It was my birthday in August, and with it, I am squarely in my mid-30s now. In some ways, I feel very old (hello, TikTok stars, how are you all such babies?!) and in other ways, I feel like just gotten to a point in my life where I feel aware of who I am. I am more confident in making decisions based on my desires, and not the whims of the media or outside influences. This ability ebbs and flows though, I am not impervious to outside influence.
The last year was full of artistic and professional burnout. There was a point in there, when I debated never picking up a camera again. I couldn’t find joy in my chose craft at all. So, I stepped back from photography. I finished renovating, painting, and then sold the home I thought we’d live in for decades. I packed our lives into boxes, put them on a ship, and moved across the world. I started writing again, I went back to playing the piano, I started painting and designing and making digital art. I did nothing. I read a bunch of books. I danced in the kitchen.
We spent months without seeing anyone outside our home, with our only contact being on a screen. There were days in the past year when the weight of the world at large, and the world at home, was enough to crush me. To keep me from wanting to get out of bed. To make me question the very fabric of who I am, and what I’ve dreamed of. On those days, I questioned every decision I’d made in recent years, but especially the ones that led to us living abroad. And on other days, the path felt very clear and focused. Clarity in one area of my life often leads to clarity in another area as well.
As I posted earlier this year, I reevaluated my entire wardrobe after we moved. I’ve been working hard to slowly add only pieces I love to my wardrobe, and to shop from smaller, sustainable, and more local, brands as much as possible. It hasn’t been easy, but as much as it’s hard work, I do enjoy knowing that I’ve carefully selected all the pieces that I’m adding into my closet.
And as we venture out into the world at large, as things have reopened and we make more plans for the future, I am also reevaluating where I spend my time, my money, and my energy. Trying to figure out my next steps for work and life, and finding my own voice again. I’ve stopped fighting it when I have the urge to deep dive into something, and instead, embrace it. I research the heck out of something, and then, when I’ve found my answers, I can securely move forward.
I’ve made another trip around the sun and come to the realization that I’m most likely not neurotypical, and that it both makes quite a bit of sense, and doesn’t surprise me much at all. I’ve realized that making new friends is like speed dating and that’s made it easier. I’ve decided that I’m going to conquer my fears and say yes more. I’m going to try things and tell myself it’s okay to suck at them. I’m going remember to make mistakes and not get tangled up in mental self-flagellation afterwards. I’m going to teach myself – and the little human I’m raising – that mistakes are normal, that being perfect isn’t the goal, that joy can be found in the darkest of days, and that the little moments are the most important.
About a year ago, I started asking N to tell me a good thing every night, and we do a bad thing as well. At first, it started as a way to find small joys in the midst of a life changing pandemic. And then, it became a way to remind us both that happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light (Harry Potter). And then, it made me realize that it was a way to know my child better. To know what brings them joy, and to find ways to turn the bad moments around. To find the things that really matter (spoiler alert: it’s time with friends, ice cream, Story Time on Zoom, and calling her grandma) so that we can keep finding that joy in life.
So, in a way, I guess my 4 year old has taught me one of the greatest lessons of the past two years. Figure out what little things make you happy every day, and keep doing them. If you can’t think of one thing that made you happy that day, you need to reevaluate your priorities.
I first picked up a camera with the intention of making art, and not just preserving memories, when I was 14 or 15. I loved that it gave me a way to easily share my world view with others, and I enjoyed it. I entered a few photography contests in high school, but mostly just did it because I loved it. This joy of taking photos and documenting life continued into a gap year in the Czech Republic and the first year of college.
Towards the end of that first year, I got the idea of working for the college yearbook and newspaper as a photographer. I was photographing things that were still fun to me, and it was fun to have some extra money in my bank account each month. I had another job slinging coffee, and then working with kids, but photography became a bit of a “side hustle” for me. I liked it.
But after graduating in 2010, applying to jobs day after day after day, and finally, despite a college degree, I went back to slinging coffee (for a large green and white logoed company out of Seattle) because it was the job that paid the most, and where I could get hired. At the same time, my friends were getting engaged left and right, and a few asked me to take some photos of them. From their, the idea grew, and I started working as a second shooter at weddings and opened my business in 2012. It was a proper side hustle now, helping me pay my down my large pile of student loans.
A couple years later, that side hustle became my day job when I quit the last of my day jobs (I had two, because neither had full time hours). Photography became my day and night job. It took over my whole life. All my other hobbies were thrown out the window. I took on more and more work to build my portfolio, to build my brand. I planned and shot creative shoots when I wasn’t shooting paid work, all to have more content. I did shows to get my name out, and shot more to cover those costs. I took on more work to save up for a house. We bought a house. I worked and worked, and when I wasn’t working as a photographer, I was working with my husband to renovate our house.
