words that changed my life — hudson valley photographer

Welcome to day two of my 30-day writing challenge.

Today I’m supposed to write about something someone told me about myself that I never forgot. This was a great subject to mull over! Lots of different things have come to mind. But there are two things that I think of often … so it seems these are the right choices for this activity.

“Some people just can’t learn foreign languages. And you’re one of them.” – Madame Miller, 7th grade

I was (mostly) a good student in school. I usually got As, sometimes Bs. But I never had gotten a D or an F … that is, until French class in 7th grade. I can still remember the feeling of being utterly and completely LOST. Class exercises were just shooting right over my head. And gender?! I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of masculine and feminine words. It made absolutely NO sense to me.

And so … the bad grade came in. And Madame Miller promptly pulled me aside to let me know that some people aren’t meant to learn languages. And that’s ok. 

So I stopped. I mean, after all, I can’t learn foreign languages. Who better to judge my abilities than a foreign language teacher!?

I didn’t take a foreign language in high school … because … I can’t learn foreign languages. 

But then … college happened. It was required that I take 3 semesters of a language. I panicked a bit. What would I do? I can’t learn foreign languages!

A couple of years went by, and I realized that like it or not, I was finally going to have to get started with the language requirement.

I opted for French. I’ve always loved the language. I really did want to learn it!

Day one. I sat there in class absolutely baffled. Everything made perfect sense! Hmm … maybe we weren’t at the hard stuff yet, I thought. But day two came and went. Day 42 came and went. Et j’ai bien compris! I understood.

Today, I serve in a French congregation and love it. I absolutely CAN learn foreign languages. Most recently, I’ve started to learn Swahili.

But I think of Madame Miller often. Whenever I’m working on a project and a feeling of overwhelm creeps in and I start to say to myself, “maybe you just can’t do this. ” I remember her words. They were foolish words. Of COURSE I can do it. I can do anything I set out to accomplish if I try hard enough.

“She has so much potential.” – a friend of a friend who shall remain nameless

I was 25 and I was absolutely trapped in my body. My back problems had grown from bad to worse and most days I could hardly move. And my emotions were a mess, too. I felt worthless, useless, and like I just didn’t have much to offer. I wanted to do more in my congregation … but I felt like I couldn’t. My health seemed to be getting worse all the time. And the worse I felt physically, the worse I felt emotionally. And the worse I felt emotionally, the worse I felt physically. It was a vicious cycle.

It didn’t feel good when I heard that someone was talking about me. He wasn’t saying things in a vicious way. But rather, he was kind of shaking his head and sadly observing that he felt like my life seemed somewhat wasted. “She has so much potential. It’s too bad she isn’t doing more.” Those were the words that made their way back to me.

They stung.

I felt like I was trying my hardest. But it’s awfully hard to do more when you literally have a hard time standing upright. And when pain consumes every second of every minute of every hour of every day of your life, it’s hard to do anything but cry.

Well … the short version of the story of my health is that I grew wiser, made changes, and healed myself. I addressed emotional issues. I addressed physical issues. All the while, his words continued to ring in my ears … pushing me to do more. Driving me ever-closer to my “potential.”

I’m glad he said those words. And I’m glad they made their way back to me. He was right. There was more in me. I just needed to see it.

Ok …now it’s your turn! Has anyone ever told you something that changed your life … or that you think of often? Please leave a comment below.


p.s. One huge part of the puzzle for my back was finding the right therapy. If you or someone you know suffers from any typeof pain, I can’t recommend Egoscue Therapy enough.



Kate Callahan is an on-location photographer who LOVES to capture authentic memories for families. She’s available for weddings, senior photos, child photo sessions, and family photography. Kate works with clients throughout the Hudson Valley, NYC,  Delaware (and the tri-state area), and beyond. 

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