For the second year now, I’ve recorded a second of video to represent every day of the year. As a compulsive documenter of life, this has been such a wonderful project and a really different and fun way to look back (in addition to all the photographs, the social media, the blogging, and the painting that I also do in an effort to capture things). Of course this, as with everything I share, is so skewed towards being an exciting and glamorous life, since you don’t see clips of me lying in bed or shuffling around the apartment in pajamas and spending hours upon hours on the computer, which, let’s be honest, is really the way most of my time is spent. But I love the constant challenge of finding something to take a video of, and then I love getting to re-live all of these little one-second moments all over again. Come along with me on the journey below:
Contrary to what it may seem, 2018 was a rough year. I had such high hopes and bright moments, but they were countered by personal losses and challenges that just felt incredibly heavy. But as we move into 2019, I’m working on letting go of some of that weight, and in its place I’d like to carry forgiveness towards myself, a continued love of learning and growth, and a willingness to face and address my fears rather than my lifelong practice of avoiding all insecurities.
For a more practical recap of the year, here are some highlights from 2018:
Girl Gangs & Retreats
I don’t know where I’d be without all the wonderful women who have become my community within the last two years. A lot of the best things about 2018 were extensions of the wonderful things that began in 2017 or long before. But in particular, this year was all about my girl gangs and all our retreats and travels. It started with our “Lean In/Design Your Life” retreat in Dillon Beach in January. In May, I went on girls’ trips to Sayulita, Mexico with my friend Connie. We continued monthly meetings with the “Office of Accountability” and some of us went to Joshua Tree in October. Our Paint Club expanded from just Pamela and me to five members, and we met in different places around the Bay each month. In November, the Cocktail Collective went to Austin, Texas. And finally, in December, Amy and I went on our awesome Arizona adventures.
10 Year Bayversary
As of June, I’ve officially lived here in the Bay for ten years. I’ve now been here longer than anywhere else I’ve lived. I feel rooted and yet I don’t think I’ll ever run out of new things to explore here. I continue to be wowed by the California coastline (literally, earlier today, I was again standing in awe just looking at the coast). I love the mix of city, wine country, national parks, ocean, and farmland, all within arm’s reach. And though there are plenty of reasons to not live here (exorbitant cost, the drastic income inequality, earthquakes, fires/smoke), I am just so grateful to not only still be here but also still love it so much.
I celebrated my Bayversary over afternoon tea with some close friends.
100 Bay Area Gems
I decided to do another 100 day project this year (last year I did #100aquarelles). Inspired by my ten years in the Bay and my watercolor hobby, I would illustrate 100 Bay Area Gems: places around the Bay that I love. This would give me a watercolor project but also give me a reason to continue exploring the Bay. In the end, 39 of the gems were places that I had never visited until this 100 day project. That means I scouted about three new places every week, since not everything I scouted even made the cut. Needless to say, this was a gigantically time consuming project, completely unpaid, and yet very personally fulfilling. I really do love dreaming up projects and then seeing them all the way through. See the project on my @makelearndo instagram account: #100bayareagems.
Year 11 In Business
Despite being in my eleventh year of business, business still never feels guaranteed. My wedding bookings were looking quite sparse by the time we reached January, and I was concerned. In the end, I did photograph far fewer full weddings than usual this year, but I also photographed far more elopements, small weddings, and weekday weddings than ever before. I love elopements, and really any wedding made incredibly unique and personal, so this was so heartening to my soul. And between that and booking more family sessions than usual too, both my revenue and profit ultimately exceeded that of last year’s. So it did all work out in the end. I’ve learned that no two years in business are really ever the same, and I’m still happily and gratefully still riding that roller coaster into year twelve.
