It was late in the winter of 2013 when I returned to Nebraska; slightly battered and beaten, two busted discs in my lower back causing daily pain, a fear I could no longer do what gave me the greatest joy.
For twenty years I had chased the dreams of a photojournalist. It was my identity, who I believed I was and wanted to be.
I believed, if I worked a little harder, put in a little more... everything would work out fine. This dream led me across four continents, through more than a dozen newsrooms, on the sidelines of major games and in the backrooms of shady dreams. I worked from the front seat of my car and through two herniated discs. I saw my images in print on a daily basis, virtual copies crowded my desktop, but I never took the moment to enjoy the work I had, only looking at the next assignment and where that may lead.
In Chicago I lived in a two room apartment, with the second room no larger than a closet. To the right of my bed was the refrigerator, at the foot my desk and out the window a highway and train tracks. I worked as hard as I could; under daily deadlines and trying to elevate my craft to another level. There was constant stress, as is the nature of a newsroom. As soon as one project finished it was forgotten and replaced with the next the headline, and so the days passed. Every day brought bleaker news to the group I worked with, more layoffs and cutbacks in a struggling industry. Aside from the increasing workload, we were faced with the constant threat of ultimately losing our jobs. Which would finally happen to so many of us.
It's hard to let something go, when it's all you know and have dreamt of for so long.
The newsroom was dying and it was slowly taking me with it. This was the moment before the dawn.
Thankfully, I saw the writing on the wall long before this, saving what I could with plans of making a change. I still held out hope that if I worked a little harder... until one day, as I crossed the tracks outside my apartment I came to the realization, one I am not proud of, but one I must share to show there are better choices. I was slowly killing myself, as surely as if I chose to stand on those tracks and wait for the next train to run me down.
This was the moment I knew I needed to make a change. The moment I decided to turn in my resignation. This was the moment I chose happiness, a moment when I began to see the larger picture. There wasn't going to be a big epiphany, there wasn't going to be magical moment until I chose it.
I packed what I had gathered, took the savings gained, and left.
Within several months of turning in my resignation, the owners of the Sun-Times laid off the photojournalism staff. Nearly thirty of my coworkers lost their jobs in one afternoon.
By this time I was already in Nebraska and beginning to heal from this very fine adventure.
Waking before dawn on that cold Nebraska morning, I went to a field near my family's farm. I saw a glimmer of light and a ray of hope for a new day. I took one of the most important photographs of my career, I took a photograph for myself.
I began to invest in myself, and not in my career. I began to photograph the friends and family I had missed while chasing the dreams of tomorrow. I stretched myself in new ways as yoga began to heal my broken back and bruised ego. I found new teachers who taught me the joy of the moment. I coupled my yoga with therapy. I quit smoking and chose a healthier lifestyle. I began to see the beauty around me, and to appreciate it. I established a small business, getting a few clients, treating them well and having fun. Slowly, I beginning to build off that.
I remember coming to Nebraska, broken and scared.
I remember coming to Nebraska to a new dawn.
I'm not sure what the future holds, but I know where I've been.
I wanted to make this first blog post open and honest, as my teachers have taught me, "to lead with the heart".