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I don’t fit in.  I never really have.  And while this caused much angst during my formative years – particularly in middle school – I’ve learned to accept that and even embrace it.

I am a middle child.

Photo by Norm Jarvis

Oh, the woes of the middle child.  A life of hand-me-downs and resenting the ever-loved baby of the house.  I never wanted to conform to anything my siblings did (unless it was to annoy them); I wanted to be different, to stand out.  I wanted to be remembered as a unique individual who could do things no one had done before.  I remember a school art project in elementary school with construction-paper apples; I was the only one who chose yellow over red or green (besides, yellow apples are the tastiest!).

When it came to my wedding, I didn’t want to do anything either of my sisters had done, and I didn’t want the same rituals as countless before me.  We got married on a Tuesday evening.  We created and had a rose color ceremony (what the different colors symbolize and their contributions to a successful marriage).  We wrote our own vows.

Photo by Art of Joy Photography

My father’s speech included tales of how I love to blaze my own path, and because of that proclamation, I am all the more determined to lend it truth.

Even now, we have the coolest annual tradition with the wedding dress.. I’ll have to blog about that at some point.

Photo by Ben Heller

I am a musician.

I love to sing, and I honestly miss choir.  I used to dream about making it big on Broadway, but reality slammed into me when I found myself surrounded by far more talented performers who reminded me how far from the top I truly stood.

This used to be one of my favorite pictures.. how far I’ve come!

But I sang anyway.

Photo by Donna Jarvis

In fact, I went to school for it.  I was originally denied entry into the program because I couldn’t play the piano, but I’m a tenacious thorn that doesn’t go away, and I fought my way in, convincing the powers that be that I didn’t need piano skills to learn my music.  I was the unconventional student from there on out, learning more through practice and intuition than theory.

I miss our a cappella group, Zanzibird!

I look forward to finding time in my schedule to reintroduce it back into my life once more.

I am a software engineer.

I actually fell in love with programming when I minored in computer science alongside my music degree (I had deluded myself into thinking music + computers = music technology when I had aspirations of being a sound technician).  I had never touched a line of code until my freshman year.  Unlike all of my peers, I hadn’t been tearing apart motherboards since I was five, I didn’t understand what a meme was (this was the early 2000s), and I knew nothing of objects, classes, methods, or parameters.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

To top it all off, I’m female – a minority in this field – and I was a music major; classes constantly overlapped between the two disciplines.  My very first CS teacher – Intro to Java Programming – approached me after one of the first classes, imploring me to stick with the curriculum and see it through.  She told me of how few women start the program and how even fewer finish it.  I hadn’t really thought much of it, personally.  I knew women were a minority, but I wasn’t quite sure why.  And I never felt I was at any disadvantage because of it.  I hadn’t even considered bailing part way.  I don’t start things I don’t intend to finish; that’s just how I am.

I started my career on the corporate side of things, and I really stood out.  I wasn’t satisfied with the status quo, and I was always pushing to achieve more.  When I was a temp for an accounting department, I took it upon myself to teach myself VBA and develop an Excel macro that would automatically email a customer database with timed notifications (a task previously occupying a coworker’s full-time schedule).  When I was in data operations, I automated everything I could get my hands on because I couldn’t stand to do anything manually.  Some of my coworkers lived day-to-day unable to get beyond “that’s not my job,” and I just couldn’t accept that.

Then I moved to IT, and everything changed.  I suddenly felt like I was with my people.  They had quirky senses of humor – like me.  They cared about doing the right things and not just the minimum – like me.  They thought and discussed and pondered and debated – like me.  I had found home.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

However, as time passed, I found I still didn’t quite belong.  I’m not a gamer like many of my cohorts.  I didn’t know of xkcd before the transition.  I don’t hang out on coding forums, I don’t contribute to open source projects, and I don’t frequent Reddit.  I also don’t code the same as everyone else.

But that’s a good thing.

Because I don’t have the same background as everyone else, I have a unique perspective, and I can approach problems from a different angle.  I can think of things they can’t, and I have found this complements the team well.

I love my job, and I enjoy going into work each day

I am a photographer.

Duh.  This is a photography blog.  Hopefully I know something about cameras.

This is probably the one area in which my experiences have been most conventional.  I had cheap P&S cameras as a kid, and I was always taking pictures of everything around me.  I took a photo class in high school, but I otherwise had no formal training.  My skills have been almost entirely acquired through experience.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

But even here, I’m not your typical photographer.  I don’t abide by “the rules;” most of the time, I never even think about them.  I shoot what I think looks good.  I don’t know a lot about camera specs (I couldn’t even tell you how many megapixels my camera has), but I understand which lenses to use for each situation, and I love creating art.

Some have even told me I don’t have a style.  I disagree.  I believe my images are recognizable (at least I can pick them out), and my peers have latched on to the one characteristic that really stands out: “The Brianna Angle.”

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

But in a way, they’re right.  I don’t focus on any particular type of photography.  I love landscapes and candids and events and pets and macro and wildlife and stars.  And I’m thrilled to add more if it means I can experiment with something new.  Unfortunately, that means my camera bag gets very heavy with the many different lenses, and I’ll never be known as the “long-exposure photographer.”  But my pictures won’t always look the same, and they won’t always match the photos of others.  This is exciting.

I am home.

© Brianna Shade 2014

I used to think all I wanted in life was to fit into the crowd, to be just like everyone else.  Now, I can’t think of a duller punishment.  I thrive in the turmoil of the unexpected, and I strive to place my stamp on the world at every turn.  I want to be remembered for doing amazing things, and the exhilaration of a new day fills me with anticipation for the adventures to come.

My siblings sometimes think I’m crazy.  But we have the best photo Christmas letter-cards that barely contain our annual excursions.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

I’ll never be on Broadway, and I barely know what Dungeons and Dragons is, but someday, I’ll develop an awesome music bot that’ll change how music is consumed and created.

And my photography will never conform.  But this just means  you’ll never tire of seeing my work.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

No, I don’t belong.  But I have found my place in the gaps between the standards others have set.  And I’m quite comfortable there.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

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