This year I visited three other countries (Taiwan, Mexico, and Canada) and took thirteen other trips within the US, including six road trips within California. I flew to LA twice, I got to meet two new babies back in Cincinnati, I visited a new-to-me city in Texas: Dallas, and I visited Boston right after their first snow of the year. Plus all of the aforementioned girl gang retreats. But what I’m proudest of in the course of my travels is the amount of quality time I’ve gotten to spend with different people in my life. In both Taiwan and Vancouver/Victoria I traveled with family, and I even brushed up on my Mandarin skills. I had new travel buddies on many of my trips and they were all wonderful. I’ve also been revisiting and newly exploring places I’ve already been, which has always been counter to my desire to check off new places and see new things. But of course, there is always a different experience to be had in slowing down and revisiting old places. I also had a lot of time here in the Bay between travels, which I’m newly learning to embrace, since my instinct has always been to fill that “empty” calendar time by not being here. These are all somewhat counterintuitive developments in my jetsetter mentality, but ones I’ve begun to appreciate as I come to realize what counts is not the tally of absences but the strength of your connections.
Oil painting: Although I picked up watercolors last year just on my own and with some online instruction, I had never tried oil paints before and was very intrigued by them. I signed up for an expensive six-week course (which I also couldn’t have done in the past since I was never here for six weeks in a row) at Sadie Valeri Atelier in San Francisco. It turns out I love oil painting. It’s very different from watercolors. Since watercolors are transparent, you always start with light paper and work towards dark – and you can’t really paint something lighter once you’ve already painted it dark. With oil paints, everything is opaque, so you can put more paint on top of your paint or even scrape off colors you didn’t intend. You tend to work spatially rather than from light to dark, and most differently, the paint doesn’t dry for days or even weeks. It’s operating in a completely different mind space. I really liked the precision of oils and enjoyed being in classroom mode (and being the overachiever who always finishes my project first and then moves on to extra credit…) The main problem with oils is that it’s also much more cumbersome, requiring a lot more solvents and supplies. It’s definitely not as nimble as my tiny watercolor kit, but I do have a little setup that I can use at home or on my paint dates now.
Exercise: 2017 was the first year that I ever ran a mile, and 2018 was the first year that I ever had any sort of regular exercise plan. I signed up for two weeks of yoga and went literally every day, fifteen days in a row. I also did 30 days of Bar Method, which I ultimately did not like as much. I signed up for ClassPass and got into pilates, and for a while I was maintaining an exercise calendar and doing some form of exercise three times a week. Of course that fell apart when the travels piled up, but I’m very proud of myself for finally getting on board with some sort of exercise, even if I did wait over three decades to do so. It’s no small thing to be a person who’s never taken an exercise class and suddenly put yourself in a room with all those crazy looking torture devices and decide, yeah, this is fine. I’m going to do this.
Orchestra: Does it count as learning something new when it’s actually something very old that you used to do every single week of your life from age eight to twenty-two but then you just had a complete hiatus for over a decade? I spent so much time with my violin growing up and played all the way through college, but once we finished that final concert, I put that instrument back in its case there it stayed, slowly disintegrating along with my skills. This fall I saw an opportunity to join a local orchestra and decided I might as well ask what it took to join. It turns out there was no audition, and my long list of previous experience was enough to qualify me. Then I just had to rehair my bows, buy new rosin, get my bridge adjusted, and figure out if I could play violin. It was very rough in the beginning and a truly bizarre feeling to be in this a familiar and yet utterly unfamiliar setting again. But it’s slowly coming back, and I’m amused by the fact that I am finally practicing on my own instead of taking my good-enough skills for granted. I’m really enjoying having orchestra back in my life. Here is my wonderful cheering squad after my very first concert!
Well, there’s still so much more I could say about 2018 but most of all I’m so appreciative to all my wonderful friends and family for the support you’ve shown me all year. Here’s to walking in to a whole new year of surprises and unexpected turns.
Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often traveling and working around the world. She creates beautiful, soft, and timeless imagery while capturing the most fleeting of moments. View her work at annawu.com, follow her daily adventures on instagram, or contact her to book your own session today.