As 2019 draws to a close, it’s time to check in and see what this year has brought us.
For me it’s been a year of, love, loss, heartache, overwhelm, joy, relaxation, stress and much more.
It really has been a year of ups and downs. Some years just go like that I guess. In cycles. This feels like the ending of a shitty cycle and I’m incredibly happy about that. Haha.
This time last year, I was working in my studio, hustling hard, with three members of staff, an emporium showcasing local artists crafts and creations, and I was feeling like the year had been good to me.
But there was a darkness creeping in.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew that something was going to have to change. I was sinking further and further in debt, as a result of overspending in my personal life.
Credit cards, store cards, and financing meant I was paying out hundreds and hundreds of pounds a month and not actually getting anywhere. I got Isla’s Christmas presents from a catalog, constantly thinking the money I make in work will pay it off.
It wasn’t wrong. The money I made in work could have paid it off, but I didn’t ever give myself a chance to actually save that money and put it toward my debts. I just hired more, dreamed bigger, and speculated to accumulate like I had done successfully for the last 6 years.
But what I didn’t see coming was the fact that I was pushing and pushing to create this amazing space and loving hiring staff and feeling like I could help them and their families, all the while putting my own family life at risk.
When the money stopped coming in as often as it used to, but I still had to pay out all I did, it soon took a turn for the worse.
I couldn’t pay my debts. I didn’t pay myself. I spent longer than I should putting others before myself, but eventually I was forced to make that tough decision and let my girls go.
It was horrible. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let them all down. I felt I had let myself and Isla down. It was a dark time. I went into shut down. I didn’t open my post as it was just more and more red letters. I stopped answering the phone to numbers I didn’t know as I knew it would be people chasing debt.
I wasn’t eating properly. I wasn’t sleeping properly. I didn’t want Isla to know what was up, so I tried to keep going. I didn’t feel that I could stop. If I stop, who will look after me? Who will look after Isla? Who will keep my business going as I so desperately needed to keep it going as I NEEDED the money.
While the need was strong, my desire to actually do anything was weak. I couldn’t make myself work. I was so lost. I felt so low and like such a failure, I couldn’t do anything. I went months without shooting one client. It felt like I fell off the face of the earth and got swallowed up by worry and despair.
Eventually, the studio and two of my girls were gone, so some of the financial burden had been released from my shoulders, and I saw a slight glimmer at the end of the tunnel.
A realisation that I didn’t really enjoy studio photography anymore anyway, also sunk in. It didn’t light me up and I was just doing it as I thought I should, and it was all I had known.
Suddenly I could see that I had actually lost myself.
Putting myself and my needs first felt so unnatural and awkward, but equally so like I needed to do it.
Eventually my final member of staff and good friend had to go. I couldn’t hold on anymore and it was so hard. I love working with her and having her there by my side through it all had been a blessing. I was so sad to have to let her go, but we both knew I had to look after me for a bit.
Then there was me.
All of a sudden, I was alone. I had been single for over two years, so I was no stranger to being on my own, but this felt really lonely. I didn’t have a studio to get up and go to work in. I didn’t have anyone to talk about ideas with. I didn’t have anyone to hold me accountable when I just wanted to sod work and crawl into bed.
It was hard, but I found the strength and did some serious soul searching and found that I just needed to rest. I gave myself permission. I said to myself that it was ok to feel exhausted and like I couldn’t do anything.
I started to let go, and lean into the Universe, knowing that all would be well.
It comes as no surprise to me now, that at this time in my life, I should stumble across someone who is everything that I am not, everything that I needed at that time in my life, and someone that makes me feel so awake, capable, safe and powerful.
At a family christening for my niece in the summer, I met Ben. We would have met many times in the past. We were both at my brother’s wedding five years previously, and at other social occasions over the years that my sister in law has hosted. But that day. That day I saw him.
This is going to sound so cheesy and I’m sorry (not sorry) for that. But when I saw him there at my brothers house, in a place I have been so many times before, I felt it.
I felt the connection. I felt the need to get to know him. I felt the pull to know more.
