You know that couple who has been together for what seems like forever? They probably shared their first kiss in, like, seventh grade, dated each other all throughout high school, maybe even made that long distance game look easy while going to different colleges. You know that couple. Their inside jokes are constant but not showy, their banter is seamlessly natural, and they’re easy to hang out with because they are so comfortable and content with one another.
So, here’s the thing: Peoria and I are that couple. I graduated from high school, moved from the small town I grew up in to the close-to-home college I’d envisioned myself going to since junior high, and everything felt right. Comfortable. Peoria quickly and easily began to feel like my second home. While some may consider me to be in the minority as a lover of this city, it’s inconspicuous charm and people grew on me.
I graduated from college, and after a brief stint of I-have-no-idea-where-my-life-is-going action, I decided to go back to grad school. After that, I thought, I would plan to get a job elsewhere, and embark on my next adventure outside of Peoria. Upon completing grad school, I applied to English teaching positions with a variety of colleges around the state, while continuing to book photography sessions on the side. I ended up getting opportunities to teach English Composition as an adjunct faculty member at two different colleges in the Peoria area, which allowed me to grow as an instructor as well as establish my photography business, in the community I had grown to love. The past four years have been exhilarating, unbelievable, exhausting, and beautiful. I have learned so much about humanity, about myself, and as inherently cheesy as it is, about love.
Despite all this, or maybe, because of all this, it’s time for the next adventure; as bittersweet as it is to say aloud, it’s time for me to break up with Peoria. In less than a week, I’ll be moving to the Chicagoland area. And while my soul and the tingling in my bones both tell me I’m ready, with every break up comes some collateral damage that makes it all much more difficult. You guys are mine.
My high school senior and family clients are the reason I started booking photography sessions in the first place; back in 2009, some incredibly trusting individuals asked me to take their sons’ senior pictures, and then they eventually told their friends about me. And then those friends told their friends about me. My hometown community, my friends, my family members, people I knew in college and haven’t seen in years, my students, my colleagues, my casual acquaintances – you all have referred your own friends, family members, and co-workers to me, trusted me to capture your family or your children, some of you year after year – you’ve all been my biggest fans, and there is no possible way I can ever thank you enough for that. Your referrals and your support have played an immense role in how I have become the person I am today, and you helped a girl who once had-no-idea-where-her-life-was-going find her way. Thank you.
I often feel like the luckiest human to have two careers that I am passionate about, but I now realize, despite my best efforts, that I cannot do it all. 2015 was the most amazing year of my photography business yet, as I not only shot some beautiful weddings, but more importantly, got a chance to know some even more beautiful people. This year also helped me realize that I need to make my work/life balance more of a priority, which is why in association with this move, I will no longer be offering high school senior and family sessions.
Starting now, I will be focused on offering weddings, engagements, maternity, and lifestyle family sessions. (More details on what a family lifestyle session entails will be coming in February – promise!) I do want to clarify that if you have a gift certificate for my photography services still remaining to be redeemed, I will, of course, happily still honor that and set up a session with you.
I will continue to book weddings in the Central IL area, in addition to the Chicago area (actually, all areas – get at me, destination wedding-ers!). To my 2016 wedding clients: first of all, I cannot WAIT to work with you all, and to spend one of the best days of your life with each and every one of you. I will be making frequent trips back to Peoria throughout the year for weddings, engagement sessions, and pre-wedding meetings to discuss your big day details, so nothing will change in terms of your weddings and our communication.
While I’ve been writing this post, I felt my chest tighten, and my palms get sweaty, and a lump make it’s way to the back of my throat. I was nervous about publicly breaking up with my city, and I think that’s less about Peoria/Central Illinois and more so about what it represents: a community I’ve grown to love, because of the people who are in it. I realize the ambiguity of a statement such as this, but there are so many of you who have loved me and lifted me up, and whether you are my family or my friend or my client or my acquaintance, I want you to know it matters to me all the same.