The best conversations begin with coffee. I was thrilled to catch up for coffee and brunch in downtown Chicago with my friend Maria, a photographer and digital marketing professional from Norfolk, Virginia.
Like me, Maria always starts her morning with coffee.
"I always make a pot of coffee as soon as I wake up," Maria says. "I start the kettle and like knowing it's going as I'm getting ready... I like to set a foundation of positive energy, a clear mind, in my mornings, and that first cup of coffee is the catalyst. Like, ok, I’ve got my day going."
She also loves breakfast (did I mention we have a lot in common?) and says she loves the routine of making it, switching it up on the weekends. "On the weekends, I always make a big breakfast — I go all out," she says. "Right now, I'm trying to perfect the smoothie bowl."
She also listens to a playlist. "It's pretty much alternative music, and my current one is called 'Get Over It' and helps me get over, well, anything I have going on," she says. "Beach Fossils, Hazel English, Day Wave, Real Estate... they're my favorites right now."
She is currently focusing more of her time on her amazing portraits and photography — for friends, for clients, always capturing the amazing architecture and cool Norfolk vibe that seems to surround her. “Photography is my guiding light… it’s the one thing I do that’s truly just for me.”
Maria used to be really into weight lifting, and while she still is, she's recently found her new inspiring movement within rock climbing.
"I was surprised! I went with former co-workers, who told me I was a natural," Maria says. "Rock climbing is fun because it’s working out, but so much more. It's a physical and mental challenge. It's like figuring out a puzzle. And it's totally new for me, not anything I previously thought I wanted to do or ever thought I would do... but while you’re up there, you can only focus on one thing at a time. When I go to the gym, I do weight training, cardio, I think too much, but with weights, I’m counting each rep and able to really focus. I’m so focused, that this — my rock climbing, my weight lifting — is my meditation. Meditation is so important, and I never felt like I could do it before, when I pictured myself just sitting in a room. But now I've found something that allows me to still meditate but satisfy my athlete’s heart."
Maria has always been active, pursuing ballet and track and field as a child. "Now that I've found rock climbing, I feel like there could be even more options I love I just haven't discovered yet, which is exciting."
"One thing I love about rock climbing and the gym is that there are such communities there," Maria shares. "It's a mini-culture. It's inspiring. Enthusiastic. It brings people together. It helps women feel that strong is beautiful, which is such a movement right now, and that movement, that feeling, has really helped to inspire me."