The first camera I ever bought besides was a Canon Rebel T6i. This is a pretty common first camera for a lot of people. This image is the first one I ever took with it, right outside of my old apartment.

I was living in Santa Barbara at the time, flat broke after my infamous RV College Campus Tour had just ended. I was at a crossroads and had the world wide open to me, though I was not without the heavy burden of financial stress on my back. So, I did what any 22-year-old in this position would do: I opened up another credit card and bought a $1000 camera.

On the surface this looked like a stupid decision. But my intuition saw far past the surface. This camera was an investment. While I didn’t have the money for it right then, I felt deeply convicted that this decision would pay itself back, in money and much more, in the long term.

While this was the first real camera I bought, it wasn’t the first camera I owned. My very first one was a little polaroid camera my parents bought me when I was maybe 8 years old. I remember the oblong shape, the way the bottom popped open to feed the empty polaroid strip. I even remember some of the photos I took with it, depicting my brother and my sisters, my parents, my room, my dogs. Later that year our family packed up in an RV and moved from Virginia to Colorado and I remember photographing with this camera during the trip.

After arriving in Colorado I upgraded to using my parents’ camcorder. I made friends around our apartment complex. I took up skateboarding and I rallied my friends together to film our skateboarding escapades. I quickly started writing and coming up with characters and stories, and we went from filming skateboarding tricks to acting out narratives for the camera. It was so fun. I remember the feeling of wonder churning inside my heart every time I would look at the back of the camera screen to see the shot I had just gotten. I loved the feeling of stories coming out of me, of endlessly trying to capture what I had envisioned so I could watch it on the back of that camera screen.

Years went by and I got more entangled with the social jungle of middle and high school. My camera collected dust as I performed my schoolwork and eventually made plans for engineering school and adulthood.

If you know me well, you already know how this story goes. I dropped out of college after 3 semesters, ran a house painting business and lead others to do the same. I wrote a book about why I dropped out of school, then put on the RV tour to spread the idea around the country that every young person shouldn’t be so pressured to go to college. 6 months later I landed where this story started, broke in Santa Barbara with a camera in my hands for the first time in years.

It makes perfect sense why I went further in debt to buy that camera. I didn’t know how to use it, and I knew even less how it could make me money. The only thing I knew was that it was special to me. I held the camera in my hand, and for the first time since my childhood I felt that churning sense of wonder deep in my heart. The child inside me laughed.

My creative spirit had been suppressed for far too long. It had burst out of me when I wrote my book, it had driven me to start the RV tour, and now it brought me to this moment where I knew I had found my path once again. It was only the beginning – and it still feels like just the beginning – but at least this road is mine to walk.

Want more stories like this? Sign up below and I’ll send you a fresh one every Friday.