Now that the school year has started up, I find myself reflecting on the last few years of my life. Every year around mid August, I’d be packed up and preparing myself mentally and physically for school. Now, in late August, I find it strange that I have some free time to myself. It’s weird to feel unproductive when I’ve been taking classes or working since I started.
College was an awesome experience for me – I got to see a whole new world (literally) and learn about things I had no idea existed. My friends got me into modeling, then photography, and then I found a new community because of it. I learned so much more about people than I thought I ever would, became more patient with others and myself, and finally figured out a good method for navigating the world.
Some people go to college to learn how to do a job. Some people go to college to socialize. I went to college to “collect skills”. I wanted to learn what I could in the hopes that they would lend themselves to doing something I enjoy – which, at this point, is still fairly broad. The skills I picked up in college that I use most often are my photography and modeling skills, truthfully.
Back to college, though. I did a lot of super cool things, and I plan on going back to pursue a Master’s degree in something related to Higher Education in the near future! I really need to take a break before I can go back though, especially with how taxing my senior year was on my mental health. With full certainty, the most taxing thing was the inevitable uncertainty looming on the other side of graduation. But now that I’m here, I’ve been having a great time. I took a month off to finish executing a variety of creative collaborations that I had been planning, reevaluate life away from college, and begin searching for a job.
I am incredibly grateful for all the places and ideas that I was able to explore thanks to the support of the CMU Honors program, CMU faculty, and all the wildly ridiculous and interesting students I met through classes or time together in the residence halls.
If you’ve been following my life for a while, you’ve definitely heard me talk about Alex. She’s one of the better known pals on my blog because of photography- but you probably haven’t heard as much about Elle, or Mariah, Julia, Mark, Naomi, Trent, David, or any of the other people who saw me so often during my first year of college. You probably also haven’t heard about Megan, Sienna, Quinn, Brenna, or any of the cool people from downstairs that would apologize through their ceiling any time the door would slam. Then Callie, Austen, Tyler, Tom, Emily, Hannah, or any of the other cool people I got to hang out with during my first year as a staff member of the Robinson & Barnes Community. Finally, after people shifted around, I ended my senior year with Megan, Brandon, Al, and everyone on R&B’s staff (sorry y’all, I’m not listing your names here – but catch me next time I’m in town and I’ll buy you a treat to make up for it). And those are just student names.
As for faculty, I want to extend a thorough and enthusiastic thank you to Luanne, Jen, Matt, Ken, Doug, Smith, Phame, Judy, Marko, and Brenda. I spent a good amount of time chatting with professors and advisers between classes, whether it was about the course material or just joking about life. I truly feel like I would have been much dumber if it weren’t for the conversations I had with these people. The faculty and staff did an amazing job of creating a supportive environment for me, and I’m eternally grateful for their support – it was because of them that I was able to travel to Denmark, Italy, and South Africa. It was because of them I was able to afford college. It was because of them that I STAYED in college through the academic and emotional challenges I faced. It was because of them that I grew as a person, and their insights guided me through several challenging situations.
ResLife was an amazing experience, from start to finish. I have to say, I preferred my time as a resident assistant much more – through being an RA, I found out how passionate I was about connecting with people and helping them. I might not have figured out exactly what I want to do with my life, but it confirmed that I definitely want to help others figure out what their place is in the world too. Being an RA, though, gave me a team of people that I knew had my back. Our hall director, Luanne, was an amazing supervisor. Not only did she take the time to get to know us as people and ask about the things we held near and dear, she found ways to challenge us that specifically fit our skills and where we needed to grow. Our staff, especially the last year, was a strong unit who really cared about the other people on our team. Tea times, card games in the lobby, family dinners, and more – all completely unforgettable. (Reunion soon please!!) Because of my time in ResLife, I learned and felt the value of being in a community, and took my community-building knowledge back to Detroit with me.
