I don't know about you,

but this past year has been a bit of a mess. Really, the past two years have been especially difficult for me, as a business owner. In 2019, I had no idea where we would be living after July of that year. It made it extremely difficult for me to schedule out photo sessions or even to know where I should be trying to start my business base back up. Add to that the fact that my website host lapsed when I thought it was on auto-renew, and it was kind of a hot mess stressful year. We ended up landing right back in the same area, but on the opposite side of Scott AFB and closer to St Louis. We moved to our new neighborhood right around Christmastime of 2019, and in late January/early February of 2020, I started advertising for business again - only to have Covid hit.

It was rough for being a business owner financially, but it also made finding motivation and consistency incredibly difficult. With things constantly changing, it was really hard to plan anything out and really drained me of energy. At the end of 2020, I got an email from the Professional Photographers' Association, of which I have been a member for quite some years now, stating that Imaging USA was going to be a virtual conference and the price of admission of extremely reasonable. I have only managed to go to one Imaging USA conference previously: when it was in Texas and I lived in Texas! I was really excited because this meant I could get a ticket without having to worry about the price of lodging in addition to the price of the conference - which also meant that I had a that little shove to finally do something I've been putting on the back burner for a long, long time: taking the course for becoming a Certified Professional Photographer and registering for the exam. This course takes place during the week leading up to Imaging USA, so it normally would have required showing up a few days early, which would mean a few days extra of food and lodging expenditures. I took advantage of this opportunity, and registered for both the class and the exam. You don't have to do the class, technically, but I decided it would be a good idea to take it to make sure I knew what material was going to be present on the exam. I'm so glad I did, because, while I have been a photographer for a long time, there were some technical elements I had either never learned, understood, or had forgotten about! I passed the exam (woo!), but I didn't stop there.

Now that I had gotten my ball rolling, I started tackling some other challenges that I had been intending to take on: one of these was applying to become a Click Pro. It was a daunting task. I had to get together 150 images to represent my work to be evaluated. I asked someone to look it over for some feedback before submitting, but I didn't give myself too much time to mull over it because I have a tendency to overanalyze and stress about things being "just right" which often leads to nowhere and nothing getting done - anyone else have that problem? I hit submit and of course immediately started worrying whether the images I had chosen were good enough, ordered well, etc. etc. About a week later, I (after obsessively checking my email daily) saw the email I was waiting for: I had been accepted as a Click Pro Master Photographer!

Anyway, these have all caused me to really look inward and evaluate my self-view and goals. It's been a rough year, but taking advantage of opportunities and forcing myself to finally take some of these steps have really been helpful in navigating all of the uncertainty, uncertainty which, for me, usually causes me withdraw a bit and settle into inertia. What's next? Well, we've been discussing opening an art studio in downtown Belleville, with a coffee shop, but for starters, I'm going to do another thing I have been talking about doing for YEARS: opening a "gallery" online to sell my artwork.