“Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration” Rachel.
I’ve known Rachel forever. We went to Elementary school, Middle School, and High school together and grew up in the same neighborhood. Though we didn’t have the same immediate circle of friends, I always really liked Rachel. One of those girls who was always kind and everyone seemed to like and gravitate towards.
She is currently a ridiculously talented photographer living in California (seriously go check out her work–photographers don’t come better than her), but has recently decided to sell all her things and move her family to Hawaii because she “couldn’t think of a reason not to”. That alone makes me love her even more. So much courage. And a desire to live an adventurous and authentic life.
She is also an incredible writer. You can find her blog here.
I think you’ll all love this interview as much as I did.
1. Give me a quick peek at your story.
Born in Fairbanks Alaska. The northern lights were dancing in the sky and my mom was in labor with me for about 30 minutes. Wilderness baby, playing in mud, picking berries until we moved to Provo Utah when I was almost 5. Kissing tag in first grade, led to a couple of fake marriage ceremonies and plenty of make believe play until we moved to to Sandy Utah when I was 10yrs old. Kid to teenager, learned what self-conscious meant, made lifelong friends, danced, acted, cried over boys. Turned 17. Fell in love (for real). Found photography. Graduated from the University of Utah, studied English and Photojournalism. Got married. Bought a house. Got a divorce. Sold the house. Moved to New York City without a home, job or any friends. Sat on the steps of the Met in the pouring rain. Second chance. Found me. Traveled to Asia by myself for 2 months to take photos. Met a boy, met another boy. Kissed him and “fireworks”. Moved to California. Took a leap. Got married. Lived in a little blue house. Rain on the windows, after 48hrs of active labor I became a mom. Did it again 2yrs later except this time it was a Saturday afternoon and the light was pouring in. Work full time, mostly on trying to be my best self. Stay tuned.
2. Tell me about an “everyday moment” you are grateful for
So many. Most of them have to do with one on one time. I am really loving Nova hopping into bed with me every morning and talking to me in a really normal middle of the day voice, because she apparently doesn’t know how to whisper. She holds me and kisses me and looks at me nose to nose. I am also really loving after bath time with Fairbanks. He gets out and only wants me. I wrap him burrito style in a towel and we sway cheek to cheek while we sing and look at ourselves in the mirror. I love slow walks in the late afternoon with family around our neighborhood. That perfect gold light creating halos around each of them. It’s during these moments I wish I had a camera in my eyeballs.
3. What is one ambition you have right now
Most of my ambitions surround what I want for my kids right now. I am still neck deep in that baby making stage and so much of what I think about has to do with not only survival but creating really strong roots for them so they can feel secure and confident. I also find, as a creative person, my goals are always growing and changing. I have come to the realization that satisfaction for me probably won’t happen, but It’s in that unrest that I find so much drive to add and develop things I am passionate about as I go. Right now one of my ambitions is to be able to drop my daughter off at a school knowing she will thrive and the teachers are good people. Another ambition is to shoot with a lot more honesty. Not shoot for others or popularity or praise…but shoot what matters to me and my heart. Those are the images I will never regret taking. Did I answer the question? 🙂
4. If you could speak on anything to a large group of women, what would you talk about?
Maintaining and developing intimate relationships that matter. Conquering fear. Intentional parenting. Communicating through photographs. Creating self esteem through photography. Creating positive birth stories for your babies.
5. What does the phrase “create a good life story” mean to you?
I have been thinking about this subject so much lately. To me it means living an intentional life in a way that I am proud to talk about. Successes and failures. I want my kids to be proud to talk about the life they lived and we tried to provide for them. I want the focus to be on being close as a family and finding happiness wherever we can. I want our story to be full of triumphs…to do this we have to take chances and calculated risks.
6. Tell me something someone taught you that made an impact on your life
Growing up I never heard my Mom gossip. I am serious. She never talked bad about anyone. She was honest and upfront but she didn’t do it at the expense of other people. I was always so proud of this fact and it made a huge impression on me as a young girl. It really helped me try and see people in the best light possible and to build others up and not tear them down. It is easy to get trapped into jealousy and envy BUT if we are concentrating on being happy for others and appreciating them for their best qualities it is a lot easier to love them. I’m not as good at this as my Mom but I hope to pass this quality on to my children as well. I want to be somebody that when others are around they leave feeling better about themselves. I want my kids to develop this skill as well.
