Today is the day. My birthday, of sorts. Today is the day that I launched my business, Stacey Vaeth Photography. Four years ago, I held a little party with 80 close friends, supporters, family, and strangers. My mom and Aunt Karen cut cheese blocks into little cubes with the only knives I had in the house – butter knives. (don’t ask – we’re better equipped these days!). My Peace Corps friends hung the display of photographs at the studio in a record FORTY FIVE MINUTES, because there was a class prior to the party. Everyone rallied. Everyone showed up. It was a show of support that I am undeserving of. Truly.

The party was held at Studio Serenity, in Adams Morgan, a yoga studio where I practiced and taught during the transition from community organizer to photographer. I found my home there. Not just in the community, but in my heart as well. It took me so many years to discover what I was meant to do on this earth, and several more to actually find the courage and strength to do it. This is in no small part because of my amazing friends.

My kutch kutch girls (see this link for more) challenged me when I wasn’t fully satisfied at my old job. They supported me in defining my vision for a life that is meant to be lived, a career that brings joy, not misery or dread. They lifted me up when I was terrified of taking the next step.

My husband. He and I began down the same path – studied Environmental Studies, did the Peace Corps (RPCV Guatemala 2001 – 2004) together. We lived in many states and more apartments. I wanted him to be proud of me, but mostly, I wanted us to succeed, together. So when we both had office jobs for organizations that promoted justice, I thought – I’ve arrived. We have arrived. But I was miserable. Each day I’d go to the office and feel challenged, yet stifled. When I began practicing yoga again, after a multi-year haiatus, he saw a change in me. And he called me out. He reminded me that I am my true self when I’m physically moving, when I’m tapping into my creative side, when I am connected with others. He gave me permission to define a new life for not just me, but for us. To be risky and to take on this challenge. And he pushed me to be bigger and better and bolder from the very beginning. To spend money (my fear) and to quit my job (his fear). His faith in me and our partnership is what started this whole crazy thing.

My sister. My sister is four year’s younger than me, and in so many ways wiser than me by ages. Her career advice led to the professionalization that Stacey Vaeth Photography experienced from the beginning. In addition to taking panicked calls and talking me down from the ledge, she, at the very beginning, pushed my launch date back from October to January. I was emotionally ready to launch in October. I wasn’t practically ready to open the doors until January. And through some tough love and great advice, she made me see that.

My parents. What hasn’t been said about my dad, the photographer, on this blog? Being a fourth generation shooter in my family (what took me so long to realize that this was my path???? I must be really, really dense) – I’ve relied so heavily on my dad for his technical advice, and my mom as well for their emotional and business oriented advice. I hope that that they have enjoyed this little trip down memory lane 🙂 as they see my business follow the same path as their own, or as any. But what’s really amazing about this time in our lives is that photography has bonded us deeper. The respect that I have for my dad and his craft is profound, and more so the more that I do this. I am so blessed to have parents who say “go for it! we get it!” in such a risky field as photography.

And those who on a daily basis they take my calls, walk through my challenges, get bored to tears by talks of f-stops and lighting techniques. They’ve all modeled for me, assisted me, and offered any kind of monetary, physical and emotional support, as well as tremendous kudos anytime I do anything remotely well. My brother Chris, Erin, my Peace Corps and DC crews, the entire Courtney, Vaeth and Gonzalez clans, and now, my professional colleagues in the field….I couldn’t do a thing without you. Seriously.

Lastly, my clients are the best in the area. Enough said. Love you guys. And I love seeing your partnerships, your families, and your lives grow into the beautiful things that they are.

So happy birthday to me. And to many more!