Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On disappointment, acceptance and if everything happens for a reason.

New York Photo Booth

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

It felt good to disappear for a while. About a month ago (on March 26 to be exact) I was hoping to be able to reappear with some exciting news about something that had been in the works for Gabe and I for about a year and a half. But clearly the universe, or the powers that be, or in my case, God, had something else in mind for us. I have thought about sharing this here for a long time now, whether I should or whether I needed to let this place continue to be more about photography and less about personal things, but life is taking me in a direction I did not expect. And so I am taking this space there too.

I have spoken here before about Gabe being in school. He has been at the University of Minnesota since the fall semester of 2010. We moved up to Minneapolis that summer in preparation for it, not knowing how long it would take, but knowing that we were ready to make the commitment to stay until he finished his bachelor’s degree. We almost moved in 2009 before we made the choice to stay, but we just weren’t prepared. Suffice it to say, we have been wanting to leave for a long time. Gabe and I both have adventurous hearts…it is one of the things that makes me fall for him over and over again all the time. So it has been frustrating to need to stay in one place when we would rather go. But we knew Gabe’s graduation was on the horizon and somewhere near the end of 2012, we started to let ourselves dream again about what we could do when we had the freedom that spring of 2014 would bring.

Although he started out as an engineering student, Gabe felt drawn to math. Specifically to math education. He came home one day and said that it dawned on him that he wanted to be a math teacher. It surprised me for a second, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Because as much as we share a lot of commonalities, our brains couldn’t be more different. Gabe is a math whiz, I’m telling you. So so so much the opposite of myself. It just comes so naturally to him. And I could go into all the ways in which Gabe would make a great teacher, but then we’d all be here for a while, and I’m already trying to curb my long-winded tendencies. When he changed his major, he decided to follow the regular math route (feeling that it would make him a more knowledgeable teacher in the long run), so we knew that after he graduated from the U, he needed to go back either for his teaching certification or his master’s. We weren’t sure if it was going to be right away or down the road after a break from school, but then he found Math for America.

In a nutshell Math for America is a fellowship program (much like Teach for America) that involves a year of schooling to obtain a master’s degree in education and then four years of teaching in a secondary school in the same area. They have locations across the country including New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, San Diego and more. When we realized this would be a perfect fit for us, we both knew almost immediately that New York was our first choice. And after more deliberation, it became our only choice. It excited us so much more than any of the others. So it was decided that we would throw everything we could behind this opportunity and make it Plan A for the future. We took a trip out to New York last year (which I blogged about here) and although that was mostly for fun because it was my first time in the city, it was also a sort of scouting trip. Could we see ourselves there? After a week running around to every corner of Manhattan and then some, the answer was most definitely a resounding yes.

Of course the decision to apply to the program was a tough one as well. We knew we wanted it, but we knew that we would be forsaking other things. For me it was mainly this. Photography. I felt that it just would be too hard to try booking a full year when we might be moving in the middle of it. I didn’t know how to make that work. So I turned down wedding inquiries. For the first time in my career as a wedding photographer, a lot of wedding inquiries. It was exciting to get so many, but devastating every. single. time. I felt so at odds with myself. And for the past year at least, I was in a constant state of anxiety. Not knowing if I was doing the right thing, but also feeling so sure that I was. I didn’t know how to reconcile those conflicting emotions. On the inside I was a wreck for a long, long time. But I was excited and I was proud of Gabe and I was confident in his abilities. And it was my decision. So I made it and I hoped for the best.

As time went on and we drew closer to the time Gabe would be sending in his application, I started to feel better about that choice. It was my intent from the beginning to move my business to New York with us, should we go, but I knew that could potentially mean putting it all on hold for a year, maybe more, as I transitioned into a new market. Did I feel completely stupid putting it all on hold just as I was starting to find my place and gain some footing here in Minneapolis? Yes. Trust me when I say I spent a lot of time beating myself up over it. But I knew I couldn’t be selfish in this situation. I knew that our plan was not just for the next few years, but something that would greatly influence what the rest of our lives would look like. All of it hung in the balance. And between a rock and a hard place, some things have to be sacrificed. And frankly, in life, timing is a bitch. Almost always. But ultimately I knew that as much as I love photography, I also love other things too. And I believe that we are all meant to do more than just one thing no matter how much time we have on this earth. I couldn’t put myself in a box and not see the possibilities for other passions outside of it. And no matter whether I was getting paid to do it or not, I would always have a camera and my abilities. It’s ok if it’s not my full-time job now, or for a really long time, or ever. I had to let myself off the hook, so to speak. To be ok with making mistakes and putting dreams on hold and doing something that I knew was right for me (and for Gabe) whether or not it made sense to anyone else.

