I almost forgot what date it was today. I almost missed an important (to me) anniversary. Today, three years ago, an amazing author Vicki Green bought my very first image I ever sold for a book cover. To this date it's still one of my favorites, and will always mean so much to me. Funny thing is, even 400 covers later, I still get that crazy excitement every time someone licenses and image. I still squeal, and feel so honored and amazed that an author would want my photos on their covers. It's an honor to work with each and every author I have gotten to work with. It seriously means the world that my images can be the face to their books. That my images will be wrapped around months, sometimes years of hard work for them. That they trust me team and my work enough to have my images on the front of their blood, sweat and tears. And this one right here started it all. It's incredible everything that has happened in the last three years. I've traveled all over the country (and world) and have met some of the most amazing people. I've made life long friends who understand my kind of crazy. I've been able to turn my passion into my living, and I am living my dream. It's extremely overwhelming at times, but it's pretty damn amazing too, and sometimes I have to sit back and remember that. Remember that a little over three years ago I didn't even know that this book world existed. Four years ago I was struggling to keep my dream of owning my own photography business alive. Four years ago I hit so many obstacles financially that I almost gave up and went back into the work force. But the thought of doing that hurt more than struggling for a little while longer, and thank goodness I did. I honestly can't imagine my life if I had taken a different path. If I hadn't found this amazing book world with so many incredible people in it. THIS is where I am meant to be, and I am so excited to see where my path leads in the next few years.
So thank you Vicki for being the first person to believe me, and thank you to each and every author since. It means the world, and I promise to ALWAYS so my best by you. <3
So many people don't understand why I love hockey so much, and why I hate missing games. Honestly I don't fully understand it myself. All I know is that it's my lifeline. It's my happy place, a place to get away from the stress of life, and focus fully on watching my boys play for 60 minutes. It's a place filled with people I love who understand that same love of the game. People I see 40+ times a year who I share my life with, get to know, and look forward to seeing each and every game. It's a place I can cheer when my boys win, and feel their pain when they lose. Where I can be proud of them each and every night when they leave everything they have on the ice, and feel like I have a small part in all of it by being in the stands and cheering my heart out for them. At this level, I even have the honor of getting to know the players through the booster club, so the games mean that much more with each victory or defeat. Each year we say goodbye to players we have watched play for 4-5 years. Players we have seen grow in their games and as people since they hit the ice at 15 years old. It's heartbreaking and exciting since many of them move on to bigger and better things. Each year we also welcome new faces, and get to watch that excitement as they learn the game at this level and settle into their roles.
The people I have met in the last 8 years while watching Seattle Thunderbirds games are amazing. The parents, the players, the billets, the season ticket holders, all of the people I look forward to seeing again each August as hockey season ramps up again. I have met some life long friends from all over the world through this game.
So no. I can't fully explain my love of hockey to someone who hasn't experienced. But those who have experienced it understand. Once it's in your blood it's impossible to get rid of. It's my happy place, and I am beyond thankful to be part of this crazy little hockey world. Here's to a long playoff run for my boys so we have a short season without that rush.
The picture above may just look like a photo of a bookcase full of books, but it is so much more than that. This photo isn't about the bookcase, but rather what is on it. It contains the paperbacks I have so far from the authors who chose to put one of my photos on the cover. To me they are so much more than books. They are the results of hopes and dreams, of blood sweat and tears, of countless hours of work. Each and every book represents an author who has poured their heart into the pages, and it's an honor that they chose my photos for the covers. I feel so incredibly blessed to have found my passion. To be working for myself and pursuing that passion each and every day. There were days when I first started my business that I almost gave up. That I thought I would have to walk away from my dream and go back to the "real" world workforce. There were days when I was so discouraged by things people said to me, or frustrated when I couldn't pay my bills and I almost gave up. But the thought of giving up was so much worse to me. So I kept working my ass off, knowing that somehow, someway, I would succeed doing what I love. Then I found this crazy little book world and was able to combine my passion for photography with my passion for reading. I found a whole community of people who are my "same kind of weird." A whole community of people who understand what it is to follow your passion and see it come to fruition.
I am so incredibly blessed to be part of this book world. When I was younger I always thought that it would be pretty amazing to be able to travel while doing photography and get paid to do it. Well, it pays to dream big. It pays to work your ass off. It's worth the blood, sweat and tears and the struggles paying my bills. Because today and every day forward I am living my dream and pursuing my passion. <3
Thank you to those who have had faith in me and especially thanks to all of those authors who are on this shelf, as well as the ones who will soon join it, and will fill many more. Because this? This is so much more than just a shelf full of books. This is a shelf full of dreams and passion to follow those dreams. <3
I never take this crazy little ride I'm on for granted, but sometimes it hits me. Like really hits me how amazing it is. This business that I built from scratch. With blood sweat and tears. With days spent crying, and years spent struggling, yet I never gave up. Even on the hardest and darkest days I knew this was my dream. I knew I was meant for this. I knew I was meant to forge forward and make a difference. I feel blessed every day, but some days it blows me away what has happened in a little over two years because of my drive, my work ethics, my hard work and my stubborness to never quit even when quitting seemed like the only option. I remember the defining moment 3 1/2 years ago. I was sitting on the couch in the apartment I could no longer pay rent on, looking at bills I couldn't afford to pay. And I had a choice. Give up on my photography business and get a regular, good paying job. Or keep forging forward and make my dream happen come hell or high water. The thought of giving up broke my heart, and it was then and there I knew that this was what I was meant to do, and there was no way I could give up on it. No matter how hard it would be to make that dream a reality, I couldn't give up. Thanks to the kindness of friends, a move, determination, and the decision to help a care package group with their charity calendar, that dream began to take form and slowly move forward.
