Military Career Shutdown

Photography Journey

April 6, 2022

By: Alyssa

I joined the military back in 2012, with all of the aspirations in the world to commit to 20 years of service. I was determined to chase my dreams and all that I wanted out of my military career. True to my fire sign, this Leo was ready to take it on in full force.

So young! What a throwback!

In 2015 I accomplished one of my biggest dreams of becoming a Military Working Dog handler, graduating at the top of my class and earning the commanders award. I literally cried walking across the stage that day, I was so proud of myself and overjoyed that I had accomplished one of my biggest goals since day one of joining the military. I’ve never been a stranger to hard work & it paid off that day.

After graduating in 2015 I was shipped off to Misawa Japan where I began my new career. Living in Japan was absolutely breathtaking. Being able to experience so much of the culture, the scenery, the food, and not to mention the downtown life (young, wild, free & single ????) – I was truly living out the adventure of a lifetime. Unfortunately that adventure came to a screeching halt. In April 2016, I found out that my mother had metastatic breast cancer. Now in that moment I had two options. I could stay in Japan and wait until closer to “the tail end” of her days or I could submit for what’s called a Humanitarian reassignment. After hearing the news I knew that there was only one option that I wouldn’t regret for the rest of my life. I had to go home, I had to soak up every last moment with my mom.

Losing my mom came with two paths that eventually merged into one profound love for tangible memories. The first path, while dark and probably the scariest part of my life it led me to the second path. After my mother‘s passing a very deep depression arose inside of me. I was angry, bitter, resentful, but most of all I felt alone. My best friend, my number one cheerleader and biggest support system had now vanished.

What struck me the hardest about losing her is how fast the mental image of her began to dissolve. In the blink of an eye, I started to realize that it was getting harder and harder to recall what she looked like. Even the sound of her voice and her laugh became more difficult to recall. I mean, all of the memories were still there but it was as if a haze started to seep in, clouding them.

In 2019, just before deploying, I went home to visit my family. Now I mentioned in my last post, that this is where my love for the lens began. What I haven’t explained to you is why it hit me so hard.

You see that camera in her hand? My brothers first time on his new dirtbike – one of many life moments she ensured she captured.

You see, my mom was known for documenting not only her life but ours. As a family, as her children, as the beautiful life moments you didn’t want to forget. She was our time capsule creator. Of course after her passing, we felt the void. You know what else we felt? The overwhelming, not want but NEED to document the life around us. The ambiance. The love. The pure emotion in just being with each other and the wholesomeness of it. Why? We didn’t want to forget.

Over the years it became part of any adventure as a family. Mom would gather us up, pose us, take THE SAME PICTURE (at least it felt like it) 3838158 times and then we would FINALLY go about our day. In a way she trained us to accept it as our “way of life”. Before I left for that 2019 deployment, I was drawn to being the documenter of our family time together. Not because I felt we needed it or that I was trying to replace her but because it made me feel alive again. I was seeing the life around me. The beauty in the smaller moments. I was seeing life through the lens, her lens & it was breathtaking.

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words”

– Destin Sparks

Now in present day, I live in those small moments. The ones you might overlook – I know exactly how important they are. My mother blessed me with a new outlook on life. When I thought I would forget her smile, the way she looked at us or how happy we were together, she gave us thousands of images (literally) to look back on. Those tangible memories are irreplaceable, priceless moments in my life. Still frames of my favorite days that I can relive over and over again.

The profound love I have for photography and my “why” was built on loss. Although it may seem sad, not every dark chapter in your life remains dark. My darkness brought me the most beautiful gift I can never appreciate experiencing enough.

As always, thank you for reading & being apart of my journey. I’d love it if you would give this blog a “like” and/or even drop a comment below about how this impacted you.

Xo, Alyssa. The girl behind the lens.

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