It's hard to believe, but I'm coming up on the six year anniversary of my move to Maine. I've often said relocating to Maine was one of the best things I've ever done, but the circumstances that precipitated the move were the most painful of my life. In hindsight, I could not be happier at the way things worked out. But the route I had to take was not the route I would have chosen to get here, by any stretch. I thought I'd share a little about how I wound up here, and what moving to Maine has meant for me.
Personal Journey: Starting Over in Maine
So what's the story? Without going into excessive detail, in 2014 I was employed at Canon USA as the Supervisor of Technical Marketing. To that point I enjoyed my job and the people I worked with, but over time the atmosphere changed. At the same time, I was being recruited by Lytro, a Silicon Valley startup that was behind an incredible (and ultimately failed) photography technology that allowed the user to change the focus of the photo after it had been taken. I accepted a position with Lytro as their Manager of Training for the US market, but unfortunately, Lytro was unwilling to be patient, despite my warnings that the professional photographer market does not adopt new technology quickly. After a year, myself and the other photography team members were let go so Lytro could focus on a virtual reality platform that also ultimately failed.
From there, I was thrust into the world of unemployment. Over the course of a year I applied for hundreds of positions in all areas that I was even remotely qualified for. I had more than a dozen applications go deep into the process, with 3rd, 4th and 5th interviews. But nothing stuck. Then, the final blow happened. Coming up on the year anniversary of my layoff, my then-fiancee broke things off. My mental health was already at an all time low. I was already feeling useless and worthless and now I was alone as well.
After taking some time to process things, and examine my options, I decided to move to Maine. Did I know anyone there? No. Did I have a job? No. After treading water for a year after the layoff, I had just enough money to pay for the move and a few months of living expenses. I was on the high wire without a net. My other options would have been to move in with family while I started over, but none of them lived where I wanted to be, or where I could afford to be. Besides, if Maine didn't work out, family could be the fallback option. But if I was going to fail, it would be on my terms. Enough of taking the safe path.
So on September 1, 2016, I pulled into Freeport, Maine (home of L.L. Bean), and began starting over. I got a part time job with LL Bean, but ultimately landed a full time job at Hunt's Photo, a New England camera store chain. I set up my apartment, and on September 5th, I photographed my first sunrise as a Maine resident. I tried dating, but after a few months of that, it was clear I wasn't ready so I backed off of that a bit and spent time with friends, some of whom probably don't know how important they were to me at the time.
Probably the biggest component of my new beginning, however, was the state of Maine itself and all of its natural beauty. I made it my passion to explore as much of the state as I could. On my days off from work, I found new places I could take my camera and photograph. I've previously written about how being in nature, and nature photography, can have a positive impact on our mental health. I wasn't aware of this at the time, but I knew that the more time I spent outside, hiking, and photographing, the better I felt.
What was even better, the more I photographed, and explored Maine, the more opportunities popped up for me. Someone recommended a gallery for me to show in, and I applied and was accepted. I showed in Saltwater Artists Gallery for three years. Another gallery in Rockland invited me to show in their space. Art consultants in Boston approached me to use my work in their projects. I began teaching workshops at the camera store. It began to seem that this was exactly how it was supposed to happen.
After being in Maine a year, things were going well. I'd built a new life and had a decent job. A month after my first anniversary, I met the woman who would become my wife and things seemed to take off into another orbit. Things seemed to be going so well, I was almost afraid of it. I'd never experienced it before. We were married a little over a year later, and the professional opportunities continued to present themselves, as well. So much so, that in 2019, we decided I should cut back my hours at the camera store to part time so I could put a little time into my photography business, which until then had been part time. Without her support I don't know if I'd have made that decision.
A year later, it became full time as the pandemic hit and I was given a choice by management. I could be full time and continue to teach, as well as work in sales, or there was no place for me on the staff. It was unfortunate but turned into another blessing in disguise. As the pandemic began to ease, and life became more normal, I began teaching my own workshops for BlueHour Photo Ventures, and was also approached by Santa Fe Workshops to teach some online workshops as well as assist on the location workshops.
It's been quite the journey, and as I said, I would not necessarily have chosen the road that got me here, but sometimes life is more about how we react to what's dropped in front of us, than it is about choosing what drops in front of us. It's been a long road, but I'm happy with where it's taken me. I have a beautiful family. I've made some great friends. And I have a lot of personal satisfaction with my work. It's all been worth it.