The next year was a rough one. I struggled. I cried. The love of my life walked away from me. I thought about giving up. But the struggles formed me. They made me grow, and solidified my decision that I was on the right path. I launched my model page in February 2016, and when I found out I could combine two of my passions, books and photography, I messaged dozens of authors introducing myself and my work to try and get my foot in the door for book covers. I was told over and over again by people in the industry that I would never make it as a model photographer because I wasn't willing to photoshop or alter my photos. There were days when I believed them and almost quit. But the positive influences in my life, especially my family, Kevin Moss and Drew Deaton, wouldn't let me. They encouraged me and pushed me until I used the negative to fuel my drive and stoke my fires. I used those negatives to learn and grow, making myself better with each and every shoot. And now, about two years later I have almost 300 book covers licensed with an amazing group of authors and models. I have a charity calendar that grows more each year and actually makes a difference in peoples' lives through Honor the Sacrifice. I organized a successful author event in 5 months in a place I had never been, and I am working on another one in Seattle for 2017. I have an absolutely incredible group of authors, models and readers who believe in me and support me in everything I do. I have amazing life long friends I have made in this crazy little book world. I have people I have known most of my life, and people I met through OpLove who message me and tell me how proud they are. All of this fuels me each and every day and makes me feel incredibly blessed.
The same passion that drives me can also drive people away and make me vulnerable to critics and pain. But it's part of me, and I believe it is the reason I am here today, so I will not let it go or apologize for it. When I was younger I dreamed that someday I would travel and take photos and get paid for it. A little while back I realized that is exactly what I am doing. How's that for living your dreams??
Sometimes it blows my mind that so many people know who I am, and know my work. It's bizarre, surreal and exciting to me. To know that I influence people and make them smile on a daily basis just by posting and being me. All because I had a dream and never gave up on that dream even when giving up felt like the only option.
So dream big. Follow your passion. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't. You never know what may happen if you do. That dream of yours just may become a reality.
This may be the hardest thing I've ever written, knowing I may be putting it out into the world. Even as I am typing I kinda want to hit the backspace button as the words appear on the screen. But if me sharing this helps even one person, it is worth me stepping so outside of my comfort zone that I can't even see it.
So here goes.
I have depression. I hate saying that. Hate admitting it, as if by saying it, it makes it more real by admitting it out loud. It's something I see as one of my biggest weaknesses, and something I have struggled against my entire life, even as a kid. I have no idea why I have it. I really have no reason to be depressed. My childhood was amazing. Seriously. If I could go back and do it all again, I wouldn't change a thing. My life hasn't been perfect, but it's been pretty great, and I am blessed in so many ways. So there is no reason in my mind why I should have this sadness weighing on me. Why I should suddenly be sad and crying for no reason over the littlest things, or for no reason at all.
This has cost me friendships and relationships because it means I am more sensitive. It means I sometimes withdraw into myself and push others away, or get stuck in my own head and blow something way out of proportion that should have barely registered as a problem. It means that I sometimes take things that people say the wrong way, make them into a worst case scenario, and freak out, when really it isn't that big of a deal. All of this can come across as me being negative to others who don't understand, and I am perceived as a negative person. Being called negative is seriously one of the worst things to me. It hurts me to my core. Because overall I am a positive person. But sometimes I just can't stave off that darkness, that fear that those I care about will walk away from me, leaving me a crumpled and broken person yet again. That fear that I will be alone and never find those who want me and love me unconditionally. I love hard, I jump all in, and I am one of the most loyal people out there. But that fear and sadness pulls me down and causes me to hurt the very relationships I value the most.
So I hide that sadness. I hide the darkness. I hide the depression. I hide it by doing things what brings me the most joy. By giving to others to uplift them. By doing what I love. By being around people who make me smile and uplift me. But I can't always hide it. It still creeps in. No matter how busy I keep myself. No matter how happy I am, and no matter how hard I try to keep it back. The worst part is that it seems to come out once I am comfortable with a person. Once I fully trust them, and hand my heart over in friendship or love, the insecurities kick in, the defense mechanisms kick in, and the darkness makes an appearance. The sadness ends up coming to the surface with the last people I want to see it. Which usually means they pull away, or see me as negative...or just give up on me and walk away.
I want to fix myself. I want to let that darkness go, but I don't know how. Maybe getting it out in the open instead of hiding it will start that process. Maybe by sharing it with those I care about, they will understand me more and not be so quick to judge me or call me negative when I falter and lose my sunshine/ Maybe by sharing it and helping others with the same problem know that they AREN'T alone, it may in turn help me to heal.
Honestly, even as I write this, I don't know if I will have the strength to share it. I don't know if I will be able to admit something to others that I've hidden for so long from myself. But I want to be stronger. I want to be that light that I know I am. If it helps even one other person reach out or feel stronger than it will be worth it right?
So here goes.
My name is Shauna. I am a happy and positive person, but I am also broken. I am strong with a beautiful soul, but I also suffer from depression and a darkness that doesn't completely disappear no matter how happy I am. But I will NOT let this darkness rule me or change who I am. Because I am stronger than that. I have plans. Big plans. I AM going to make a difference in this world, and nothing can stop me, not even myself.
Who's with me?