We had a kid, and I cut back a bit, because we couldn’t afford childcare, even with me working full time. I worked during naptimes, tag teaming childcare with my husband (the first two summers after our daughter was born, I walked out the door as my husband came home 3-4 times a week for consults, meetings, or shoots). I was up until midnight or later most nights working. My days were full of parenting, my evenings were for photography, and my weekend were filled with weddings and working on our house. The little free time I filled with traveling or the little volunteer work I squeezed in. Sometimes I worked out. But hobbies? I didn’t have any. Photography was my hobby. Renovating our home was my hobby.
In 2020, when I cleared off my desk so my husband to work from home for a few weeks, I had a feeling this was the end of the business I built. First, I deep cleaned my house (because I needed to do something with my hands). Then, as the days dragged to weeks and months, as I saw the writing on the wall, I told my husband that this was the end of my photography business. I officially closed it at the end of 2020, because of our move to Germany.
Because somewhere in the past 13 years since that first time I was a paid photographer, my passion for photography, my “muse” had abandoned me. I was constantly struggling to stay focused, I was in a panic to keep booking, more and more, to make sure I was doing it. The pressure to pay my bills, to be a success story has killed it. The passion was gone, and I had let my hobby become my side hustle and then my day job and then a thing I despised.
I went six months without picking up a proper camera. The desire to create was completely gone. But, gradually, that desire has come back. My desire to make photographic art for me, to share it because I love it, is back. I’m not currently interested in shooting for others, but the itch to create it back. I’ve picked up a few old hobbies and I’m looking forward to trying out a few more when we’re allowed outside our homes again. We’ve moved, selling the house we loved. My new and old hobbies are all things I love, but – with the exception of one – I have no desire to make money off of.
The one exception? I’m working on a book. I’m writing a story that I want to write, and maybe someday, I’ll be able to sell that story and make some money. But I’m writing it for me, not for my bank account. If I stay up till the wee hours of the morning, it’s because my muse and I are on a roll. It’s for the passion, not for the dollars.
But all is not lost. In the fractured remnants of my business, I pulled the things I learned, the things I was good at, out. I pieced them together, and am in the process of opening a new business as a virtual assistant. It’s a job, not a side hustle. And my hobbies are things I do for fun. If I start making art again, I may choose to sell that art in some way (because my husband has made some valid points about the limited space on our walls), but I’m here to tell you that you can have fun at a hobby and not turn it into a way to make money.
You can play the piano because it makes you happy. You can paint because you want to learn to paint. You can practice yoga even if you never want to teach it. Hobbies are the way our brains relax, they’re things that bring us joy. And while you shouldn’t hate your job, you shouldn’t rely on your job to bring you joy and money. Find joy in living, and live that joy.
What happens when you purge a bunch of clothes because of the pandemic and an international move? You end up with a very limited wardrobe. As we emerge into a new world in 2021, I’m searching for a few key things to fill out my closet, but in the meantime, here’s what I currently own:
Tops: 23 + 6 sweaters (4 purchased in 2020) 9 of those are short sleeved tops, which is my largest category. My tops are also the area of my closet that I struggle with the most. Trying to find a balance between simple pieces that aren’t black, white, or grey. This is an area I need to work on, and I’m planning to slowly replace some of my older tops with high quality and eco-friendly brands over the next few years. I’ll probably retire a few of my tops that don’t fit me quite right anymore, and I’m hoping to invest in a couple new pieces to replace some worn ones.
Bottoms: 18 (2 purchased in 2020) 5 of those are shorts, 6 of them are athletic wear, and only 3 pairs of jeans. And in true 2020 fashion, the only bottoms I’ve added in the past 18 months have been athlesuire. I’m looking to replace/add to my jeans and other bottoms this year. Only 2 are skirts, which I haven’t worn in ages.
Dresses: 6 (1 purchased in 2020) This is a section of my closet that got cut quite a bit when we moved. I didn’t wear many dresses over the last couple years, chasing a kiddo, and I needed to purge some out that just weren’t serving me. My dresses run from very casual t-shirt dresses to fancy cocktail dresses.
Shoes: 10 (3 purchased in 2020) Another area that took a big hit, I donated every single pair of my heels in 2020, except for my ballroom dance heels. I’m hopeful that I can get back into dance sometime soon. All my heels were cheap, none of them fit my feet well, and so I purged them. I did purchase two pairs of casual shoes (both from Allbirds) and one pair of snowboots last year. I’m looking to find a new pair of heels, and some black sandals this year. My favorite sandals, that I bought 5 years ago in Athens, will probably need to be replaced sometime soon, but I’m hoping to make it back to Athens to get a new pair before that happens!
