On June 27th, I turned 26 years old. Young in most respects, but it represents several important milestones for me. First being I lost coverage on my folks’ excellent health insurance, so that’s great… BUT more importantly it marked my ten-year anniversary as an official member of the visual media professionals’ community.
My 16th Birthday, getting my driver’s license. A decade on the road and my mother still thinks I can’t drive…
Story time: In my first two years of high school back in the rolling green fields of Delaware, I routinely shot photographs for my school’s yearbook. During those two years, my yearbook adviser seemed to believe I had a modicum of talent, which I shared with my uncle with whom I was and still am very close. As a photography enthusiast in the eighties, he decided to invest in this burgeoning talent and for my sixteenth birthday he bought me my first camera, a Nikon D40x, as well as 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses, and a hot shoe flash. I quickly grew in my abilities and confidence and by my senior year had moved to a semi-pro camera body as well as two professional lenses, and was out-shooting the photography company the school had contracted with to cover off-campus sports and other events. I was also named photography editor of the yearbook which meant that not only were about 85% of the images mine, but I had the final say on every image that went into the book.
Maximum derp with my first camera at yearbook camp. Yes your read that right, yearbook camp. And I wonder why I never had a girlfriend until I was twenty…
Fast forward to 2013, the end of my senior year of college. In addition to having being principal photographer for my college book and working professionally for both on and off-campus entities, I had also added video production to my skill-set to the tune of a bachelor’s degree in the discipline from DeSales University on the recommendation of my TV Production teacher in high school who went there himself. When a position for a full-time visual media specialist opened up at my college shortly thereafter, everybody thought I was a shoe-in for the job. In true Nate fashion, however, I came in second place for the position and was left stuck in the Lehigh Valley with nothing to fall back on. After a brief and disastrous stint with a direct sales scheme, I moved my full weight to pursuing my own business as a full-time job. Having started from basically nothing, I have seen a growth of between 25%-30% each year. It’s been a truly humbling experience and while not always easy, has been the best decision I ever made.
Some wonderful clients and friends at DeSales who, even though they didn’t hire me full-time, still subcontract me for photography for big events while their guy does video. Very grateful!
I was reflecting on all of this a few months ago when I was doing photos at a local middle school’s production of the Peter Pan musical. The theme of not wanting to grow up struck me powerfully. I wasn’t a party kid in college by any stretch, but I was definitely very carefree. As my graduation approached I felt the implications of matriculation beginning to weigh on me. Those first few years were without a doubt the most difficult and frankly depressing of my life. As my business and business sense grew, however, my life really started to fall into place. While watching the kids sing and dance, I couldn’t help but look back on just the past six months. In that time, I got engaged to my college girlfriend of five years after watching her battle her own demons since my graduation, and journeyed to hell and back to purchase our first home in Allentown. We closed on the house on June 30 and will be married in mid-October. But here’s the real kicker; I was able to accomplish all of this with the flexibility of not having a nine-to-five job, while doing the only thing in life I find truly edifying.
Enjoy your youth while you can, Peter Pan… You don’t know how good you have it.
The Lost Boys in the play literally sang a song called “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”, to which I thought ‘well, too bad kids, neither do I’. That said, however, after a decade-long journey in the world of visual media, I’m sort of glad to be grown up… at least in age if not always in behavior. The path I have taken, for better or worse, has brought me to a place I’m thrilled to be at. As I type this, the song I will be dancing to with my bride at our wedding has just started playing on my Spotify. We will be living in a modest but beautiful home that I would never have bought if not for contacts I have made through my business, a business which due to the amazing clients and indeed friends I have made will be able to help support her while she completes her Nursing degree.
In the 1980s high school classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris famously says that “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. It’s been a damn quick decade, that’s for sure. I’m glad to put the tougher times behind me but I’m grateful for the lessons they’ve taught me. As I embark on the next chapter in my life, I do hope that I’m able to stop and look around once and a while; to live in the present moment more than I did in the past few years especially. The future I’ve been looking toward is upon me. Gotta keep working hard, but for the first time, I might finally be able to take a step back and enjoy it.
Here’s to another ten great years!
Break a lens,