We sat on the floor and chatted for hours. My mum has recently described it as seeing a rope between us. She said she could see us getting pulled closer and closer together. She could see the connection as it was happening.
Now this man. He is so special. To me, he embodies everything I wish I was. He is relaxed. He goes with the flow. He has faith. He lives within his means, and has such a wonderful outlook on life. He helps me live a better life, full of compassion, communication, understanding, love, joy, laughter and healthy food (a huge one for me as I struggle with cooking and getting overwhelmed in the kitchen, but I’m enjoying cooking so much more since I met him.)
He came into my life when I needed to rewild myself. I needed to get into nature and find myself. He has helped me do just that and we have been camping all over the country including Cornwall and Scotland!
He has been here for one of the hardest times of my life when I lost my dad in September. I was actually with him that day, and when it hit me in the evening, he sat with me and just held me while I broke. He has been there through it all, and I can’t thank him enough for his support, love and understanding at this time.
It may only be six months since we ‘met’, but in those six months we have helped each other more than either one can put into words I think. I absolutely feel like it was meant to be and I’m a huge believer that we were meant to find each other now and help each other.
We are both whole and complete people on our own. We work on ourselves and have been doing so for some time. But, being able to walk this path side by side feels pretty amazing.
So during this time, since I have been with Ben, I took the mental pressure off and started being kind to myself.
I called a debt management company and started the daunting task of sorting my money. Now I have a plan in place and regular affordable payments are being made.
I have got my mojo back for work as well as a new found inspirational well of ideas that come when we talk.
I am working on personal projects like photographing spiritual and magical images for Witches Magazine, as well as realising some dreams I didn’t even allow myself to dream.
2019 has been all about my shadow side. I have done the work, released the guilt, felt the shame, grieved the loss and now it’s time to shine.
It feels like 2020 is going to be a year for big shifts, big changes, big growth and awakening and I for one can’t wait!!
Heres to the future, what ever it may bring. Sending you all love and light and wishing you a happy new year.
Lots of love xx
Add on: So I have been looking back through photos of 2019 on my facebook and its amazing how much stuff got lost in the despair and how much that seemed ordinary, is now just a memory and something I won’t ever be able to do again.
I hosted a workshop in Cardiff. Two days. Models. Costumes. Attendees. Amazing time. But all the while I was worrying about paying for it all, and buying the food for the event.
I also hosted three camera beginner workshops…..this seems like way more than 12 months ago now.
I went to Ibiza for work. I got paid to travel to another country and photograph a retreat. I met wonderful women. Made some great connections and had a lush time. But again I spent the whole time with low grade anxiety, as I didn’t have the money to pay my rent. The trip didn’t cost me anything and I made a little money towards my bills, but I didn’t relax and enjoy it as much as I could have as I was so worried.
A free weekend trip to West Wales with my girly to photograph a holiday property, that was of course an amazing opportunity (and the weather was epic) but again, the lack of money was apparent and I really struggled with it.
Being with my dad for his birthday……
Looking back on these amazing opportunities and memories, I’m almost ashamed of the first part of this blog. As I read it back and I can feel the darkness. I can feel the weight of that time in my life, and its mad to think that these big and little things happened during that time.
Stress and anxiety really does mess with your brain right! I actually forgot how lucky I was and the amazing things I achieved, as the fear and worry was so intense, it clouded it all.
This is ok. I’m not beating myself up about. But I’m glad I took the time to look back through and come to this realisation.
In 2020 I am going to do my best to not forget a single amazing thing. The last 6 months I can remember it all, and its feels full of colour and hope. So I pray I can continue this into the new year and beyond.
A little challenge for anyone thats made it this far (you deserve a medal too haha) I want you to really truly think about how your year has been? Has it been a let down? Are you wishing the last week away as you can’t wait for it to be done? Was it just one bad thing after another?
I felt like the first 6 months were a complete wash out, but I can now see that there was actually lots of good in those months.
So if you feel like it your 2019 was nothing but bad, have a look through your Facebook, instagram, phone camera roll or anything else that will show you what really happened, and see if you can find a new appreciation for any of it. I know I have.
Here are some of my favourite moments from January to June 2019.