While people often start to muse at the end of the calendar year about achievements and missteps, we’re only three months into 2017 and I already find myself deep in reflection. Yesterday was a big day. At first, I thought it was just big because I had just completed teaching my first professional photographer two-day workshop. Exhilarating and exhausting, educating other professionals is something I take great pride in because I am so passionate about community over competition in the photography industry. And what made it so fulfilling for me is that it wasn’t about taking pretty pictures, it was about elevating our service. Taking a different approach to understanding our clients on a deeper level, and giving them something that can only be achieved through genuine devotion. I’ve been passionate about client service since my days on Madison Avenue at J. Walter Thompson back in the early aughts, and this philosophy has stayed with me as I’ve grown Karen Kelly Photography, a business whose purpose now sits alongside my personal identity.
But yesterday was also big for another reason, something I have never talked much about. Yesterday was the two year anniversary of my rollover car accident in the tundra of wintery Iceland, while unbeknownst to me, I was three weeks pregnant with my beautiful boy, Wyatt. Seat belts and gracious passer-bys saved four lives as we crawled out of an upside down truck into -10 degree weather. While there are reasons to shudder every time I’m reminded of the crash, 2 years later there are far, far more reasons to rejoice in the experiences and new relationships I have been blessed with ever since. And suddenly, it’s not an anniversary of an accident: it’s the annual reminder of just how much good fortune the last two years have brought.
Three nights later, after hunting the Northern Lights for two trips to Iceland, she finally showed herself to me at 1:00 AM, 90 minutes north of Reykjavik. I cried and cried. I was overwhelmed with her spectacle while trying to fire off a few decent shots of a phenomena I’d probably never see again. 10 days later, I found out I was pregnant while alone at home. I wrote down the first 10 thoughts that ran through my head when it happened, the first was that I wished Jarett was with me. The second was that my tiny child had survived the crash. The third was that we had seen the Northern Lights together. And I GLOWED knowing that we were already so deeply connected.
The last two years, I have walked (stumbled) through motherhood’s doorway. I’ve seen my cooing newborn turn into a chatty toddler. I have buried my nose in his neck and breathed him in and felt my entire body ignite with a love I never thought possible. I have watched my husband become the INCREDIBLE father I always knew he would be. And I have found a way to balance motherhood with entrepreneurship. Though at times the scales tip, I know how exactly how to get myself back in balance.
The first thing I see when I walk into my office each morning is a quote from Spencer Lum glowing in the computer light above my workspace: “To create a better life means risking the one you have. You have to step off the ledge and feel the full force of your courage.” Every morning I take a deep breath, and summon all my bravery. To me, it’s not about the emails I send or the pictures I process. It’s about life’s greater mission: staying connected to my family, giving my clients an experience that runs as deep as their family lineage, and living a balanced life with intention. These are the things that set me at ease every day.
Every failure, every success, has lead me to this place. I know there is more to come, and I accept it all with courage and readiness. I am so grateful for these reflections. I am so grateful for this life. Thank you for being on this journey with me. None of this would be possible without You.
Image of Karen Kelly by Caroline Talbot Portraits.
Karen is an award-winning, Boston-based photographer specializing in documenting and preserving family history. You can see more of her work online at www.kkpforlife.com, on Instagram or on Facebook. If you’d like to contact her directly, you can find her at firstname.lastname@example.org.