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I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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I'm Turning 27! | Annual Birthday Recap

October 7, 2020

WOW. 27. I cannot even believe that!

You would think eventually the excitement of my birthday would wear off but it’s still my favorite holiday, hehe. This past year has been a whirlwind, though isn’t it always? I am in such a wildly different place in my life, business, and head than I was a year ago –– it’s only getting better and better!

I was looking back on old birthday blog posts and videos of mine reminiscing on my previous years and they’ve become even more important as I get further away from those ages. So in honor of creating some type of system to make sure I never lose that, I’m starting an annual birthday blog post where I’ll answer the same questions every year and see how the answers change! 


1. Buying my Jeep!!!

I can’t believe I almost forgot to add this and it’s my #1! That’s what happens when it’s not on the calendar, haha!!! I bought a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee and I am IN LOVE with it!!! I was sad to let go of the Jetta (still looking to sell it, btw!) but having the space and the utility, especially on road trips. Plus driving on the beach isn’t bad either!!!

2. Traveled (as much as I could!)

I had a LOT of travel planned for year 26…of course a lot of it didn’t happen. Thankfully I was able to sneak in a few big trips before the pandemic and then a few smaller ones once things opened back up.

During year 26, I:

Not too bad for this year, but we have more planned for next year!!! (*Fingers crossed*)

3. Went through a pandemic

You can’t recap your past year without including coronavirus… It was definitely a rollercoaster and made 26 look a LOT different than expected. I was just entering into my 2nd year full time with my first time having almost 20 weddings when I was forced to navigate my entire industry (and the world) being affected.

Even though there were some really uncertain moments and it’s not over yet, I am really proud of the way I handled it and am thankful for the clients that stuck by my side. I fought being overwhelmed and scared with focusing on the things I could control –– working out, being proactive with clients, working on future plans…and honestly just taking the time to truly rest. We’re still working through it but I’m trying to stay as optimistic as I can!

4. Focused on my physical health

So part of being quarantined and having literally everything around you closed is that we had a LOT of TIME. I was training for a half-marathon for the first part of the year (until it got insanely hot outside and we found out the marathon would be cancelled) and we turned Kyle’s garage into a home gym. At first not having all of my normal routine equipment took some getting used to, but I’ve really started to enjoy it. I would work in the mornings, then take a workout break and cook lunch for Kyle and I, then back to work. I think this is some of the strongest and healthiest I’ve ever been! 

5. Intentionally focused on my relationships

Really focusing on my relationships with different friends and family was a huge goal of mine in 2020. Of course the year isn’t over yet, but I would say that most of 26 was really spent just loving on my people.

Getting older means it’s more challenging to keep up with relationships, especially the ones you don’t see every day…honestly even the ones you see every day need lots of intentionality!

26 was filled with girls nights, brunches, beach days, decorating houses, dinners out and lotsss of dinners in, glasses of wine and cans of white claws, Facetime dates, and more.

I can’t talk about all of my favorite parts of 26 without mentioning Kyle. I’m so thankful to have him in my life. He is a constant motivation, giving me loving encouragement and pushing me to do hard things when I don’t want to but need to. This year was a big year for us, individually and as a couple. I’m thankful to be in a place where I can bring my best self to the relationship and we can grow together. This year wouldn’t have been the same without him, especially since the majority of it was spent trapped in his house, haha! I love you!

Honorable Mention: Katelyn James Business Journey Live Event

After spending the entire year going through the business course with Katelyn and 700+ other photographers, we all met up in Richmond, VA for a one-day live event with Katelyn speaking. It was AMAZING. I got to see so many of my friends and it really fired me up for the upcoming year. I also got to tell her how within the year after attending her workshop, I quit my job, took my business full time, AND matched my salary!!!

BIGGEST WIN OF 26: Creating space for myself within my business growth (and buying my Jeep!!!!).

BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF 26: Navigating through COVID without really knowing how it would affect me.

MAIN BUSINESS FOCUS: Balancing enjoying the fruits of my labor, while also trying new things.

I have worked SO incredibly hard over the past few years trying to create a space for myself in the senior and wedding markets, to attract clients that I love, and being genuinely proud of the work I do. I’m now reaching a lot of the goals that I would have died to hit a few years ago…so I want to make sure that I’m fully enjoying and appreciating the work I’ve put in before adding in more or making a shift.

However, on the flip side, I know that I thrive when I get to learn and try new things. I don’t like feeling bored or that I’m doing the same thing over and over again. I have big dreams so the biggest focus is trying to decide when it makes the most sense to start shifting and adding new things…and be able to do them all consistently!

MAIN PERSONAL FOCUS: Making sure to make time to enjoy the life I’m creating.

I am a recovering workaholic…I can’t help it. I LOVE my business and I love feeling accomplished. 25 was a big year for me, figuring out what it looked like to be self-employed and asking some pretty challenging questions of myself. 26 was putting a lot of that into action.

Obviously the quarantine created a lot of space for personal time, but next year it’s going to be even harder. There were so many habits I picked up during this time –– prioritizing working out, cooking lunch for Kyle and I, blocking off weekends for trips and time to rest, scheduling girls’ nights and office days for working on the business. I don’t want to lose any of those! 

27 is already looking to be a REALLY busy year, so I want to create a balance between hitting the professional and financial goals for myself while also looking back on these years and thinking “wow, I had so much fun!” We already have a few trips planned and I have gotten really good about blocking off office and rest days to make space for business and personal time, so we’ll see how it goes!!


Well if this year has taught us anything it’s that things don’t always happen the way we plan, so I’m giving myself some grace and space for next year to happen the way it does…BUT some things I do see happening in 27 are lots of trips with friends, snowboarding in Colorado, photographing some really beautiful couples in gorgeous venues, outsourcing even more so I can do more things that I love, *hopefully* a trip to New Orleans and maybe even adding four legs to the family (!!!!!!!).


I’m Dakota, a Wilmington, NC-based photographer Helping engaged couples feel comfortable in front of the camera and creative businesses grow with purposeful brand imagery.

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