It’s mildly ironic that I can view the changes in my life this past year through the lens of Las Vegas.  I have a hard time thinking of a more superficial city than this place, but as I drove through the glitzy Las Vegas strip, I found myself feeling deeply reflective.

One year ago, I flew to Las Vegas from New York City to visit a client site on behalf of Morgan Stanley.  The client was showing potential investors from China some renewable energy assets and I was sent to babysit and translate.  I stayed at the Four Seasons near Mandalay, had a $100 daily meal budget, and was driving a nearly brand new rental car.  Not a five star getaway by any means, but it was very comfortable.

Fast forward to a year later, I spent my first two nights in Vegas in a hostel (yep, I shared a dorm room with strangers).  Being way more budget conscious, since I was spending out of pocket, I tried to book hotel rooms last minute when prices usually drop without realizing that it was President’s Day weekend and there weren’t cheap rooms available (Joyce and Sonam, if you two ever read this, you guys have clearly rubbed off on me).  Despite having spent many nights in hostels while traveling through third world countries, this was my first time staying in a US hostel and it was nothing to write home about, came complete with funny smells and a lumpy mattress.

I was also trying not to spend too much on food, so I actually packed a cooler with nutri-grain bars, apples, and those little $1 buns with sweet fillings from the Asian grocery store.  I must admit, I missed my corporate AmEx when I walked by Joel Robuchon in MGM, where I had dinner a year ago.

As for the car, it actually was falling apart.  I drove my parents’ 12-year old Toyota Corolla that has perhaps lived through one too many Michigan winters filled with salted roads.  About 4 miles south of Las Vegas, the rusty metal band holding up the muffler finally gave out and the muffler started to drag on the ground.  For someone who hasn’t driven that much nor knows much about cars, let’s just say the loud sound of metal from one’s car scraping on the highway is somewhat heart attack inducing.  I was fairly certain it was setting off sparks and my car was going to blow up any minute.

Suffice it to say, my trip to Las Vegas last week was much more of an ordeal than the trip a year prior, but here’s the flip side.  I was there for the annual WPPI Convention, the biggest event for wedding and portrait photographers.  I went to hear amazing photographers (whose blogs I’ve been stalking) talk about their experiences and share their wisdom.  It was exciting, educational, fun, and most importantly, it was for me.  It was one more step in my journey, following my dreams and passion back into the art world.  I walked away feeling so motivated to do what I’ve set out to do, and compare this to a year ago, well, it was day and night.  I was happy to be in Vegas a year ago because it allowed me to leave the office, but the thought of going back had kept me in a constant state of dread and misery, and now I don’t really know what those words feel like anymore.

It really is amazing how much can happen in a year.  At the risk of sounding like a train wreck of cliches, being true to myself and following my dreams was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I don’t know what the future holds, the economy still kinda stinks, the competition is fierce, and I’m still adjusting to a new city, but I find that the uncertainty doesn’t scare me (much).  I’m doing something that makes me happy, so I have faith that things will work out at the end.


Oh!  And I found complete strangers who helped me fix my car!

I called for a car towing service who told me it was okay to drive but go slow, so I managed to get it off the highway and into a parking lot.  There, I found a security guard who just happened to have wires and a plier to help me tie the muffler up so it was off the ground.  Later, a guy at the hostel offered to find me a proper thingamajig from the hardware store to bolt the muffler back into its place and fixed everything up.  I love nice people!