7. Name one event in your life that has made a significant impact on the course of your life story
Oh man. So many. I would say going through the annulment with my first husband was the catalyst for so many big events. It created an understanding in me that helped me relate to so many others in ways I hadn’t been able to before. I developed another layer of empathy that I hope has been able to help others in similar tough life situations. I then turned my life upside down by moving to New York City to essentially start over. I can’t even begin to imagine what I would have missed had I not made that leap. I made some of my most dear friends. My photography career grew and my calling to create was solidified. The love and attachment I found in that city healed me and I will forever feel a deep love and attachment to the people and places that connected with me during that time. Since then, because of the amazing effect it had in my life, I have tried to be brave when making big life changes. I know that doing brave things usually leads to gold.
8. What is something you want to accomplish you haven’t yet?
I really want to have a gallery showing of a body of my work. A body of work that really means something to me and what it is sharing. That would be amazing. I also want to reach an ideal fitness level. Would be so empowering to push my physical and mental body to that place.
9. What photographs are you most grateful for from your childhood or teen years?
I love the ones that show me in my living environment. Ones that show what my homes looked like. All of us around the dinner table. My bedrooms. I love one of my mom holding me as a newborn. My dad shot it through the window and you can see Alaska. I really love the everyday images of us just being a family and me just being me. I could really care less about any of the posed, studio weird family groupings. Lifestyle images of us actually living are far more meaningful to me. I also want to say that my parents didn’t take anywhere close to the amount of images I shoot (obviously) but I don’t care. I love the ones they did shoot. I think keeping any of those memories is great. I don’t need a million. I am just glad I have some. Lesson learned: Shooting something is better than shooting nothing.
10. What are you most proud of?
Without a doubt giving birth to both of my kids…and as a runner up surviving the grief that happens after a divorce/annulment. One birth pushed my body and mind to it’s limits and the other my emotions. Going through both proved a strength in me beyond my ability to understand.
11. What is the best parenting advice/tip someone gave you?
Trust your instincts. Put down the books and see what feels right to YOU. If it feels off, it probably is. If it feels right…go with it. Of course this is not an exact science but it helped take some of the pressure off. Becoming a parent is so overwhelming but what most people aren’t reminded of is their innate ability to care for others. We were made to do this! With a good village surrounding you for support, and trust in yourself you can be a successful parent. But trusting yourself also means knowing when to ask for help and seek answers.
Also, learning to “acknowledge” our children is probably the best piece of advice there is. I think listening, acknowledging, seeing our kids, is the most important thing they need. I think if most people did a better job of acknowledging pain and happiness and any and all emotion…without judgement…we would all be more connected and closer to each other. This is big in our house and something all of us try to practice with each other.
12. Tell me something you are sure of
1) My deep deep deep connection to my kids. I was meant to be their mother. 2) During one of my final photojournalism classes in college, our teacher gave an assignment to keep a photography journal. Everyday we were required to write about what we were thinking as it relates to photography. I was relatively new in my photography journey and in my mind I thought “there is no way I will have something to say everyday…I like photography but I don’t think about it everyday”. Turns out I was dead wrong. I did think about it every day and a lot. I couldn’t stop writing about light I was seeing and color and feelings and insecurities and ideas etc etc etc. When the end of the semester came I had chills as I wrote a final paper about my journey. It was during that class and that journal assignment that I truly felt my calling as a photographer. I didn’t know why or how or to what end…but I knew without a doubt that I was meant to create and communicate in this way. That knowledge has been one of my greatest gifts and has given me something to hold on to when I doubted myself or my journey.
Happiness is a choice.
I was travelling in Vancouver during an especially hard time during my early 20’s. I had been struggling with the idea that others’ agency and choices could so greatly affect my own life..and I had no control over the decisions others made that impacted me so. It was the worst. I walked into a little jewelry store and while browsing I came across a little necklace that had a single silver rod hanging from the chain. Etched into the side of that rod in an itty font were the words “Happiness is a choice.” Light bulb moment. Not that I didn’t already know it, but it was the exact words I needed to hear at the exact time. I couldn’t control others. I never would. But I could, without a doubt choose happiness. And choose my own decisions in order to always guide me back to happiness. I felt a weight lift and hope was restored. Of course I bought the necklace.
