You know what I love about photography? Ever since I started, it has helped me become a more open person. It has made me so enthralled with people that I want to hear their stories. Photography has become a medium for me to get out of my shell and to trust people again. Why, because I’m asking people to share with me their stories. I’m asking others to open up to me in ways they normally don’t with anyone else. I am asking people, often strangers to give me a piece of themselves. In return, I will give them a piece of me as well.

That’s something that has been hard for me. Trusting people, especially emotionally, has been a misguided adventure in hurt over the years. I’ve loved and lost, been cheated on, suffered loss of friends and all that has done for me is make me into a rather cold person. A friend in college would always say to me “man it’s just cause you’re a cancer” thanks D-BO!. I don’t believe in astrological signs or any of that. What I do believe in however, is the capacity to love someone other than yourself in such a way that it fucking hurts. The thing is, for me it’s always been nothing but hurt. 

I’m not the kind of person to half ass my emotions for anyone. If I like you, I’m going to tell you straight up, hey I like you! I’m not going to play this BS game of, let’s see how much dirt I can get on someone before I tell them I like them, or date multiple people to see which one sticks. That all for me is disingenuous because it sets a precedent that you’re not that special. It tells the other person that, you’re just the one who stuck. It’s all a game and it’s a shitty game. I’m blunt because I have no time to half ass my feelings for anyone. That time could be spent making memories and doing things together.

I get it though, that approach isn’t for everyone and some will say my favourite line “you’re too honest with your feelings. It’s too much”. I understand that and I have no regrets for putting my feelings out there, and after speaking with Michelle, I know I’m doing the right thing. It may be a bit much for some people, but that’s because those people are the ones that don’t know what they want and they think that you’re going to be taking them for a ride because no one nowadays is that honest and open.

Michelle went on one hell of a ride throughout her early years and the conversation with her, blew my mind. We spent almost 2 hours talking, so much so that I forgot to take photos, but it was well worth it. If you want to know what a mentally tough woman is, this is it! 

From the off, I knew I wanted to talk to her about love and dating. We had a prior conversation about what was going on with her in that area and since it was a fresh topic, I asked if it was ok for us to talk about it given her situation. She obliged and this is her story.

So Michelle is a mother of one and her ex husband messed her up. He messed her up so bad that at 49, she’s still recovering. The thing is, she’s doing a bang up job of her recovery. We spoke about the pitfalls of dating in this current sphere and what it means for her to, only now, discover who she really is. 

It’s like I’m living my life in reverse. I feel like, there’s so much I’m experiencing now that I should’ve done when I was in my 20’s.

It felt awkward for me to ask her some personal questions because I knew it would open wounds and the last thing I wanted to do was make someone go through a suffering again. However, I gauged the situation and I asked questions and she told me all about her marriage. She spoke of how he treated her, how it affected her, how he treated their friends and it all opened my eyes to a kind of pain that I was all too familiar with. 

When you trust someone, you trust them fully. When you love someone you love them wholly. It’s to a point where, you know you’re being vulnerable and it probably isn’t good, but that’s because you found something in that person that makes you want to share with them a piece of who you are. That’s aspect of being a genuine person is a dangerous thing because as she found out, he wasn’t the one for her. He wasn’t genuine with her, he did things behind her back that would strain their relationship and mentally, that took it’s toll. 

“…you know when I look back, there are things I should’ve seen. There are things that were present, but the thing that did it, was when he sold some dear friends’ records and kept the money after he told them he’d sell them for them. That was it. If you treat your friends that way, that says a lot about you…

After she decided it was time to go and she left, the road to recovery was and is hard. She found strength in those around her, becoming more active and getting back out there in the dating world.

It was at this moment that our conversation did something to me. She spoke to me about a guy she was seeing, a military guy. She said she’s never seen someone be so blunt with her about feelings, circumstances and their relationship. The more she told me about that relationship, the more it dawned on me that maybe it’s a military thing. 

As someone from the military, you’re trained to have no emotions. That concept for me worked well because I could hide my emotions and just focus on the task at hand. We are trained to be machines that learn processes through endless repetition devoid of emotional input. After a while though it does begin to take its toll. Things happen around you that make you see how fleeting life can be. It makes you realize that, we can bottle things up all we want, but in the end it’s going to all come out and seeing what’s happened to others from the military, things can get really bad.

"...Some people just don't understand what it took for you to open up to them. Being blunt and direct sets the stage that you're going to be as honest with them as possible. Who has time to play these bs games? After the shit I've been through I'd rather lay it all out there, I've wasted too much time. I learned that from [this guy]. I was so taken aback by his bluntness that I fell for him. It was pure because who knows what could’ve happened to him? He let it all out and it was great.

This entire conversation is what I love about photography. Even though I didn’t get around to taking all the photos I wanted, it was because of photography that this conversation was even able to take place. Photography has definitely opened my mind to different emotional spheres that would’ve continued to be suppressed. It’s making me realize that, for me to get the emotion that I want out of people, I have to be as open with them as they are with me. That level of trust has to be there because they’re being vulnerable with you.

Hearing Michelle’s story also taught me that, even though it’s cliché, time waits for no one. There are things that happened in your life that happened for a reason. She had to endure her ex-husband to find herself now and meet some amazing people now. She is loving wholly and fully and experiencing the same and a level of intimacy that she’s not used to but it’s great. It’s all about not being afraid to put yourself out there and recognizing that your brand of love may not be for everyone, but your brand of love will make you genuine. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and make connections.