I'm not a biggest fan of reflection. I'm constantly looking for what's next, what can I do next to improve, how can I better myself? Things like that... However, I gotta say, I didn't quite realize how much changed in 2023. New Year's Eve 2022, I was emotionally a mess, I was running from the trauma's of the previous 4 years. Drowning myself in alcohol, running from all of my problems, and avoiding the emotions running through my body.

Something clicked that fateful NYE night, other than running into friends downtown, I spent the evening alone. I caught a few bands performing downtown, but other than that I had absolutely zero fun. I was the encapsulation of Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump on NYE. But as I paced downtown, alone, something changed inside of me. I went home, watched some College football and was in bed by the time the clock struck midnight. That evening I decided I wasn't going to drink for the foreseeable future. And I didn't.

I'm not anti-drinking, I think everything in moderation is fine. But, not drinking allowed me to look at the man in the mirror. It was at this moment that I started to take responsibility for my actions over the past few years. Accept the responsibility for my part in a 3 year relationship that had somewhat recently ended. Most importantly, I had to face the traumas of my mother's passing. She passed in 2020 from cancer, and I held on to so much regret. I feel as if I failed her, let her down. She was my best friend, and I could've been there for her more. Although, I was 29 at the time of her diagnosis, I feel as if I acted immature, I was weak and most notably, I was incredibly naive. A much stronger man stands here now. I finally made my peace with myself and allowed myself to move forward, and forgive myself for doing the best I could with what I knew then.

This change didn't happen overnight, I worked hard on self growth, accepting a fate of being alone forever if that's what the cards held. Regardless of that, I worked hard everyday at just being a better person, doing the best I could to be a stronger, more responsible person.

Other changes happened last year, I started playing basketball for the first time in years, and it was super fun! Even played on a club team. I hadn't played on a club team in years. Unfortunately, after the 2nd season I injured my thumb, and had to step away, but it led to me keeping my conditioning going and surprisingly I found a love for running, something I've generally hated for my whole life. I now prioritize fitness and run about 3-5 times a week.

Additionally, I started to play music again. If you don't know, I've performed live music since I was 15 years old; however, I've been on a long hiatus since 2015, 8 years. I'll admit, I've played an open mic here and there, a show here and there with my old band, but I hadn't written a new song since 2015, I hadn't committed to a project the way that I did when I was ages 15-25.

In those 8 years, I had been sharpening my tool kit, learned so much about playing guitar, learned a lot about songwriting, understood so much more about music and composing music. Music, just like photography, is a never ending journey. It's worth noting, I used to be so self conscious of my voice, that I basically never sang for anyone and honestly, for good reason. Now, I'm posting videos of myself singing to Youtube, and yes, maybe that's not a big deal to many people, but it's a huge deal for me.

Not only did playing music again spark a zest for life in me that I hadn't felt in many years, it led me to finding my love, Terrie (TJ). Not only has she made all of life all the sweeter, but she makes me want to be the best version of myself for her. I'm very lucky to have a partner like her in my life, she really completes me. And I know it's extremely tough to find that right person, but I would say that the best thing anyone can do is just try to be their best version of themselves. Being emotionally mature and ready for the moment was everything. Had I just been the same old me, I'd have blown my chance when she walked into my life, instead I was ready when the opportunity presented itself.

Lastly, photography-wise, 2023 was a revolutionary year. I taught my first lighting workshop over at Digital Pro Lab. I also taught 2 lighting workshops at the non-profit Art afterschool program at Say Si. I look forward in 2024 to teaching many more lighting workshops. I joined the Blue Star Art's Collective, and now show my work every First Friday over at the Blue Star. I you would've told me I'd be showing my work there 5 years ago, I'd have never believed you! In 2024 I plan on being more involved with the Collective in any way that I can. I'm hoping to host some lighting classes/workshops there this year as well. Most importantly, I got hired by Pepper Magazine as a photojournalist, & will be writing articles very soon! So be on the lookout for those as well!

2023, you may have just been the best yet, but I'm looking forward to what comes next! Be on the lookout for so much more this year: video, prints for sale, music, & interviews. If you haven't already, go watch the interview I did with Brandon Padier! It's on my Youtube channel @devindeleonphoto, (https://www.youtube.com/@devindeleonphoto) or you can find it over on the Video tab on the menu. This year I plan on taking video to a whole other level. Until next time!