How To Figure Out What You Want In Life

I'm grateful!  Thank you for listening to me open up.  It's hard to be vulnerable. After I published my post last night,  I thought to myself, who really is going to care about me?  Will people think I'm an idiot? Will they think I'm weak? But you wanna know something?  I'm tired of living in fear because I'm worried about what others are going to think about me. I used to not be this way, but insecurities always seem get the best of me. 

I’m the type of person who works really great with lists. I’m satisfied and feel accomplished when I can check things off. The last few months I have been feeling like doing absolutely nothing.  My drive has been gone.  I know I need to work, and have a pencil and paper in my hand, but nothing is written down. Therefore, I’m twiddling my thumbs all day doing a whole lot of nothing “pretending” to work. I’m doing the surface work that needs to be done, but that stuff isn’t the fun part.  It’s time to go deep! 

So yesterday, with my coffee in hand, my favorite tunes on, I didn’t look at my emails or social media or my calendar for that matter! Instead I googled “How to figure out what you want in life”?  It’s kind of a dumb question, right?  Like, the internet is not going to know what I want in life. But, I needed something to start with. I came across this post from Forbes and just decided to “not work” yesterday and work on me! As my friend Angela mentioned to me last night “time waits for no one”— so it’s about damn time I start putting myself first. I started to answer the questions and I could immediately feel a spark being lit inside me.  So much actually, that it inspired me to write my “opening up” post yesterday.  And, I’m being dead honest here, I’ve never fully opened up so publicly. 

I invite you to join me! Go through these questions and answer them! I’d love for you to share them with me, either in the comments below, on social media, or a private email. Let’s lift each other up! Be sure to follow through with the the last prompt in the article “connect the dots”.   OMFG — the dots are connecting!  I see them! 

P.S. The photo above is a rare self-portrait. It was for an application to a photography retreat. I decided to bare it all, strip naked, at sunrise, because I wanted to feel free! If that pic (rolls and all) is not vulnerable, I don’t know what is! 


What am I known for? 

I’m fiercely loyal, a competitor and opinionated. I have high standards and don’t like to be wrong. If I am wrong, or don’t know something, I’m totally fine with asking for help, or questioning to know more. I am deeply connected to my family and friends. I don’t consider myself to have a lot of “friends” because I prefer deep connections over fake missed connections. I am photographer who is really good at shooting candids, portraits, and details. I’m really good at capturing how things feel in a beautiful and thoughtful way. I’m an award winning photographer and have been published in print and on the web dozens of times. I have dabbled in the print publishing world, in the advertising world, and also currently split my time as a photographer to work in the blogging/publishing world. I am a giving person and find joy by giving - be it advice, a gift, or a piece of my “gift” (photographs). I’m really good at setting goals and accomplishing them. I’m a really good photo editor. I’ve got street smarts. I don’t like to take “no” for an answer. I’m a pusher. I have a really good eye (discerning). I thrive when people tell me I can’t do something. 

What do I offer and that is significantly different from what the best in your field do? 

I don’t know anyone like me! I run a wedding blog and also am a wedding photographer in the luxury wedding market. I have always been someone that doesn’t “follow trends” and have always gone on in life at the beat of my own drum. I photograph weddings in a way that inspires me.  I am inspired by amazing street photography from the 40s, 50s and 60s. If I could have met Garry Winograd  I would die happy.  His work is the epitome of what inspires me the most.  Realness, authenticity, a little grit, a little sass, just wildly so good. There are few photographers in the wedding world that I know that shoot this way.  I also mix that style with solid editorial / magazine like images because that’s what I learned in college. No one has my personality. I have a way of getting people to open up to me in front of the camera, to feel vulnerable and real. Sure, others do this in their own way, but I don’t know that anyone could really be me. I have a colorful background.  I’ve always dabbled in different aspects of the creative field: I worked at a film lab, I worked at different two magazines, I worked for two totally different advertising photographers. All those jobs along the way gave me many powerful tools that I use today. As a blogger, I have learned more about SEO, advertising, building relationships, wordpress, html, social media then I ever thought possible.  As a wedding photographer with a commercial background I know how to market in a way that most wedding photographers don’t.  I know what editors and art directors want. I know how to not waste someones time. I feel like i’m in the “know” constantly because I’m always doing research (blogging world, reading, social media), and crazy and exhausting as that sounds, I love doing it! 

What was I noticed for back when I was a teen and young adult?

I was a really good soccer player! It didn’t start out that way actually. I always wanted to be a forward and score goals, but I was best at defense. Funny thinking about it today and where I’m at in my life because I was the kind of goalie that took risks and put fear in forward’s faces trying to score on me. I used to be this way in all aspects of my life and I’m just connecting the dots RIGHT NOW! 

In high school I really enjoyed photography.  I wasn’t really good at first, but started to show a passion for it and my high school teacher saw something in me that I was incapable of seeing. His dedication to my success actually led me to pursue a local photography job, and then not getting that job led me to move to San Francisco, and here I am!