Jackets: 8 (1 purchased in 2020) This is an area that could probably use some work, and I have a few here that don’t get much wear. Both of my blazers aren’t worn much, and my black one needs tailoring, but I’m not going to replace it, because not only is a nice piece, it matches one of my skirts for a suit set. The only jacket I bought in 2020 was my 3/4 length down coat, which was been amazing for the winter here in Munich. The one thing I’d like to add back to my wardrobe is a leather jacket. I had one for quite a few years, but got rid of it, and I’m searching for a new one. My last one was a red moto jacket, and I’m not sure if I should go with a color or stick to black for my next one. But I’m looking for something less boxy for the next one.
Athletic gear, sleepwear, underwear, etc: Unknown I don’t count these, as I don’t have a lot of athletic specific items. I usually have about 2 weeks worth of underwear and a week’s worth of bras and try to replace what is worn every 12-18 months. I should probably pare down and replace some of my swimwear, but I’ll get to that when I can actually go to a pool again.
Scarves: 10ish? I didn’t count my scarves, but I did donate a few of them before the move. All the ones I have left are either pretty special to me or fill a certain niche in my closet.
Total items purchased in 2020: 11 Not too bad! I’m probably going to be higher than that in 2021, since quite a few of my shirts are in desperate need of replacement, but I am going to aim to keep it under 20 pieces.
For 2021, my goal is to purchase less than 20 items, and to have half of the items I buy be used and/or from small shops and ethical brands. Ideally, I’d have 3/4 of the items from used, or small shops and ethical brands, but I think this will be harder to do with the pandemic and so many lockdowns here in Germany. I’ve also got 3-4 pieces that need to be tailored this year: the blazer below from Banana Republic, and a vintage dress and vintage skirt that both need to be hemmed. So I’m hoping to find someone who can do this work for me, since it’s above my sewing skills, and get these pieces back to work in my closet!
Over the winter, I made a plan to stop shooting weddings. I announced that here on the blog at the end of January. I had started working on a new business plan and I was really excited to see where 2020 would take me. I went on vacation to Palm Springs during the first week of February, got sick the next week (was it? wasn’t it? we’ll never know) and when I finally felt better in March, the world shut down. And my new business plan was dead in the water. My industry is dead. My business plan relied heavily on the wedding and event industry, my industry, being busy.
And then, two weeks ago, my husband got a job offer in his hometown of Munich, Germany. This isn’t something that was unexpected. We had been making plans to move to Germany for a while now. But it was much sooner than expected, with a much faster timeline that we expected. And so we’re moving this fall! My husband leaves in a few weeks, the kiddo and I will follow after we get the house packed and ready to sell. And I really don’t know what is next.
Do I restart my business as a photographer in Munich? Do I pursue another self employed gig there? How do I even go about starting a business in Germany? Do I work remotely as an American company or for one? Do I find a full time job in Munich? That last one isn’t as bad as I first thought, if the benefits are anything like my husband’s job offering (6 weeks of vacation time, what?!). For now, I know that I need to finish the projects that are currently open in our house, pack up our belongings (and sell what we aren’t taking) and figure out where we’re living after the temp housing we’re booking. This site won’t go away, no matter what I do. Maybe I’ll blog about life abroad, or maybe I’ll spin it into something new. Who knows?
Over the past year, we’ve done most everything with the following question to guide us: does this move us closer to our goal, or further away? For us, the goal was moving to Munich. So, every big purchase, every choice we made, every house project, etc. was made with that in mind. It seems sudden to those who didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes. Just like it seems like a duck is gliding effortlessly across a like, all while paddling like mad under the surface.
I am endlessly grateful for the nine years I’ve had running this business. I’m leaving on a very, very strange note, but I am proud of the work I’ve done over the years. So! Work towards your goals. Live the life your heard desires. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and vote in every election.
While things will be slow here, you’ll be able to find updates about our new plans on Instagram at @wenzel.haus
Our lives are defined by a series of moments. A flip book of little snapshots that make up a whole life. Blink and the years fly by. That’s why I became a photographer. To define those moments in the flipbook of people’s lives.
All my life, I’ve wanted to tell stories. Stories have shaped me into who I am today. My great-grandma’s stories of leaving Switzerland as a teen. My grandfather’s stories of serving in World War Two. My mama’s stories of visiting her grandparents’ store as a child. As a nerdy, artistic kid who never fit in, books were my best friends. I laughed at the escapades of Anne of Green Gables. I dreamed of magic with Harry Potter. I fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett. I drew and read and dreamed and wished for a place where I could sum up the world in a few hundred pages. I traveled the world to find something that I couldn’t define. I went to college to study history because I needed to know why those stories were so important. I saw how stories could shape the world. I learned to use my skills as a photographer to capture other people’s stories.
