I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or  slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.

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Here’s a question we all keep on returning to at one point or another:

What ever happens to the friends that disappear?

The friends who kept tabs on you, who checked in, who took you out for lunch when they were in town?

What happens to the friends who were there but suddenly…aren’t?

I’ll give you a bit of my background: I’ve always been super social. I was that girl hugging everyone and dancing until dawn. High school gave me plenty of friends. College and my early adult years meandering New York City left me with plenty of kindred spirits and interesting characters. But my life made a drastic change socially when I turned 20 years old.

Disappearing Friendships

Before I was a photographer, I spent 12 years in serious pursuit of a life on the stage. And during my time hustling and trying to chase a career on Broadway, I always received encouragement. Random messages, calls, texts, even letters. People would want me to visit them when I took my annual trip back home to San Diego. Friends always reached out. But as soon as I left behind my life as an actor, all the friends that messaged me often, checked in with how I was doing in New York, grabbed lunch to “pick my brain” suddenly disappeared. The minute I announced on Facebook that I was leaving show business to pursue photography, those messages were silenced. The people that inspired me through letters and messages, cheered me on and offered help were gone in a flash. And I was left to wonder where everyone went.  The voicemails stopped. The people wanting to “hang out” were ghosts.

It was nothing but crickets.

Struggles Early On

Over the years, I’ve struggled to acknowledge the fact that maybe those friends were only there for the free Broadway tickets.

Maybe they hovered there in the background because they were interested in me because of what I did, in what I was pursuing, in the interesting life I led in Manhattan.

Maybe they were just curious to know where I ended up. And it killed me that year when I thought about it.

A tiny voice whispered that I let them down. They believed in me. And I let them down. 

In the past, I would often ruminate and wonder where they all went. I would wonder where the coffee dates went, where the messages disappeared to. But I had decided when I left New York that the people I needed to dedicate my thoughts to were right there alongside me. 

Friendships and Values 

My real friends supported me through the transition. Real support. I recognized those hanging around because I had an interesting life as an actress in New York, and I recognized the people who valued me: the make-up less Helena wearing a messy bun and a flannel. The Helena with the big heart who loves living, who loves animals, who loves capturing magical moments of life through storytelling.

Because my life will change. It will change again and again, as it does for everyone as we move forward in this transformative journey of living. We pivot. We grow. We move away. We start new families. We change.

I want the people around who love me for my heart, for my spirit, for who I am. Because no matter how much of my environment or interests change, the real me will always stay the same.

Meeting My Partner 

I often remark to my mom how grateful I am that I met my partner, Alex, in the midst of my transition, that he first met the Helena without the musical theatre actor title associated to it. He never heard me sing. He never saw me on stage. He has no idea what my childhood was like or what the future I would have had looked like. He met the simple girl who was just loving life in New York City, who was unsure what she wanted to do with her life. He met the girl underneath the surface.

No reputation and no association.

These days I have less friends than I did when I was 20. But the kindred spirits I still keep in touch with to this day continue to support me in my quest for storytelling and fulfillment. They don’t think of me as a “photographer” or a “blogger.” They view me as a person with many interests and a big heart. Those people I still reach out to. I like their posts, we keep in contact and see each other when we’re both in town. These people never disappeared.

Be Intentional With Your Friendships

So, this is a more personal post here on the blog, but it’s an important one to think about.

It’s a good reminder to glance around at the people in your social circle, to make sure they are the good ones, that they are the ones who love you for the person you are, and not for the status or “shiny pennies”.

So, here’s a public declaration, a goodbye to the old friends.

Goodbye to the wonderful nights in New York, the lunches and laughs in California, the messages sent back-and-forth, the lets-catch-ups, the wishful thinking that they would all stick around when I changed who I was. Or rather what I did. Goodbye to it all. With love, of course.

You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.

I choose to, from now on, be more deliberate with the people I allow in my close personal circle. To be intentional with those I trust and give my heart so openly to. And to not waste a second more wondering where they all went.

Love to it all,

 

Dear Old Friends: To the Friends that Disappear

February 16, 2018

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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