I was a really good leader at my job, Starbucks, and earned rank and respect by working hard. 

In college, I had one professor that saw a light in me as well.  So much that he went out of his way to write me a letter telling me that he knows I'll have a career in photography. I’ll find that letter and share it soon!  He also nicknamed me “Hurricane McNeill” after some famous boxer I think. I like to think it’s because I always enter a room, or a scene like a hurricane, but I think his reasoning was a little different! There was one particular class that me and my college BFF took, 4x5, and it was really hard for us. We were practically failing. Our Professor said if we re-did each assignment each week we could bring our grade up. Ana and I both knew we would fail each week, so we automatically assumed to just set out time to re-do the assignments. My professor saw our passion, and I’m not totally sure that’s when “he knew” (maybe I’ll ask him!), but I have a feeling it is. We worked really hard! 

What skills, talents, abilities make you stand out?

I’m a great photographer with a good eye. I’m a great art director. I have great intuition. I don’t have a problem speaking up and saying something is not right. I’m a good director. I’m great at researching! I’m a great blogger and photo editor and social media maven. 

What life experiences have shaped you in special ways?

Being hit by a car and almost losing my life (although probably sub-conciously) shaped me. My grandpa said I never complained about what happened to me. I just powered through. I also wanted what I wanted. I wanted to play soccer. I didn’t like to be confined. I was bullied because of my neck braces and halo. Those things made me stronger. I was bullied because I was fat, but I pushed through. IT MADE ME STRONG. Failing makes me strong. Having a goal and trying to accomplish it makes me strong. My dad always tells me “If you see a brick wall Chriistina, you’re going to run right through it. You’re not going to inspect it, or try and around it, or jump over it, you’re just going to push through it”. That is very much me and I am proud of that. 

Buying a brand new truck, lifting it, and then 3 months later deciding to move to San Francisco was pivotal for me. I held onto that truck for about a year, but giving it up was freeing. Moving to San Francisco when I met a guy that made me feel like magic was also pivotal. I didn’t allow a crush, love story dictate my path. The ending was very painful for me, but I came out on top and met the man I was supposed to marry, things always happen the way they should! :) 

Going to college even though my family kind of forgot about me made me special. My family really pushed hard with my older brother and then when it came time for me to go through the college applications, they just didn’t push, or help me. I am the reason why I went to college. I am the reason why I am where where I am. I pushed for this. I worked for this. My family didn’t believe I would survive in San Francisco, and here I am, 14 years later, still kicking. 

What are your Life Intentions?

To be a good person. To give. To give what people have given me. To provide joy. To fill a need. To provide inspiration. To enjoy the little things. To enjoy what I have. To enjoy the green grass, or brown grass, or dirt. To really just feel.  To be grateful. To make people happy by opening up and giving them myself in a spiritual, uplifting kind of way.  How I do that? The easy answer is photography, but just being myself in work or with friends is how I give it back. 

What are your core values – the non-negotiables you need in life to be happy and fulfilled?

I need to feel appreciated. I need to feel respected. I need people to trust me. I need structure and a good work-life / home-life balance. I need financial security. 

Whom do you love to serve and support, and why?

Honestly? I love giving, especially to those are are willing to receive. I am fiercely passionate about what I do and if I can help a friend, colleague or family member in need, I’m there! It makes me feel good to be able to help someone and lift someone up. I love getting back what I have learned along the way. 

When you’re 90 years old looking back, what do you want to have given, contributed, stood for and achieved?

I always wanted to be a teacher when I was little. So when I was in high school, I got a scholarship from a local women’s group to be a “teacher”. It was exciting to be chosen to receive this honor, but I’ve always felt guilty about receiving that scholarship because I never actually perused being a teacher (in a classroom that is!).  I didn’t follow that path directly because I pursued being a creative. However, at 33 I’m thinking to myself that teaching others what I know has always been in my bones. (AHA MOMENT) So ultimately, no matter what age I am, I’m ALREADY proud of who I am today and what I stand for. I know I will die happy if I continue to listen to my gut, give back and do what makes me feel good, and using my voice to stand up for what I truly believe in. 

I’m kind of skirting around this question, aren’t I? I want to give back what I know.  I want to mentor. I want to watch my friends and family soar. I want to help people think outside the box. I want to photograph and document moments, days, and help preserve history. I guess ultimately “giving” is giving away my gift and sharing it with the world. Nothing makes me happier then making someone else happy. That fuels my soul. 

What do I want to achieve?  It would be nice to be recognized as someone who’s won a ton of awards, been published, authored books. But really, I think my greatest achievement would be to stay true to myself, because being me is easier then pretending to be someone I am not. I want to be remembered and recognized for my passion, my talent, for giving no fucks, for speaking my mind, and for always standing up for what’s right.