I’ve struggled for over a month with how to tell my story. My confidence has wavered everyday that I might not be able to write this correctly. That I might not reach other photographers and anyone who has precious data. That I might not reach someone who is struggling with life, and help them understand the importance of this message. So, I’m just going to start typing and hope this all makes sense, maybe helping anyone who reads this to connect with God and save themselves from a situation like I faced.
A little over a month ago, my computer died. The hardest part of this was that it died two weeks after the holiday season, and 6 weeks after I had had a total hysterectomy. I was already behind on editing due to the surgery and the holidays, and now I was going to be even further behind while replacing my PC. The day my new PC arrived I was ecstatic! It was so much faster than my old one! I had no idea that my old PC was so slow. No wonder I was so far behind on editing! I hadn’t been able to figure out how everyone was getting so much done around me while I struggled to deliver galleries.
When I realized my computer was dying, I moved everything important to a single hard drive. I was planning to copy everything onto multiple drives once my new PC arrived. I had two copies of everything while the old PC was working, but I didn’t have the time to back up twice before the computer died. You can imagine the excitement running through me as I turned on the new PC, started the Windows updates it required, plugged my hard drive in, and began working.
What happened next nearly broke my soul.
After Windows finished updating, I had to restart the computer. This is a normal thing, something any Windows user wouldn’t think twice about. I left the hard drive plugged in so I could continue working after the restart and went to get a snack. Upon returning, although I could physically see the drive plugged into the front USB ports, it wasn’t showing up in my folders. I unplugged it and plugged it into the back ports. Nothing. I googled everything I possibly could, dove into my PC like a pro to look in the depths of its circuitry to find the hard drive, and downloaded the best data saver software there was to retrieve the files on it.
I stopped breathing. I knew something needed to be done, and that something was outside of my knowledge, so I took it to a friend who works on computers. He tried every trick he knew.
I raced into town and dropped it off at the local computer shop, and waited anxiously for 24 hours to have them tell me…
I was lost. Alone. Full of Fear. My confidence plummeted to an all time low. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to turn too.
You see, on that hard drive I had the memories from 6 wonderful, loving, amazing weddings.
Unedited. Undelivered. Gone.
Six beautiful weddings of twelve beautiful human souls.
I was thoroughly defeated. I stopped eating, I stopped working, I stopped living.
I could only focus on how unfair it was for me to continue a normal life when I was about to devastate some of the coolest humans I know.
I had to figure something out, so I joined the PPA (Professional Photographers Association) and searched for what to do next. They advised me to contact DriveSavers and the law firm that represents members of PPA. So, that’s what I did.
The nice man who answered the phone at Drivesavers was very optimistic about my drive and the lawyer told me to tell all my clients that I had had a hardware malfunction and that it would be a few weeks until it was fixed. Then, I just waited. And waited. And waited. I went out and pretended I was okay. I laughed at jokes, prayed at church, loved my tribe, and waited.
A week later I finally got a call from Drivesavers.
“Hi Jennifer, we just wanted to touch base to let you know that we were not able to find any files on your hard drive. We would like permission to do a deep recovery, but it could take up to four weeks.”
I told them of course, please do what you can, then I hung up the phone and collapsed onto the floor. I literally could not breath, I could not think, I didn’t know what to do. In my entire life, I had never felt like this. How do I tell my clients? What will they do when they find out? How do I tell my family? What is going to happen to my business? Why me?
That is what went through my head right before I called one of my dearest friends. She was so amazing. She sat there quietly, listening to me process all that was happening. Then she told me that my faith was being tested. You see, I had recently become a follower of Jesus, and my faith was growing daily. My life had become so amazing, dreams were coming true, happiness was everywhere. It had to be the hand of God. It was to big to be anything but.
My faith was being tested, but I couldn’t stop thinking “Why me?” I’m just this little nobody photographer from the Midwest. I don’t influence the industry, I’m not famous, I’m really not anybody special. So, I decided to have a conversation with God. To really sit down, close my eyes, and speak with him about what was happening. I sat down on the floor and began to pray. I told God how thankful I was for my career, the vision He had given me, the life I am allowed to live, and for the people who love me. I told him of my fears, my hurt, and I professed my brokenness. I asked him why? What did he want? Most importantly, I asked him to show His path for me.
Then He began to speak to me. This is the first time in 41 years I have ever thought or believed that God speaks to us. The feeling you get when you realize what is happening is overwhelming. I remember sitting there, crying and praying out loud. All of a sudden I was receiving answers. Answers I wasn’t even expecting or thinking that were possible. He told me to relax. Not to worry. He asked me why I hadn’t sat and talked with him before. I realized that it was because I didn’t want to take the time to talk to Him. I was so wrapped up in a career that was destroying me, that I didn’t make time for anything else. I didn’t exercise, I didn’t hang out with my family, I missed Sunday Fundays, I missed church, I missed events, I missed so much. I hadn’t even seen it.
For nine years I worked to become who I am today; but I hadn’t become who, deep down, I wanted to be. I had thought that to be successful I had to be busy all the time, be on social media constantly, be published, keep up with the Jones’. Then, when I was published, I wasn’t even excited about it! I was so busy that I didn’t even take the time to feel the joy I should have felt. I was letting things I didn’t want control my life. I portrayed myself as one of the most joyful people on the planet, yet really I was alone and overwhelmed in my busyness.
That day, on the floor of my living room, all because of this life damaging event, God opened my eyes to what He really wanted.
He showed me that I couldn’t control what is happening, but that it would be okay as long as I shared my story with the world and shared His love with everyone I met. He told me to let go of the greed of success and to simply believe that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and to share my vision with the world how I really see it and not how everyone else wants to see it. He told me to stand firm in my beliefs, to open my life to everyone I encounter, to be open to receiving kindness, to give back to the community who has given so much to me, and to give my life to Him.
He showed me that my time is important, that it really matters, and that people around me really need me to give it to them. He showed me that despite what I may think, I am important, and I do have a voice, even if I struggle with what I should say.
At first I rebelled because that’s just who I am. I am the “Don’t tell me what to do” kind of person. I told everyone that I was getting out of photography. I looked for and acquired a new job, but on the day I was supposed to start I knew that it was wrong. I called the company and told them that I wouldn’t be coming in and apologized for the inconvenience.
I knew I was where I was supposed to be, I was just too stubborn to listen to the people around me and to God. On that exact day, Drivesavers sent me an email. They told me they had found data on my drive and they were very hopeful for a positive outcome.
Again, I fell to my knees. For the first time in a month I felt like I could breath. I felt all this weight lift off my chest, literally, that I had no clue was there. I sank to my knees on the kitchen floor and I cried. I didn’t think I could ever feel such utter relief. However, the day Drivesavers called and told me they had recovered ALL OF MY DATA, I felt the remaining weight lift. They were successful in recovering everything I had on the drive.
The day I received my drive, and knew that I could deliver the precious memories of my clients, will go down as one of the best days of my life. I now have four functioning hard drives that store all my unedited files. Since that day, I have taken so many steps to ensure this never happens again. I will continue to ensure my clients have a safe, happy, worry-free experience. I have changed how I run my business, how I edit, how I see light, how I love. I am so grateful that God has given me a chance to share how I see beauty, I truly know I am where I am supposed to be.
I hope, beyond measure, that you will learn from my story. I hope that you will take the time to connect with God and have a meaningful conversation with Him. I hope that you will backup your data.
Each one of the photos in this post is a precious memory, a piece of my heart, that could have been lost forever. Please don’t let this happen to you. Backup your files and join the PPA. It could save not only your career, but your life.