Where are you from, not your hometown, where is your essence from?
That’s really good. I don’t know. I think I’m from the house that I grew up in. I know that kind of fits the location side of things, but I have this keychain that my mom got me when I graduated from high school with the coordinates of my home on it, and it’s the home I grew up in; I’ve lived there since I was two years old. It’s a big deal to us. My father talks about how he never wants to move out of it. Now that he’s getting older, and there is talk about moving to a nursing home, he says, “Leave me in this house, I’ll be fine.” That house is kind of the focal point of everything.
What does your house look like?
It’s two stories and we have an attic. It’s right near all of my friends and family that I’ve grown up, close to everything. It’s got this big bay window in the living room. I think that’s one of those things that I notice when I go to houses that don’t have that and I think, “That’s not a home.” It’s a very homey house. My mom has lots of knick knacks all around. It’s not one of those cool, minimalistic houses. It’s one of those that is full to the brim with life and things. Sometimes I judge her for having so much stuff, but it’s one of those things that makes a house a home. Things that I made when I was a child, we still have up through now. I think when I’m older I might get rid of them, but it’s been nice to come back and see those parts of my childhood.
What is something that your mom has held onto that you didn’t think at the time you would’ve wanted her to hold onto, but now you see as really important?
Pictures. That’s one of those things that has been a huge part of my life for so long. The pictures that she’s held onto aren’t good. They’re horrible. There are pages and pages, photo albums and photo albums of the pictures I took as a kid with my throwaway camera. Most of them are just black, or bright lights or the side of the road. Nothing pretty, no composition. We have a baby book of my little brother who is six years younger than me, and we have all these pictures of him vomiting, like mid-vomit. Why would you take that or keep it? In some ways that means a lot to me. Those little moments that wouldn’t have meant so much to me because I have a more artistic background in photography, meant so much to her.
How long have you been doing photography?
I started doing photography back in high school. I had a little snap, point-and-shoot, blue camera that had that rapid-fire setting on it, and I realized that that was the easiest thing in the world to use because I could take 5,000 pictures and one of them would turn out well. So I started getting good at it, being able to go through my 5,000 pictures and pick out the 10 that I actually liked. The first time I got that really crumby little camera, I think I posted like 500 pictures on facebook every time I used it, so I’ve learned to pick out my favorites. When I graduated from high school, my parents went in halfsies with me on a new DSLR, and it’s a same camera I use today. It has a name and a personality. I love it to death.
What’s your camera’s name?
How did you come up with that?
Really good question. The musical and the character from Lord of the Rings, so a cross between the two of them. I’m not obsessed with musicals or Lord of the Rings at all, but I came up with the name and everyone was like, “Where did it come from?” so I had to make up some sort of answer. If I didn’t give it a name and a personality, I would’ve broken it.
What’s it like?
More recently, it can be a bit temperamental. It’s been giving me some problems because it’s an old camera and I’ve had it for a really long time. I’m hoping in the future I can invest in a new one, but I don’t think I could ever part with it because I’ve had it for so long. So we’ll go with temperamental now, but initially, when I switched to this camera I didn’t stop taking pictures for four months straight. I’d bring it everywhere with me, to school, on bike rides. I wasn’t used to having a camera that took such crisp images. At the beginning it wasn’t as temperamental, it was more like, amazing. We’ll go with that.
What’s your favorite picture that you’ve ever taken?
Right now, since I’m at the point that I’m graduating and this school is so full of so many emotions for me, the picture I’d have to choose is the picture from convocation when we were walking through the Wren building towards campus. I was with my whole freshman hall, my roommate from freshman year who’s stayed my roommate for three years and is a great friend from high school. When we got to the door on the other side of Wren where you can look out and see the Sunken Gardens, I just saw so many people, and everyone was there, everyone was cheering, high fiving us. It was that moment where I felt really connected, really happy to be a on campus, to be a student. So I snapped one picture, and you can see it was beautifully lit, and everyone was wearing all of these different colors, and it just seemed like a very accepting photo, a very happy photo. It’s one of my screensavers on my desktop, and it changes all the time, but that’s one of the ones that whenever I see it, I minimize my screen and just look at that picture.
That was four years ago now, right? Your freshman year?
Yeah. It’s terrifying now.
Do you want to do photography with your life? Or is is just a really passionate hobby?
