If on any given day you were to ask me what my favorite season is my immediate response would be any one that allows me to layer with knitwear and drink copious amounts of tea whilst enjoying the comforting sound of rain washing the earth clean. I have a particular aversion to warmer temperatures [a] because I hate warm-weather clothes, [b] because I hate sweating unless I'm exercising, and [c] because I just like to be cozy, okayyy? But this past weekend I came to terms with the onset of spring in Southern California (which really means the abrupt jump from somewhat cooler temperatures right into 80-degree weather). Normally I'd bemoan this region's complete lack of seasons and fall prone to a posture of complaint. (Why can't the world just work the way I want it to?? < Clearly I need to enroll in Learning To Be Thankful: 101). Instead, I saw springtime in a new light thanks to my friend Atalia asking me to take her graduation pictures. Suddenly, I realized that spring is a season that promises change. College graduation is probably one of the most monumental events in the life of a young person because it represents the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another. A chapter which holds unseen adventures and open-ended questions. Much like springtime, it leads into a season of new growth and fresh starts. This is exactly the season Atalia is quickly approaching. If you ask anybody who knows her, the general consensus is that Atalia. Is. Cool. She's generous, inclusive, an all-around joy to spend time with, and so caring - I've yet to meet anybody who plans better or more thoughtful birthday celebrations than she. So when she asked me if I'd be available to take some portraits for her that was obviously a no-brainer. What I hadn't anticipated, though, was an opportunity to learn more about her childhood and the events that led to her coming to the states about 3 years ago. I'd heard bits and pieces of her upbringing as the daughter of parents who were literally circus performers in Australia (uhm, cool), but these bits and pieces had never been lined up into a cohesive story. And I'm all about learning people's stories. So when Atalia's mom, Tamalyn, joined us for the session I was so excited to hear Atalia's story from her mother's point of view.
Basically, it's the classic case of a daughter realizing she wants to run away and "join the town". Well, that's Atalia's version of it. By the age of seven she'd come to realize with a great amount of certainty that the circus was not were her aspirations lied, and that she'd rather try something else and see where that led. So her parents invested in a diligent homeschooling routine and Atalia developed a great amount of discipline towards her studies. This ultimately led to her leaving Australia to attend community college in Southern California. This was her first time ever experiencing class with other students, and she was understandably, well, terrified. But Atalia hails from parents who trapeze, ride elephants, and breathe fire (actually, I have no idea what their circus acts included...but these seem appropriate and I'm just going to roll with it). Fear is certainly not something that could stop her from excelling. And excel she has. Not only did Atalia finish out her community college education with acceptance to Chapman University, she has now completed her undergrad without hardly breaking a sweat as far as I'm concerned and will be heading to Oxford in the fall to begin a Master's program. Atalia may have been terrified of the trapeze as a seven-year-old, but she has soared to heights of a different kind using the same values of bravery, determination, and discipline that her parents taught her in the circus.
That's something to celebrate.
I love the next picture because it captures on one hand how fun Atalia is, and on the other, how musical she is. When I first met her she had her ukelele in tow, along with the members of her ukelele band...the Eff Ukes. It doesn't really get any better than that.
This next set of pictures is really special because these adorable children are part of the family that has been hosting Atalia during her time here. I could tell immediately that Atalia has a special bond with these kids, both of whom she has known for their entire lives.
Uhm, excuse me, cute overload!
Atalia, you light up so much with these kids!!!
These last three may not be of Atalia or related in any way to her upcoming graduation......but how could I not share??
Atalia, it has been an absolute joy to get to know you over the past few years! I cannot express enough how much I know you mean to the people in your life. Everywhere you go, you add so much love and laughter (with that quick wit of yours!). I am so excited to see how life unfolds for you at Oxford! The Brits are lucky to have you!!