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A snapshot into my world!

Always looking for the next adventure

Now that I have gotten a bit more serious with my photography and that I am ,sadly, getting older by the minute I felt that it was important to start making myself a little more professional (but, don’t worry, I won’t be going all serious on you!). With that said, I wanted to make an actual website with my very own domain to be able to market my photographs in a different fashion. I have had the honor to work with Elon graduate, Dave Warfel, in this process. Dave felt that it was very important to ‘brand’ myself…and I couldn’t have agreed more. After some brainstorming the label ‘Just Shine’ surfaced and was an instant hit for me (if you haven’t noticed I already created a watermark for my photos)!

‘Just Shine’ struck me because, well one, it is close to ‘Justine’, but even more importantly because it is something that my parents have always told me to do. They have always instilled in me that no matter what is going on in my life that it is vital to keep chugging away, and in a positive and shining fashion. For my senior yearbook they inserted a baby picture with this quote by Anthony J. D’Angelo,

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”

That quote has always been one of my favorites. It is honestly nothing but the truth, and something that I live by. Growing up I have faced a fair amount of adversities; nothing compared to many people out there, but, I’d say, enough to shape me to the person that I am today. When I was really young I was always sick, and at one point I was diagnosed with childhood leukemia. Though I don’t remember much of that time in my life, I cannot imagine that it doesn’t have something to do with who I am today.

Growing up I lived a pretty normal childhood facing nothing more than the average kid’s bumps and bruises. But, then as I entered high school I started to have passing out spells…and not just a tiny passing out spell…bad ones. I distinctly remember passing out at basketball practice in 10th grade right onto the hardwood gym floor (that hit to the head may explain a lot…haha). It was first diagnosed as a cardiovascular problem due to me having a syncope. I was put on a medication and all seemed well. Little did I know that it was just the beginning.

My health roller coaster, as I now know it, had just started its downward spiraling in the beginning of my senior year of high school. All that summer before school and the first few months of school I always felt a little ‘off’, but I didn’t think much of it. But then the breaking point happened.

I was running, what happened to be my last ever meet cross-country meet in high school, when I passed out and was rushed to the hospital (the worst part, I was in second place and in easy contention for the state meet!). The doctors just assumed it was my cardiovascular stuff and told me to make an appointment with my cardiologist for the next week. Well, unfortunately, the next night at a dinner party for my dad’s company I had another episode (the worst part about this one is that I had an awesome outfit on that was totally ruined!). I again, was rushed to the hospital. Since it was so close to the last episode I was admitted into the hospital for an extended period of time. Those few days were something that I honestly would never, ever want to repeat. After extensive testing and a mild ‘code blue’ scare it was finalized. I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. At the time it honestly was all shock to me. I was exhausted and tired, and I just wanted to go home and see all my friends again and return to normal life. Also, me being me, one of my first concerns was that I was told that I may never be able to run again. I was heart broken.

The next few months dragged by with more and more testing and medications. I remember feeling as if it was never going to end. It put so much stress on my personal life because I just didn’t understand why this had to happen to me- friendships became harder, and I soon broke up with my long time boyfriend. But, it also brought out some of the greatest friendships in the world and really taught me that people are sincerely genuine, wonderful, and caring creatures.

Throughout the remaining of my senior year I had a few more seizures, and was rushed to the hospital about five more times too many (they knew me by my first name…both the ambulances and hospital staff). I suffered greatly physically (I had lost a ton of weight from my medication, and my hair and skin were in despair from all the testing and drugs)- and though I was allowed to run it was a constant challenge for me. I participated in indoor track my senior year instead of basketball and I even qualified for the state meet. I had a seizure two days before I was supposed to leave. But, I didn’t care…I went anyways, and raced (I really hope my doctors aren’t reading this!). I looked pale, exhausted, and honestly raced horribly but the event staff lined the track and let me race- they knew how important it was to me. Again, it taught me how genuine people are. It also taught me that love is honestly one of the greatest and strongest things in the world.

Despite my struggles my senior year I still made the best of it. I had some of the best times with my friends when they were forced to drive me around because I wasn’t allowed to drive a car. My parents and I became significantly closer and I became so much closer with my brother. I face significant struggles academically in school due to the strain that the seizure medication put on my memory and comprehension (I received my first B ever on a report card, I remember I thought that the world was ending). I remember being forced to implement a nap into my daily schedule and being so mad about it (psh, I wish I was forced to do that now!). But, it taught me to shine on, and see the joy in every single day. It made me realize that I have so many amazing things to be thankful for. But most importantly, it forced me to grow up.

One of my goals throughout high school was to run in college. I didn’t care if people said that was silly or impossible of me, I was going to do it, and I did. My freshman year I suffered a few more episodes, and actually had a really bad one my last college race. I was running the 3K steeplechase at UNC-Chapel Hill when I basically had a seizure as I was crossing the finish line (I remember about 50% of that race). I was rushed to the hospital and my parents came down from New York. After the few days of ‘fun’ (we call it that because I was apparently hilarious- I also do not remember any part of those few days. Drugs are scary.). After that, my parents took me off all medication and it was instilled that I was not to be given any, ever again. That event really scared me. I lost a few days of my life that I will never get back. It made me look at life with an even more upbeat outlook- and made me not take a single breath for granted.

My college running career ended with me choosing to step down from the team due to having some further complications. I felt that it was constantly putting a strain on the team, and honestly, on me. It was one of the hardest decisions that I have made to this day in my 20 years of existence (I obviously know harder ones are to come!). Running had been my life. But, once again, I knew that I had to shine on and keep going even though I felt that a huge part of me was missing. I instantly immersed myself in other activities and forced myself to find joy in other aspects of life. I could have remained bitter about it- but what is the point in that? Like my parents said- no matter where you go, always bring your own sunshine. I was determined to do so.

This past summer I saw a chiropractic neurologist in New York City. He was the first doctor to finally give me some concrete answers that didn’t involve drugging me up. I was ecstatic- as you’d assume. I went to treatment about three to four days a week and I instantly saw results. It taught me to always keep faith.

Now, here I am, in Missoula writing you all this post about my how my new photography label relates to my life. I have been seizure free and medication free for almost a year now (I plan on keepin’ it that way too!). But, most importantly, I am sitting here happy and content telling you all this. This may all seem cliché, but, I have learned to be able to share my experiences to help others. It has taught me to keep smiling no matter what is going on- but it has also taught me to be forgiving of others. You never know what is going on in someone’s life, so be loving and forgiving of everyone. It taught me that passion and love are the basis of success and happiness. It made me realize that we are only served in life what we can handle. It has taught me to love every single second of my life. But, most importantly, it has taught me to just shine on.

©Wild Grove

Stay tuned for website information in the near future!

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