to take you on a nightmare.

i want you to imagine the person you trust the most. this could be a person of either the same or different gender, close to your age or not close at all, your teacher or your parent. when you have this person in your mind, picture yourself with them where you usually see them. you could be playing video games with your best friend, asking your teacher for help after school, or maybe you’re just sleeping in your bed at home.

let’s continue.

you notice that there is something different about the way they are staring at you this time. it almost makes you uncomfortable, but you know it shouldn’t because they wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.

…right?

they get closer to you and then all of a sudden you’re on the floor and they have a grip so tight you can’t get away. you think to yourself, “why are they doing this?” you tell them to stop, but they don’t. your words mean nothing. you start fighting back, but come to the realization it’s not going to change anything.

suddenly, your grip is loosened and you’re letting your clothes come off, and not by the touch of your own hands.

you can see the bruises forming on your wrists. oh, and the body you were saving for someone special? it’s no longer saved.

there is a strength that comes from inside you and somehow you’re running down the street. your ribs feel cracked and you can’t catch your breath. they’re finally off of you. you cry, not knowing if it’s joy because your gone or sadness because you just lost the right to your own body.

you can’t go anywhere. no one would ever believe that they did this to you. you keep to yourself and try not to replay that event over and over and over again.

let’s close this nightmare and realize that,

you were sexually assaulted.

as i started my journey at washington state, i found that more survivors came to me with their stories. much similar to the one i just told. i realized that too many people i love were affected by malicious men and women who put their sexual desires before other’s feelings.

why would i just stand there and nod along saying “i’m sorry” and then continue on with my life? i decided that this would not be the path i chose. i decided that standing up against sexual violence was something that i needed to do.

putting both my passion for photography and standing against sexual violence together, i created a photo project that gave people the chance to stand up for survivors and raise awareness.

i don’t know what any of these people’s affiliation with sexual assault is, if any, but i do know they want to help make a difference. and that’s all that matters.

#itsonus

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having nothing

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It’s 29 degrees outside. You have a coat and one blanket. And you have to sleep outside. Your stomach is aching because you haven’t eaten today, your finger tips are numb from the holes worn in your gloves, and despite how beautiful the winter sunset looks, you are dreading the cold night that follows.

Homeless.

A rusted shopping cart holds everything you call your own and there is no place you claim as home.

That is the life of the 10 people I met today on the street. As I was driving home from the bank, I saw a group of people clustered together masked by their bundled scarves and puffy coats. These are the people I like photographing; the not so perfect men and women who have wrinkles that prove they once wore a smile. In a debate with my conscious of going home to a warm fire or photographing in the cold, I decided that I should grab my camera from and photograph the people.

With Bruno Mars filling the empty air in my car and my camera anxiously awaiting to be focused, I drove back to the bus station and parked. I found my heart pounding and my mind buzzing with thoughts of being kidnapped or robbed as I approached them. When I realized that this label, “homeless” is what makes society believe they have all done something wrong. That every penny you drop into their coffee cup goes to drugs.

My first subjects were Joe and Chris, a son and his mother. Her getting older now, he came to Walla Walla this weekend where they embraced for the first time since 2 years. Although her mouth didn’t possess many teeth, her smile was full of joy when looking at her son. They were both open about their lives and how despite all they have been through together, they still love each other.

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The majority of people at the bus stop were circled around one shopping cart and what they had called their Christmas tree. Decorated with a jar of mayonnaise, a snow flake from a church, and knitted scarves and hats so if anyone was cold that night they could take them.

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Malcolm was the guy that exuberated happiness and begged for his picture to be taken, with his crocheted purple beanie and denim jacket, he made for a great subject. IMG_0331

As I was photographing and talking with everyone, there was a woman who was giving out scarves, blankets, and free coffee. Despite having nothing, the homeless made sure I was warm enough. They gave me a scarf and gloves and offered the food they had on them. So what is it that makes these people who have virtually nothing, the most giving people I have met? The self reflection made me understand that they treasure what they have, not what they want. They know the difference between a house and a home. That it’s not about where we crawl into the same sheets every night or the repeated outlet we plug our phone into; home is where we decide it is. For some it might be a lawn chair outside a church, the sidewalk on 9th street, your frequented coffee shop in London, or the 4 story house in the country. Where ever it may be, it only proves to be understood that you are the one that’s got to die when it’s time to die, so make your home where the hell you want it to be.

God Speed.

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