Ashley | Rockford Lifestyle Photographer

I was in tears after I gathered my thoughts this morning and reflected on a bridge I was able to gap this past Saturday with Ashley during her maternity session. I'm going to rewind for a little bit here, so bear with me.

If you've followed along with me for the past three years, you'll know that I had frequently talked down on my time in Texas. The truth is, I am forever grateful for the opportunities and struggles that were presented to me for three and a half years while Ronnie was in the Army. I could never regret my decision to move to Texas as I learned so many things while I was there. I am a completely different person today than I was when I packed up my car in 2012 and drove 1200 miles to be with the one I loved. There are many things I could have done differently. I could have tried harder. I could have put myself out there more. I could have booked more jobs and met more people along the way. I could have stayed on my meds for more than three months and maybe, just maybe I would have felt a little better. I wasn't a good wife, I wasn't a good daughter, and I wasn't a good friend. I was anxious all the time. I was mean. I hated being in social situations. I hated leaving the house. I wasn't me. I was literally wishing for months and years to go by as quickly as possible so that I could leave the place I was in. It wasn't necessarily that I was homesick, although there were those days - absolutely. I think it was more about the fact that I had such different expectations for the life I would live in Fort Hood. I felt like I was having a mid-life crisis at 21 years old - and not because of a longing for material items, but because of a longing for a different place for my soul.

After three years, it came time for us to begin something new in our journey. We bought our first home after going through only two homes in Rockford over Christmas break - and I know with 100% certainty that this was the right decision. Without a doubt. I remember first walking through this little house on Melrose, already excited about the brick paved street it sat behind. I remember seeing what is now my office for the first time - and I didn't just picture myself striving in this place, I pictured myself living.

Actually living a life I had only dreamed about for so many years.

As I write this, the morning sun hits the left side of my face. The anxiety that once kept me drowning has subsided and I look forward to every day that presents itself with something new to appreciate. Because there is always something to appreciate every single day. Not only did I feel like I was stuck in a physical rut for a long time, I was actually stuck in a creative rut for a long time. One thing I was always doing was skimming through Pinterest before a shoot - frantically trying to come up with something unique and different. Until I realized, it wasn't Pinterest and everyone else's idea of what was perfect that was keeping me from doing work that was true to me. It wasn't being in Fort Hood. It wasn't that strangers wouldn't book me. It wasn't the small apartment that we lived in with hardly any natural light. It wasn't that I was homesick. It wasn't even because I was sick.

It was me.

It was me that was keeping me down. It wasn't anyone or anything else to blame. I wasn't open to being true to myself or being present in my surroundings and that damaged me. I was putting a bandaid over so many things I didn't want to be seen.

I took care of myself first and I knew at some point something would also have to change with the way I approached my work. On Saturday, I was finally able to rip that bandaid off completely and do something that was 110% me. And the amazing part? I've never been more in love with a set of my own images in my life. I'd talk your ear off about how sweet and beautiful Ashley is, but I think her happiness and glow in the images below do all the talking.

This is just the beginning of something great. Something true. Something different.

Something me.