Thanks for hanging in there while we honeymooned.
If you've been following the blog, you know that about a week ago, I married a girl I met on the internet 6 years ago.
While many people in the photography community know our story, some do not.
Kiara and I met online nearly 6 years ago, during the booming intersection of technology, cheaper DSLR cameras, better access to Photoshop and more education about creative fine art photography. The two of us couldn't be further apart - Kiara, a young girl living in Australia, and myself, a goofy boy raised in Los Angeles.
It was flickr.com that brought us together - but more importantly, it was our passion for creating art, day in and day out, that led to our ultimate, fateful meeting behind the dazzling pages of the internet one day in 2011.
Back in those days, the big thing to do was host free print giveaways to your fans on Flickr. Following the trend, I hosted a giveaway myself - noting the random Australian girl, Kiara, who consistently commented on all of my photos, every day, during my 365-day photography project. Without fail, Kiara was always encouraging, pushing, and supporting my art. She came on my radar a couple of months in to the project, and we started a friendship. Looking for any reason to talk to her, I decided she had "randomly won" the print giveaway:
I know, I was a real charmer.
These days were filled with endless inspiration, support, and friendship within the photo community. No judgement, no whispers, just friendship and acceptance. This is the world that Kiara and I stepped in to when we began our 8-thousand-mile friendship.
As the years rolled on, our friendship moved from the internet to letters, gifts, and video chats. It was hard for me during that time - I knew Kiara had developed feelings for me, but I could never commit to exploring my feelings for her. Simply put, she was far younger than I was and she lived an entire ocean away. It's funny how the world seems so big and impossible when you're a kid. If there's anything marriage and love have taught me, it's that they break all borders.
Love makes the impossible possible, and I only know this because I married the woman who showed me that an entire ocean wasn't anything more than a raindrop on the sidewalk in the grand scope of love.
For Kiara and I, our friendship was always two steps forward, one step back - mostly my fault. It was the, "wow Kiara and I are getting close lately," that shifted quickly to "I've got a girlfriend now, whoops," to which Kiara always responded with nothing but love, kindness, and support. Even when it hurt her to see me dating other women, even women in the industry, even her friends, she continued to love me. I don't know why she chose to love me so fervently, but I've never been more blessed by anyone in my entire life.
When breakups hit hard, Kiara was there. A book, a gift, a note of encouragement. When anxiety got real and I confronted it head on, her calming words found their way to my screen, my mailbox, a video chat. When I wanted to quit, give up, directionless, her kind voice reminded me that somehow, in some way, I mattered to someone - if only at the moment to her, and that was enough.
At the end of 2014, I hit a very difficult patch of turbulence in my life that would ultimately catapult Kiara and I into each other's arms. Following a very difficult and emotionally trying break up with a very close friend, Kiara and I began to converse again, more rapidly, and with more thought than ever before. Our conversations were daily by the Spring of 2015, and the number on person I texted was her. From an apartment I rented in London for a workshop, I wrote Kiara a letter and sent her a Giving Key for a her birthday with the word "Change" stamped in to the metal.
She was in the throes of one of the most difficult seasons of her life, and the word I sent her on that key became prophetic.
I headed home from London in early 2015 and spent a week with my parents in California before flying home. As I was boarding my flight, I got a text message from Kiara:
"Hey, can I ask you something? It might sound crazy but I really feel it on my heart."
"Okay, sure!" (this is me hoping she wants to meet up somewhere and finally explore our relationship more deeply)
"What if I said I was thinking about coming to the U.S. to visit you and all of our photography friends?"
"... Yes. Uh, HECK YES. Let's pray about this. I think it sounds AWESOME."
My flight landed a couple hours later, and I drove to pick up some mail from my old house so that I could move in to my new place. When I grabbed the mail, I noticed a massive envelope with my name on it.
I carefully ripped open the top and started to pull items out sent to me by my dear friend, Laura Behary. She didn't know Kiara at the time, so when I started to to pull out a boomerang with pictures from Australia on it, I instantly knew that the desired meeting between Kiara and I was much more than desired - it was possibly even encouraged by God.
Then I pulled out a magazine from May of 1978 - a feature on the woman from "Tracks," with a text except about "a girl taking a magnificent journey" on the front page of the magazine.
Sold. Kiara was on a plane 5 weeks later.
We met on May 22nd, 2015.
And we didn't waste time. 3 hours in to meeting each other, I asked Kiara to be my girlfriend.
After 11 months of incredibly difficult long distance dating, I asked Kiara to be my wife on the very beach she took me to on my first visit to Australia in 2015.
We slated our wedding for February 8th of next year, but, due to complications with family traveling, and a time-limit for Kiara's visa, we decided to have an "informed elopement."
Essentially, we uninvited all of our family from the wedding. It was super difficult for us, because we absolutely love our family, but it made the most sense when Kiara could only have 4 members of her family, and I could have 60. The balance wasn't right unless we went alone. So alone we were married, in the quiet December air of Joshua Tree National Park.
We took communion.
We said our vows in the presence of God.
We danced with the towering rocks above us, the calm and cool wind rushing over our skin.
Then, we ate burgers. True to form, Kiara and I celebrated our new marriage by grabbing In-n-Out - a staple in our relationship, constantly driving up and down the west coast to match time spent between Portland and Los Angeles.
As Kiara lays in the bed asleep now, I sit and wonder how I ever became so blessed to have a woman who never gave up on me.
Someone who, even before she ever met me, knew that we would one day be together.
Knew that she would be in my arms.
Knew that even through the difficulty of long distance dating, my temper and lack of patience, and an entire ocean between us, we would be one, one day.
My wife is the most beautiful creation I've ever seen, and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with her holding my hand, looking over my laptop at her beautiful eyes, instead of looking through a screen.
If you don't think internet dating works, or that following your passion and sharing it with the world will lead you anywhere worthwhile, let this story show you that you are wrong.
There is hope, there is beauty, there is more life coming.
My beautiful wife is a testament of that. Our marriage has shown me that anything you think at once is impossible, is absolutely and undeniably possible, but only with love.
Kiara, I love you. Thank you for showing me that we can do what was once thought impossible.
I'm on a mission to show that the light will always pierce through the darkness.