On November 28th, 2015 my feet were freezing.
I could have worn proper winter boots, given the standard temperatures of winter in Edmonton, but I opted for fashion instead. They were cute, black boots and I didn’t know who I’d be meeting that day; if they were the type of people to judge footwear.
I’m pretty sure they were not the type of people to judge footwear.
On November 28th, 2015 I attended my first URBANYEG InstaMeet.
I was freshly 18, not exactly used to doing things by myself, and wielding a Canon Rebel xsi I got from my dad – set to automatic mode and shooting in JPEG, of course. I liked taking photos of flowers in my backyard and portraits of my cat whenever she stayed still for more than a moment. I heard of URBANYEG at an event I attended a month prior and it caught my attention. I couldn’t find any friends to go with, so despite being far too timid for my own good, I sucked it up and went alone.
I got off the LRT at Grandin Station and made my way to the Legislature grounds. It was pretty easy to figure out that the growing group of people, a good portion of them holding cameras, were URBANYEG’s sixth InstaMeet. Not going to lie, I was pretty intimidated.
I ended up chatting to a small group of people – I don’t quite remember if I had the courage to approach them or if they saw me standing awkwardly and waved me over, but either way I’m thankful for those first few faces I met. One of the first people I was introduced to was Jonah (who I’m happy is a friend of mine to this day). I found out he was a writer, just like me, and we clicked instantly.
The InstaMeet kicked off with a group photo – almost 80 people! We wandered around downtown Edmonton for a few hours, taking photos of the architecture and of each other. Considering how timid I was at that age, I managed to make conversation with people rather easily. We were all there for similar reasons, so it was easy to bond with everyone.
On November 28th, 2015 I had no idea how much URBANYEG was going to change my life.
I continued going to InstaMeets. I met more and more people. I formed friendships and even a romantic relationship. I went from editing photos in VSCO to Lightroom. I went from shooting in JPEG to RAW. I went from a Canon Rebel xsi to a T5i to a 5D to a 6D. I went from wearing cute black boots to practical winter boots during those winter meetups.
Even during the year I lived in Vancouver, I still felt part of the URBANYEG community. I interacted with Edmonton photographers on Instagram, I wore my URBANYEG t-shirt all the time, and I conveniently visited home when there were InstaMeets happening.
Only a few months after I moved back from Vancouver, I went on Instagram to see that URBANYEG was growing their team and had vacant volunteer positions. “Blog Manager” captured my attention immediately. I naturally slid into URBANYEG’s DMs to ask if the position was still vacant. A month later, I found myself sitting upstairs in Little Brick cafe, surrounded by a whole lot of creatives and a whole lot of fresh faces.
I was part of the URBANYEG team now.
It wasn’t just the fun photo InstaMeets and the opportunity to help run a blog that made me want to join. It was the faces behind URBANYEG and their focus on mental health. As someone who has struggled with mental illness for a third of my life, it was refreshing to be part of a community that didn’t shy away from having those difficult conversations while actively contributing to the de-stigmatization of mental health. I was thrilled to be part of something bigger, something that would create positive impacts on my life and the lives of those around me.
I never thought that stepping out of my comfort zone and going to a photography meetup would end up influencing my life, my relationships, and my career so much. I don’t know if I’d be a photographer today had I never gone to an instameet – photography was never something I had my sights on. I made the choice to get over being shy and go alone to an event, I made a choice to continue going to these photo meetups, I made a choice to build friendships and pursue photography on a professional level. I made all those choices due to URBANYEG’s influence on my life.
I am honoured to be part of a team that values creativity, friendships, and mental health. I am honoured to have the support of everyone on the team, professionally, creatively, and emotionally.
On November 28, 2015 I made a decision with no idea what would come out of it.
On November 28, 2019 I am posting this as URBANYEG’s blog manager, as a photographer, as a mental health advocate. I am grateful to Chan, URBANYEG’s Director, for taking action and creating such a wonderful community. I’m grateful for everyone who is currently on the team – Saniya, Jeff, Karen, Heather, Eric, Joel, Jeffrey, Julia, Connor, Emily, Etienne, Rachael, and Evan. I’m grateful for everyone I’ve met an InstaMeet. I’m grateful to have a safe place to grow as a creative.
On November 28, 2019 I am a better person than I was 4 years ago and I’m excited to continue working and growing with URBANYEG.