Somewhere around New Bern on the drive down I realized that this was our 8th year visiting our friends at the beach on the southern tip of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We crossed the bridge past the town Nicholas Sparks calls home and as the salty sea air filled my lungs, I couldn’t help but flash back to the first time I was making this trip. I was 15 years old and heartbroken. I didn’t know who I was or who I was going to be, but I knew that I wanted a full, adventurous life, and Emerald Isle was just a taste of what was to come. The ocean, the sound, the fishing piers, the boats in the many harbors, they all held a little bit of history and more than their fair share of secrets and stories and bits and pieces of people from all kinds of walks of life.
There’s something magical about this place… maybe it’s the turquiose water, maybe it’s the quiet in the air, the slower way of life, the southern manners of the clerk at the grocery store counter. I could wander about for ages and feel like no time has passed at all. That’s why it was strange to realize that even though nothing about this place had changed, I had. Eight years had passed… I was no longer the heartbroken teenage girl but instead a newly married woman with her own job, her own bills, and her own new dreams. As I looked in the same mirror I’ve been slipping into my bikini in front of since before my sophomore year of high school, I took a longer look at myself and wondered just how much had changed, both visibly and intangibly. Would I be happy with the person I’ve become?
I think the answer is yes. I could have never dreamed of the life I’m living now. Oftentimes it honestly feels too good to be true and like I’m going to lose it all in the blink of an eye with just one mistake… or just when my streak of luck runs out. I know that’s just fear talking… but sometimes as a creative entreprenuer, it does feel like all the magic we’ve experienced in our lives is one day going to disappear without warning and without a trace and without any chance of getting it back. I never would have guessed at age 15 that I’d be graduated from college and working for myself… it never even crossed my mind because I didn’t know it was possible. But it is. For now.
On Saturday night, we visited Beaufort and wandered through the shops on Front Street as we looked for a place to grab dinner on the water. I pulled my camera out of my purse and realized that the last time I was taking pictures here, I had my little $100 crop sensor camera and not a clue what I was doing, just a love for photography and a determination to get better, to produce images I was really proud of, photographs that could capture the full beauty of a place like this. And the beauty of the people I was with. I’m still working to achieve that. But I hope I’m just a little closer than I was all those years ago.