14. What is your favorite part about yourself (not a physical trait)?
My genuine interest in other people. I think I am pretty good at asking questions and actually caring about the answers. Complete strangers often tell me a lot of personal information about themselves. I feel grateful they feel they can trust me so quickly. I think this definitely plays into why I love to photograph people. In order to have your photograph taken you have to be vulnerable to a certain degree. I think I am good at helping people feel comfortable in vulnerable moments.
15. What type of photographs do you wish you had more of?
Gah. More of everything. It doesn’t even make sense but I want a photograph of everything I’ve ever seen in my entire life. At times it can be so overwhelming…my desire to document and remember. It takes a lot of self control and thought mastery for me to let go…and remind myself that memories are kept in a lot of different ways. Having kids just made this problem worse! Everything they say and do is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I just hope it all sinks in and when I need to remember and re-live I will be able to.
16. What is something you do to help drive away fear or anxiety?
Talk. Plan for the future. Think ahead. Or simply just educate myself. Most people just fear what they don’t know. By knowing more, there is less to fear. I find that being outside really centers me. Going for a walk or just sitting on our front stoop can be so calming. A sure fire fix for tension in our family is watching the sunset at the beach. Nothing fancy, just some ocean air and pretty light. Always makes me feel so much more hopeful about life.
17. What is your favorite part about being a mom? Your least favorite part (just keepin it real on this question–I know you love your kids)?
My favorite part is by far the intimate connection I feel with them. It’s something I have wanted and looked for my entire life. Closeness with people I love. I have found it with other people..but not usually without a fair amount of effort and time but with my kids it was instantaneous. It was then that I realized, “ So this is what I was looking for”…I was searching for my kids. Just their existence has filled a void inside of me. Like the missing puzzle piece. My least favorite part, cleaning up! Making meal after meal after meal. I know I have nothing to complain about since I only have two but Grant and I both feel like all we ever do is wipe the floor under his highchair and scan the fridge and cupboards for meal ideas. Meal planning stresses me out and I love food! Its hard working full time and wanting to do full time mommy stuff. Hard to find all the time. I need to start meal planning one day a week and sticking to it. I can’t believe I am going to have to figure out what they will eat everyday until they are 18. AHHHHHHHHH!
18. Tell me something about yourself that may surprise people
More and more I am realizing I have a lot of very introverted tendencies. My most creative times are when I am alone or in very small groups. I would always prefer a small group or one on one interaction over a large party with a lot of small talk. I need a fair amount of alone time to center myself and think. But on the flip side I am really comfortable talking to strangers, being the center of attention…maybe I am a bit of both.
19. What’s one thing you wish you would have known when you were younger?
I wish I would have been able to more fully enjoy my sexuality and younger physique without the guilt associated with it. This probably sounds super scandalous…I just wish I didn’t spend so much time feeling guilty or bad about exploring, testing limits etc. I was, and am, a moral person. So much time wasted feeling guilt and not just appreciating the free thinking spirit that I am.
And for fun:
Favorite book: Lost Horizon by James Hilton
Favorite family tradition: Christmas candles on Christmas eve where we light the candle of the person next to us and tell them why we love them. It’s the best. Always tears.
Something you enjoy doing with your spouse: Eating fun and new food, traveling to a place we have never been. Watching our kids together and knowing we made something awesome.
Talent you wish you had: Wish I was a better singer and could play the guitar. I love singing and do it all day long. Would be nice to strum along to my melodies.
Favorite meal: Papaya with lime or anything made with yeast.
f you never had to do one specific thing again, what would it be: wake up before 7 in the morning
Favorite show on TV: So hard. For past shows it would have to be Star Trek The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica, LOST and Top Chef.
Something that scares you: Of course losing anyone I love, but I was just mentioning to Grant the other day that spiders and sharks have kept me from doing numerous things I know I would love.
Favorite thing about your husband: How quickly he forgives and moves on. If we get in an argument and I were to say “can we forgive each other and move on?” 9 times out of 10 he would jump at the chance and give me a big hug. I find this so admirable. I like to hold on to things and think way too much about crap…but if I crack one smile his whole body relaxes and he immediately feels better. Love him for this.
Something you can’t live without: Cheese and sunsets at the beach with my family.
What’s something you think about often: What I can do to help my children grow to be happy, confident adults. There is nothing I want more.
Thanks again for doing this Rachel!! I know how busy you are and it means a lot to me that you believe in what I’m trying to do with this blog.
If you want to read other “Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration” interviews, click HERE.