When I first got Pippin, I thought photography would be what I was doing for the rest of my life, and then I realized to be able to do that and live comfortably you needed to have enough money to live that lifestyle. That was something that was really hard for me to accept when I was younger, chasing those dreams; you can make it work, but it will be very hard unless you can find something else to sustain you. When I came to college, I started out with a psychology degree. When I told my parents that I wanted to be a psych major, they told me I should pair it with something else that would make me more marketable. So I’m marketing and psychology and I love photography and I love design. Those are those four things about me that I really appreciate and enjoy. For me, I wouldn’t want to do photography full-time after college, but it would something I would love to do on the weekends. It’s something that I really enjoy, and I worry that if I were to make it a full-time job I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. Even now, I did three photoshoots today and I’m exhausted. I’m really glad you’re the one in charge of pictures because I’m just so tired. Photography can be this wonderful thing on the side where I would be able to shoot weddings on the weekends and hang out with the kids I’ve seen grow up and take their senior pictures. I think it would be a lot more of an emotional thing for me than it would be a practical thing.
Do you have plans for next year?
I do, and I’m really excited finally that I do. I was pushing it pretty close to the end there. I’ll be going up to Charlottesville. I’ll be working for a marketing agency in Charlottesville, but I have an entire summer. My start date isn’t until September. I have all of this time to find stuff to do with.
Do you have a plan for the summer?
I have a little list going. My poor father, he has no idea. He wants me to start a part-time job or something, and in the mean-time I want to travel. I want to volunteer at a nursing home or the Richmond Animal league which is a shelter I volunteered for back in high school. I love animals, so I’d love to go back there and work. And my little brother is just now learning to drive. He’s not really comfortable driving yet, so I feel like a lot of my summer will be spent helping him become more comfortable driving, and since I’ve been away from him for so long, it’s going to be nice to live at home for a summer and build that bond back a little bit better.
Were you close when you were little?
No. (laughs) It’s interesting because when he was younger, we would fight a lot. I love children, and I think kids are the cutest things in the world, but when I was that age of course you don’t think the six-year younger brother is anything worth your time, which is tough because you’re at the age when you want all the attention. I think we had some problems when we were younger, but when I was in middle school and high school, I started learning that a lot of sibling relationships were much worse, and that the younger sibling would suffer because of it, because they didn’t have a role model or someone they could talk to. I realized it was probably advantageous for me to start building those bonds with him before I went off to college, so we really fixed that when I was in high school. We still have our fights, like all siblings do, but especially now that I’ve been away, I try to text him everyday. We have this joke that whenever I come back I say, “What are the three things the parents shouldn’t know?” And we both go back and forth and do it, and it’s a bonding thing. It’s backfired on multiple occasions. I went skydiving my freshman year and my parents were not supposed to know about it, and I told him, and he told everybody, which is fine now since I lived through the skydiving part. It’s just nice having that time over the summer when we’re able to get back into a rhythm, living together and everything.I hope that it will build a strong platform for a relationship that I can have in the future with him and his wife and his kids.
Is it weird looking back at making the “college decision” yourself?
Yeah, it is strange. Both my parents came here and they had polar opposite experiences. My mom didn’t really like the College very much. She didn’t really fit in here, and oftentimes she didn’t have enough money to do the activities that other students were doing. My father loved it. He played frisbee and had all these friends. For me, it was nice because when I started the whole application process, I was worried that they would try to force me to one school or another. It was a tough decision because I was a legacy student, and it’s sometimes easier to get in as a legacy student. That was weighing on me. If I got into William and Mary, would it be because I deserved it or because I was a legacy. Looking back on it now, I definitely made the right decision. I love it here, and I’ve loved it all four years. There have been rough patches, but any college would be like that. My parents handled it in a great way, and I think I learned a lot from the way they helped me through the process, so when I have kids of my own one day or friends that are younger, it’ll be easy for me to ask, “Well where is it you want to go?”
Why did you end up choosing William and Mary?
I don’t know. When I made the decision, I wanted to be close to home. My parents had been very good about telling me what the pros and the cons were of the school, but I really liked the atmosphere here. When I stepped on campus for the first time, it was with my freshman year roommate from my high school. She had done early decision, and she had already gotten in, and I hadn’t heard back yet. We went and did a mini-tour and walked around ourselves, and we got so lost. We couldn’t find anything, but it was so much fun. One of the things that I’ve always love about William and Mary is the people, and knowing that this high school friend was going to come here and knowing how much fun we had. A lot of it was just that experience that I had. When we got lost over on the trails by the Crim Dell Bridge, and we were just trying to find the bridge and it was so hard, we were asking people and waving at people, and everyone was so helpful and would stop and talk to us and tell us about their experience at the college. William and Mary lets you pursue whatever passion you want and you can tell that every person here has a passion, regardless of what it is. It doesn’t have to be historic or academic at all. It can be photography. It could be ceramics. I love how you could ask every single person here what their passion is. At a lot of other colleges, I don’t think people have good answers, or they won’t be able to come up with something right off the bat.
