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I'm a creep (or so I've been told)

I remember back around 2005 when I befriended someone who I thought was really cool, until they called me a "creeper" because I took photos of their partner's band at a local show. I remember feeling ashamed of myself and despite knowing what I was doing was really special, I started to believe there really was something wrong with me. Why else did I feel alone in a sea of people, or why was I constantly comparing my reflection to that of the girl standing at the sink next to me? Why did I have such a hard time finding a group of friends that would stick by me, and why did I feel like I wasn't good enough to be invited to hang out? In my now mid-thirties, I can successfully say I've found the secret to fitting in. Spoiler alert: you don't. What you do is stop chasing after people who clearly don't accept you the way you are. Go forth and be your unapologetic self; you'll be surprised what happens. In time, you'll find other weirdos, freaks, dweebs, dorks, nerds, losers, geeks, punks (okay you get the picture), and you'll create your own tribe who wouldn't dream of you being anyone but the real you. Being surrounded by the right people can transform the person you are. I'm no longer trying to portray the hip, trendy influencer/content creator persona that social media demands from me to be in order to be "successful." Measuring success for me has little to do with the number of likes on my feed and has everything to do with how my work makes people feel. So now, what you see is what you get. I'm no longer pushing myself to be or pursue anything that doesn't feel authentic to who I really am. Life is short and we're the ones in control, we just have to believe we're capable.

Last Letter Project & Speedbump Fest - May 14, 2022 at Buzzbin Art and Music Shop in Canton, Ohio
Two years ago, while I worked at Westside Bowl as the House Photographer during the livestream concert series, I met Jaclyn, DJ, Kevin, Dylan and Dan of Last Letter Project & Speedbump Fest (LLP/SBF). The boys were in a band called HIRAETH and we all hit it off almost immediately. It was nice to finally meet people who liked me for the person I was, especially with how badly I (all of us, really) was/were struggling with depression mid-pandemic.

Fast forward to last year, which was significantly more disruptive and destructive for my mental and emotional health than 2020. Having finally committed myself to dealing and healing v. avoiding and dissociating, when Speedbump Fest 6 was announced to take place at Mahall's in Cleveland, I knew I wanted to be involved. Sidewalk talks when you need fresh air or a smoke break during a set change are some of the most intimate. The veil is lifted after you've been in a crowded basement, sweating and moshing, so no one holds back. I had conversations that evening that made me realize I wasn't alone. I felt my shame slowly melt away for a little while, which is the equivalent of relaxing your shoulders and unclenching your jaw while taking in a deep breath and stretching your body under a warm blanket.

Fast forward to May 14th, when I photographed Rabid Reason, SlutBomb, Trash Mountain and Nervous Aggression at Buzzbin to benefit LLP/SBF. I was at the front of the stage for Rabid Reason, knowing I only had a few frames before the moshing would begin so I had to be quick. Well, ya girl wasn't quick enough and by accident, pushed right into the stage and the monitors. But from that moment, two concert-goers and supporters of LLP/SBF came to my aid to make sure I remained safe and untouched while I snapped away. I can't say enough good things about them for being kind when the world tries to condition us to only look out for ourselves. By the end of the night, I wasn't the only one to be knocked over. Fortunately for me, I walked away with a few bruises while the other concert-goer went to the ER to get checked out. She's okay now, but as soon as the band realized what happened, the show stopped with no questions as everyone eagerly made room for paramedics. The idea that it's cool not to care is really boring and outdated. In a world that tells us to be cold and that vulnerability is weakness, I think it's more punk rock to care above anything else. Thankfully, my tribe agrees.


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