I’ll save all the dramatic rendering of what the few months leading up to January 2014 were like. In January we were set to find out if Gabe qualified for an interview. Needless to say, I felt like I was going absolutely crazy with worry. But January brought good news. Gabe would be flying out to New York to interview at the Math for America offices in March. January, February and most of March all felt longer than they ever have in my life. But that Friday in late March came and I dropped Gabe off at the airport and I spent the weekend he was gone with friends to try to get my mind off of my anxiety. When he returned a couple of days later, he was excited. He felt like it had all gone really well. My hopes were already high as it was and as much as I tried to keep myself grounded, I couldn’t. I just felt so sure about all of it. I could see us in New York, I could see our life there laid out in front of me as clear as day and I wanted that for us more than I’ve ever wanted anything. A few days later, on March 26, we both stayed home from work knowing that we wouldn’t be able to do anything until we got the official word. Yes or no. I was in the bathroom blowing my hair dry when Gabe came in and told me he had found out. And it was a no. At first I thought he was kidding, so I asked him over and over again. “Seriously? Wait…really? Are you serious?” I ran to his computer and read for myself. No. They couldn’t accept Gabe at this time. That was it. No explanation, just thank you but we can’t. One minute our life in New York was this lovely dream on the horizon and the next it all just fell apart. We sat on the kitchen floor and cried. Harder than either of us have ever seen each other cry. We cried until we realized we had to pick ourselves up and get out of the house and go about the business of telling people who were waiting to hear the news. This is probably going to sound melodramatic, but that was, thus far, one of the hardest days of my life.

I couldn’t not try to look for the reasons it didn’t work out…it was too depressing otherwise. Over the past month since that day, I have been trying to do just that. Trying to remind myself that everything happens for a reason, but knowing that we also have to chalk it up to life being life. It’s unfair and it doesn’t make sense. Shit happens. And you do your best to get over it.

Two Tuesdays ago I got an email from my mom. My grandmother, who has been living with dementia for the past few years and whose health has been in decline, had gone into the hospital in Owatonna for an echocardiogram and they found a blood clot on her heart. A large one. We were told if it broke free it would cause a massive stroke she wouldn’t survive, and there was no telling when that could happen. She was checked into Mayo that day to see the cardiologist, who reiterated a lot of what her doctor in Owatonna told us. We were told it would be best to move her from the memory care facility she was living in at the time into hospice as soon as possible. She stayed at Mayo for almost an entire week while the arrangements were made and she was moved into hospice last Monday. All at once, as these situations always go, everything else that I had been so upset about disappeared. After we got the news of her echocardiogram, my mother rushed to Minnesota from Illinois and, with her, I spent Friday-Sunday of Easter weekend at Mayo with my grandmother. So many other family members were there as well, staying the night with her and making sure she was comfortable and not afraid. Per hospice request, we have had family members and friends with her 24 hours a day since she moved into hospice last week. Suddenly all of the doubt I’ve had over the past month about life and why things work out the way they do has vanished. Although I am still disappointed that we will not be living in New York (at least not now) I am so grateful. When I’m sitting there with my grandmother and she smiles at me because she knows who I am (although she doesn’t remember names anymore) or when tiny bits of her personality shine through to those of us who are taking care of her, I understand. Had things worked out differently, I wouldn’t have the time I have now to be with her as much as I am. And being with my grandmother is so much more important than anything else. Being there for my mother and with my mother and so many other family members as we draw closer together during something so difficult is also, surprisingly, really beautiful. While I put all my efforts into spending time with my grandmother and my family, it just makes all the worry feel so insignificant.

So much of the path that has led both Gabe and I to this point makes sense now. Life can be so unexpected and wonderful and heartbreaking all at the same time. Obviously we know where we won’t be over the next 5 years, but who knows where we will? We are working on a Plan B that we are excited about and one day we could be doing that or we could be doing any number of things. Ultimately we will find our way together. I don’t know what the future will be for Wildlove Photography which is a scary thing to say because I didn’t think I would have to say it so early on in my journey as a business-owner. But I don’t know much for sure anymore. I am seeing clearer than ever how much is out of our control. But I’m trying to find the good in that.

xo, Meg.

P.S. To my love, with whom I celebrated 8 years of “togetherness” this past Saturday – there is absolutely no one else I would rather go through all of this with than you. Above all else, every day, I am most thankful that we have each other.

4 comments :

  • vickey Weiss

    beautifully written – xoxo

  • Athena

    I only internet know you but what I do know of and about you is so poignantly reiterated in your story here. Your grace and poise and ability to see the best in any situation. Life is a series of missteps and forks in the road and the only thing certain is uncertainty. So many people give up. Give in. Let go of dreams for the sake of sanity. But not you. No. You see it as a reason to just dig right back in and keep going. I know that the whole “everything happens for a reason” idiom is oft overused and terribly cliche, but to every thing there is definitely a purpose.

    You will never know how much this post helped other people find their own direction. Or how beautiful and profound the story of your grandmother is, especially to someone who went through a similar situation not too long ago. We rarely see the ripples that venture outward from our lives – our words and actions and hearts and spirit – by they are there. Reaching, inspiring, touching others in exactly the perfect way.

    At exactly the right time.

    Keep going dear girl. Who cares what direction you’re heading – we all know that it’s the right way. And that’s what matters most.

    Xo
    A

  • Stephanie

    Megan, I’m so sorry to hear this. I firmly believe you’ll end up in New York someday, but what a disappointment for you and Gabe. Hugs.

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