I also had the unique opportunity to work with high school seniors as they learned about CMU through the Campus Ambassador program. It was through this program that I met the wonderful Jen Morneau, who is a ray of sunshine in any weather, and one of the kindest, most fun people you’ll ever meet. Jen is also a spectacular cheerleader of a person, and when I’m feeling down in situations, I think about what she would say to me if she were there. In the Admissions office, I got to work alongside THE Callie Beltowski, who is wacky, creative, and warm – her kindness literally exudes from her, and I’m so glad to say that I can call her a friend. I had the honor of photographing her and her boo for their engagement photos, and my heart swelled up so much when I got a Save The Date with my photo on it. They made me fall in love with photographing couples. However, when Callie graduated, I got a new partner, who was equally wacky, but in very different ways – Megan and I picked up and started working right away on the systems we had on place, and between the two of us, we were able to reformat the way we kept track of our work. (Hope the stuff we left behind works for you, Nick and Lindsay!)
When I was in need of a pick-me-up, I would make it a point to do something for someone else. During sophomore year, Ken moved into the office down the hall from my dorm room, so I would stop by to visit. A couple times with art, and once with a plant. (If you’re reading this, Steve is doing well – you’ll get your plant back soon!) We talked about life plenty of times, and I’d like to think our conversations helped him take a break from thinking about the chaos of Honors students schedules. As one would with most people, we talked about life and the wild and wacky things that come with it – thanks for also appreciating the humor in my life, Ken. I’ll make sure to come visit when I’m back in town!
The other advisor I made a point of visiting was a philosophy professor. (I know, gross. Who wants anything to do with philosophy?) I honestly don’t know what to say about Smith. He was pretty cool, I guess. We had a lot of good conversations that were also plenty strange, and classes with him helped me figure out the logistics of arguments more (even though I didn’t take logic with him. Go figure).
Anywhere I went, on any part of campus, I knew that there was a community of people that were there to help me grow and flourish while I was on campus. CMU, thank you for that. When people talk about how CMU being someplace that offers big school opportunities (like research, study abroad, and internships) with the community of a smaller school, they’re exactly right. I think I had one of the best college experiences that someone could have had, ever.
I learned plenty of great tips and tricks related to communicating with people while I was at CMU, a couple things about conducting research, and plenty about working on spreadsheets and data sets. I can’t say that I learned anything from my philosophy classes, though I did get better at thinking and problem solving. Technically, I did learn things from my modeling and photography experiences at CMU, even though they weren’t learned in a classroom.
Modeling taught me how to hold composure in any circumstances, and how to will myself through difficult occasions. It also gave me a much better understanding of how to communicate with someone in a give-and-take relationship.
Photography taught me how to direct people and communicate in a way that people understand. It taught me how to see people how they see themselves. It taught me that so much of what we see is what we have chosen to see.
Both taught me the value of intentionality in artistic expression, communication, and most importantly, genuine connection with other people. My best work has come from building relationships with the people I’m creating with – not just because we have trust in each other, but because we feel comfortable enough to try new things, which helps greatly when trying to do innovative work.
“I get it Emily, you learned a lot and you wanted to express gratitude for all the things you got to do. Great. What about what you’re doing in your time between your undergraduate degree and your Master’s?”
Well, I decided to take time off for my mental, emotional, and creative well-being. I’ve decided to rebrand my photography to focus on capturing moments of sweetness between parents and their kids, couples who have fallen in love with every bit of each other, and the excitement that comes along with life changes like getting engaged, getting married, or having kids. Like I mentioned, I’m a sucker for moments of genuine connection, and getting to be a part of some people’s favorite moments of their lives is motivating the shift more than anything. It’s like trying out for the support character in a play because you want it, and then getting cast! A fantastic feeling, really.
Yes, the fashion stuff is sticking around! It’s incredibly fun to do, but I need a break from the concept development. So many of the ideas I’ve shot have been ideas that I’ve formulated, planned – found people, resources, materials, locations, etc. – shot, edited, and published. That’s a lot of work! It’s creatively rewarding, but I’ve found that it hasn’t been emotionally fulfilling the way I need it to be for something that usually ends up being so personal.
From here, the plan is to connect with new clientele for my photography business, save up some money, and return to school for my Master’s. Other goals include: building up and investing in the Detroit arts community, connecting with other creatives, and enjoying my time exploring and interpreting the world as a visual artist and curious human.
The world is full of adventures waiting to be had, both big & small.
Thanks for keeping up on my adventures! If you’re interested in supporting this friendly artist, get in touch with me using the contact page. I’d love to hear from you, so get in touch whenever 🙂