A Year in Review: 2018


Instagram is currently trending with stories of people’s top three accomplishments of 2018. It got me reflecting upon the year and talking with Zac on what our accomplishments were. Our answers surprised me, but in the best way. And since I’m currently confined to the couch with the nasty cold going around, I wanted to share a synopsis of our year and the lessons we’ve learned, the struggles we’ve overcome, and what our top 6 accomplishments have been for us. Along the way, we were able to work with some great clients, shoot some of the most special moments, and grow in our professional development. I’ll share some of my favorite moments from the year at the end of this post!

1. I want to begin with one of our biggest accomplishments so we start on a high note. I want to mention for those that don’t know us well: Zac and I have a hard time slowing down. Every year, Zac and I look at each other and say “this year we are going to slow down, promise!” but it’s really just setting ourselves up for failure; I mean, we left our honeymoon early to go home and be productive just as an example of who we are as people. So when I say we slowed down this year, it is a major accomplishment for the two of us. Zac and I are learning to say “no” to some things, and “yes” to so many more things:

We’ve said no to traveling every weekend for work, and we’ve said yes to taking vacation days for, you know, vacation. We’ve said no to working til midnight and yes to more date nights. We’ve said no to professional gains and yes to relationship gains. It’s still a work in progress, but we’re excited to continue making progress in 2019!

Now for the sake of transparency, I have to start out our year with how it started… pretty miserably. I quit my job when we got married and wanted to fully devote myself to photography and freelance design. In January, we launched our new website/business of “The Sturgeon’s” that offered capabilities outside of just photography. We had grandiose ideas to help others create a wedding completely unique to them, something we really wanted with our wedding. Since I had no idea how much money truly went into making custom invitations, I ended up doing so much work pro bono, investing all I was paid into the printing and, additionally, only received a few inquiries for wedding work. I felt exhausted and defeated. I was working 60-80 hours a week at home and was growing lonelier and lonelier. Zac would come home at night around 7:00 and I would be an excited, chatty puppy dog; after all, I hadn’t talked to a single soul all day apart from the cashier at Meijer. We’d cook dinner, then sit down on the couch and continue working on freelance until we went to bed. That paired with being in a new city (that I hated) with no friends resulted in a period of depression that put a strain on our relationship.

Through that experience, however, it taught me what I did value: human interaction, the comforts of home and familiarity, having a routine and a daily purpose, enjoying relaxation, and friendship.

When springtime hit, Zac was growing increasingly disenchanted with the agency he worked for that was in tumultuous waters with its client, Ford, at the time. So, we vowed we would work to make it back to Grand Rapids within the next two years. The following week, Zac had an amazing opportunity fall in his lap that would get us back to Grand Rapids by the summertime! What amazing luck! It would have been working with people Zac enjoyed, doing work Zac loved, and giving him the freedom and flexibility he craved. While Zac was at a conference in New York, he called me to let me know the opportunity had fallen through during negotiations. Grand Rapids slipped through our fingers and I remember feeling beyond frustrated. It set us out with a new determination to get back to Grand Rapids even sooner. We didn’t care what jobs we took, we just wanted to get back.

2. This takes me to our second major accomplishment: learning to be patient. The next few months Zac and I were forced to be patient, even though we fought it every second we could. I applied to over a dozen jobs, cold called dozens more, got in contact with recruiters, and was scouring LinkedIn on the daily. Zac was doing the same. Even though this section of our lives could be its own blog post, I’ll try to sum it up as best I can. Dragging the months on, 3 of Zac’s 5 major opportunities fell through. The only opportunity that we had for sure come the start of July left us still in Detroit. It was a great opportunity for him—a senior designer at Shinola—but it wasn’t everything we hoped it would be. 2 hours before Zac had to let Shinola know yes or no, Steelcase came back to Zac with the answer to all of our prayers. Zac quickly turned down Shinola and accepted Steelcase’s position, and I turned down a year-long contract with McCann in Birmingham. We had so much stress surrounding these decisions, but I feel like God was nudging me, saying “Trust me, I have something better for you” the whole time. And of course, in retrospect, everything worked out unbelievably perfectly and I thank God for His never-ending faithfulness.

I was left still jobless, but on a weekend trip to Grand Rapids, I stopped at an apartment complex and signed a contract for their last apartment available without seeing the inside. Knowing me at all, I don’t take risks. Ever. And this was a big risk. We were worried about the rent with only one guaranteed income and had no idea what the apartment was going to actually look like. But we had faith it would work out, especially after the evidence God showed us with Zac’s job, and I am so happy with the outcome.

Zac was set to start his job August 5th, so thus began the job of packing up our apartment. The day of move-in, we had THIRTEEN people helping us in both Detroit and Grand Rapids! We are eternally blessed and thankful for our friends and family for their sacrifices—especially in 97 degree weather! It was no small task, I assure you. And lemme tell ya, all 26 plants made it to GR alive! We made it home to Grand Rapids, which was accomplishment 3.

The day Zac started his job at Steelcase, I received an offer from The Distillery Project, another answer to prayers! I eagerly accepted and joined an awesome team and company! Accomplishments 4. and 5. for us were learning and growing at our jobs these past 5 months. We both love our jobs and feel so blessed to get to do what we do!

These past five months have been some of the best times for us. We’ve made it our priority to spend time with friends and family and each other, which is accomplishment 6making time. Zac lost a very close friend at the beginning of the year, which has made us value our friendships even more than before. We’ve spent our weekends enjoying game nights, delicious restaurants of Grand Rapids, truly lazy Saturdays, and giving our cars’ mileage a break. We’ve also grown closer as a couple and learned how to help the other up when they’re falling and lean on God when we’re both falling.

2018 was an altogether wild ride and since this post is already long enough, here are some other memorable moments from the year, summed up:

Witnessing 2 of my best friends get married, capturing 6 (going on 7) other weddings, launching a major rebrand we worked 8 months on, traveling to Chicago for a lettering workshop, having our wedding featured on Junebug, going to a Wing’s game, turning 24 surrounded by my best friends, learning new recipes, practicing illustrations, finding new joys in drawing, trying and failing at pottery class, getting tattoos, relaxing on Lake Michigan and Long Lake, going out of my comfort zone, making new friends, going to a Cub’s game, traveling to Hawaii and laying on the beach, shark cage swimming, parasailing, starting ballet again, hosting parties, photographing friends’ engagements, and fully embracing homebodyness.

Life is so good, friends, and we are thankful for all of you who have touched our lives and added your signatures to our hearts. We love you. Thanks for reading! Our favorite moments of 2018 are below! Here’s to 2019.

Jessie and Zac