As I get older, the stories I read and want to tell are changing. Last year, I cut way back on shooting weddings, and recently, I realized, it was time to put aside that story. I won’t say that I will never shoot another wedding, because I might change my mind in a couple years and miss weddings. For now, I want to focus on other things, on other stories. I’m not sure what will happen with the website or the blog, but my goal is to catch up on my backlog this year, and enjoy these last few weddings. I’ve been shooting a lot more families and small businesses, and I’m not sure what the future will hold at this moment. I know I’ll always be a storyteller, and I’m opening my heart up to the next chapter of stories.
I’ve got some ideas, and I hate to be vague, but first, I’m going to enjoy the last bit of this season of my life, and spend some time trying new things, before I make any announcements.
I feel like this summer just flew past us. Maybe it’s because we skipped fall and with the snow (snow!) last weekend, I feel like I should be getting ready for Christmas instead of Halloween. Ahhh! July and August were good. July was super super busy, and I helped organize a huge event for my neighborhood. August I took some time off and was able to catch up on a few personal things and really breathe. It was nice. I need to do that every summer.
1. We hopped over to Montana/Idaho and rode the Hiawatha Trail with my family. We’ve been doing this off and on for over a decade (H and I rode it for the first time in 2008!), and it’s crazy how popular and busy it has gotten.
2. Running running running. I can’t even tell you where I took this photo, because all I did all month in July was dash from an event to a meeting to my office and back again. It was bonkers, I was beat, and yet, I loved every minute of the work I did.
3 & 4: These sweet garden photos make me so sad, especially since our garden got killed by the snow and frost we’ve had this week. My little garden helper is pretty bummed that we’re not picking tomatoes every day now.
5. This good boy. Some days this dog drives me crazy, especially when his fur is all over our house, but most days, I’m so thankful we have a dog. I love having him next to me in my office all day while I work, and I love when we get to take walks together.
6. I had to swing up to the north side to run some errands, and while I was there, I went to World Market. Y’all, if you are an expat, or have lived overseas, you know the dangers of World Market. I loaded up my basket with way too many goodies from places I miss. Even with trips to Germany every 6-12 months, we still can’t bring back enough of the things we miss. So stocking up in between is the most bittersweet thing.
7. In July, I helped put together the South Perry Street Fair. It was one of the hardest, craziest, most amazing things I’ve ever done. And it was exhausting, but so great to see something we’d planned for months come to life.
8. Sometimes I photograph events that have petting zoos. And I take photos of them to send to my daughter who is pretty into Llama, llama, red pajama. She was pretty thrilled.
9. What’s more fun than stealing mom’s garden hat? Stealing mom’s garden hat and asking her to take photos to send to grandma.
10. Little miss decided that Shadow was a her baby and needed a blanket in order to take a nap. I was so surprised at how well he took it. He gave me the saddest face every, and yet, he just laid there and let her put blankets on her until she got distracted and then he ran away.
11 & 12. We traveled all the way over to the Olympic peninsula for my brother in law’s wedding, which I was a guest at (yayay!) and the other two were in. Little miss had a hard time understanding that the ferry was a boat, and that the car could go on the boat. Then she loved it, and sobbed when we had to get off. Plus, the views of downtown from the Bainbridge ferry are my favorite.
13 & 14. We have been looking into an electric cargo bike to lower our carbon footprint and reduce our car dependency (and get outside more). We test rode a couple bikes at G&O Family Cyclery in Seattle in August and loved it. Dreaming of the day we can get one!
15&16. We stopped in Leavenworth for a bit of family time on our way back from the wedding and enjoyed this short hike. N has reached a point where she can hike part or all of a short hike on her own, and then goes up in the backpack when she gets tired. She loved it!
17. I did some solo blueberry picking at Greenbluff this summer, in order to maybe get some of the blueberries that we go through each year. This might hold us for a couple months? We go through a lot of berries!
18. The garden was very good this year. There were days when I was picking 15+ pounds of produce from our garden, and we couldn’t keep up. Luckily, our daycare teachers and H’s coworkers were happy to take the extras.
20. Another day, another produce haul.
21. This summer, we tried to bike to school once a week. Sometimes I had meeting right after drop off, and we couldn’t do it, but we had so much fun. Can’t wait to get the ebike!
22. My office and the guestroom had the least functional closet ever, and to fix that, I ripped out the old system and we installed a new one. Now it’s no longer a black hole!
23. Summer rainstorms are great for finding puddles! N insisted on wearing her snow boots instead of her rain boots, and under her rain suit, she was wearing shorts and a tanktop! What a silly kid!!
And that was a look at July and August! Still trying to catch up on all the rest of my blogging too. I’ll get there eventually.