If you could give advice to your freshman self, what would you say?
I think I did okay. One of the biggest things for me was when I decided to be a psychology major and my parent were pushing me in the business direction. I thought it was my parent not accepting what I wanted to do with my life, and I think I made the best of it because I do love graphic design and I love marketing. It was one of those cases where I hadn’t considered doing anything besides what exactly I wanted to do in that moment, so I think I would’ve told myself freshman self to be a little bit more flexible while making those decisions that you know will benefit you in the long run and understand that my parent were there to help me. When I got off the phone with my mom after I told her I wanted to be a psych major and she had said, “Haha, but you got to do something else too because that’s not marketable,” I was really upset and angry with her for not agreeing with my opinion right off the bat. There’s still a part of me that wishes she had been a little more responsive in that sense, but I think what I realize now is that I’m happy with what I ended up doing, and I’m happy that I chose a double major, and I’m happy that I’m doing that photography on the side and not trying to make it a life career. Given how I feel now, I would’ve told me freshman self to not take it personally. My parents just wanted me to be self-sufficient when I’m older. Getting into the business school was one of the hardest things I ever did. I applied four different times, and kept getting rejected, and I took that very personally too. But I did end up getting into the program and I saved some money because I was a minor and then a major. The business school is one of the best things I’ve been a part of, so I think I would tell my freshman self to not take things personally and be flexible.
If you could give advice to a group of William and Mary students, what would you tell them?
I think reach out. That was something I didn’t really understand when I was going through this process. I didn’t understand that professors were people. I didn’t understand that other students are going through similar things. The biggest thing is about the professors. They seem austere and untouchable. It doesn’t seem like you can relate to them or have relationships with them, but I think when I joined the business school that’s something that really stood out to me. Every one of those professors really wanted us to succeed. There had been a lot of stuff going on, on campus, a lot of suicides, a lot of depression, and the whole campus was in a rut, and everyone was feeling the pain, and my marketing professor stood up in front of the class and said, “Guys before we start class, I want to get some stuff off my chest. You all mean the world to me, and I had a hard time going through college, and I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through, so I want you to know that if you ever need anything, my door is open.” In that moment I realized that she was a person. She had this whole life before she started teaching at William and Mary, and she cares about the students and she really does want us to not only succeed academically, but also socially and emotionally. She really meant it when she said, “Whatever it is, no matter how small or insignificant, please come to my office.” As a freshman, I didn’t like that close interactions with professors because I was worried that I might mess something up or not get to know them well, but I think I realized when I got to the business school that they really do have our best interests in mind.
Is there anything else that you want to get off your chest before you graduate?
I feel like a lot of stress is caused by the academics here at William and Mary and the personality types that come to William and Mary. I feel like that is difficult to balance with emotional health. One of the things that’s helped me is taking time away from campus. You can still be on campus to take time away from campus. You can go to Lake Matoaka and take out one of the canoes. You can just walk over to the cool abandoned amphitheater and sit there and read a book. You can hike, or walk around, or go into CW and get something from the Cheese Shop, or wander down to Jamestown beach, all of these things that give you that time away that you need where you say, “Right now, what’s more important than getting this homework assignment done is taking some time for myself.” Something to get you out of your own head, away from the academics and the people that are amazing and wonderful but can be really stressed and pent up with a lot of feelings.
Were there moments when you felt like you didn’t give yourself the break you needed?
Yeah. There have been a lot of times like this. This semester has been hard for me, transitioning because I live in a single, but I fall semester I still had best friends that were all on campus with me. One of them is studying abroad in Spain right now, one of them graduated early and is working with her parents, working as an EMT and a scribe, and one graduated and is in Virginia Beach, teaching. Those were my three best friends, so when they left me all by myself here on campus, it was startling. I didn’t give myself enough time to not grieve, but cope with the fact that they were gone. I jumped back into everything. I went a mile-a-minute, and I knew I was upset, but I just tried to fill it up with other things; coursework, being super involved with extracurriculars, but two weeks after everyone was gone, it all it hit me. I hadn’t taken the time to say, “Yeah, it’s upsetting that they’re gone, and I miss them.” I know that they’re all doing wonderful things and having a great time. It’s just a tough transition stage for me and for them too. So I gave myself some time to call my mom and cry and talk to my friends and touch base with them and see how they were doing and make plans to see the ones that were still here in the states. I didn’t give myself enough time to process that whole thing until two weeks after it happened and then it all hit me, and I realized that I really should’ve gone to the beach and thought about this and gotten through it.