the lady behind the lens

as this new ADVENTURE in photography is set in motion, i feel that it is important to REFLECT on how i got to this point in my life. i apologize for the length of this post, but i feel like it is important and can hopefully be INSPIRING for a reader or two.




in august of 2016, i was in a car ACCIDENT. i happened to hit the left side of my head on my window during the COLLISION, and didn’t realize how bad that little bruise was going to effect the days that followed. at the time my only concern was making it to my summer biology class, so i wouldn’t lose a weeks worth of information before the final. therefore, i turned down a hospital check-up. 

the week that followed happened to be the BEGINNING of soccer training. i began experiencing many more migraines than NORMAL. during breaks i would look at the blinds in the classroom, and get extremely dizzy. i couldn’t be outdoors for more than a few minutes without feeling this insane pounding in my head. you know that feeling you get after spinning around a handful of times and then stopping, but the room was still SPINNING? yeah, that’s sort of how i felt when i would watch the ball be passed from one side of the field to the other. 

the MOMENT i really knew something was WRONG was after i chose to sit out a week at practice in HOPES of feeling better before our game at rogue. when we arrived, i started in the match and CONFUSED my teammates with the trees behind them... now i am sure you just read that, and couldn’t help but giggle… i was the same way, because it just sounds silly. 


at this point i knew i was CONCUSSED, and finally admitted that i needed to see the trainer. i was advised to take the concussion test, which i FAILED, miserably, worse than the lowest percentile of concussed athletes. i still had HOPE though. hope that my season wasn’t over. after a couple weeks of being monitored, my trainer referred me to a therapist, and advised me to take a BREAK on school and work until i was ready to take on the load again.


i couldn’t help but think that she was CRAZY. there was no way that i could just STOP, press pause on my life and WAIT until things got better. there was no way that i was GIVING UP on my chance to play at the next level. i did not have time to WASTE on rest. as an athlete we know that any moment that you are away from the field/game is a moment for someone else to be better than you and TAKE your spot. 

because nobody could SEE what was going on inside my head, they struggled to empathize or understand WHY i was sitting out. i, myself couldn’t even explain what i was feeling without sounding crazy. it wasn’t until i went in to see a professional, that i actually got my ANSWERS. unfortunately, they WEREN'T the answers i was looking for.

i couldn’t recite back a phrase that was given to me SECONDS before. i couldn’t categorize the same items into a group without drawing a BLANK. i struggled remembering what someone had just told me 5 minutes prior. the doctor told me that if i ever had a CHANCE of getting my memory back, that i would have to STOP PLAYING SOCCER…

my stomach DROPPED. how do you tell an athlete, who has been DEFINED by this game for the past 14 years of her life, that she has to hang her cleats up in order to have a CHANCE of getting her memory back? it wasn’t guaranteed, but the changes would be maximized if i made this CHOICE. i had to think really long and hard about this because i wasn’t ready to END a chapter of my life that seemed to be the only thing writing my STORY


it became evident that i didn’t have a choice, because i wasn’t going to be a soccer player forever. at some point there would be a PARTING. i just didn’t realize it was going to happen this EARLY. i had to TRUST that God had a PLAN. i’ll admit, my FAITH was not as strong then, as it is now.


the following five months weren’t EASY by any means. i found myself in a DARK place; & that wasn’t just because i wasn’t able to handle the light of the sun for long periods of time. i couldn’t be in large crowds, because my brain wasn’t able to pick up all the VOICES, and would instead create SILENCE. i couldn’t remember any of the people i was meeting, without WRITING it down. writing to remember became the only thing that could help me get through the days without feeling DISCOURAGED.

i made the SACRIFICE of letting go of soccer, but i wasn’t ready to let go of my education, too. i continued going to class and spent all of my spare time studying in between my NAPS in order to make up for my brain not functioning to its fullest ABILITY. in addition, my coworkers became my ROCK, and were very understanding and COMPASSIONATE towards my sitatuion.


things SLOWLY did get better. there were nights when i laid in bed devastated, and confused, only to ask:

why me? 

why did this have to happen? 

why now? 

my cheeks were continuously soaked in tears of FEAR that i wouldn’t feel “NORMAL” again. i PRAYED every night that this was going to be JUSTIFIED, or made okay again. 

photos by the amazing jacque szczEpanski

see this girl right here? at this point she's still recovering, but you would never know. she is BLESSED with a SECOND CHANCE from God, and will spend every day that followed to shed light on His GLORY.

today I can say that my PRAYERS were ANSWERED. i had an amazing man who helped guide me out of the darkness, and allowed me to live vicariously through his soccer career. i am now able to sit through games without feeling sick and i’m going to make it to as many of my old teammates games as possible to SUPPORT them. the game will still always be WITHIN me, even if i am not competing in it. i met my BEST FRIEND who brought me even closer to Christ, and i now practice the word of GOD on a daily basis. i feel even more in LOVE with my job and all the people that come with it. i finished up 21 credits in my last term with a 4.0 and COMPLETED the requirements for my associates degree. i am now completing my bachelors degree for FREE through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan through Arizona State University. the best part is that it is online, so i can complete it anywhere. i chose to move back home to save on living, be closer to my FAMILY and watch my ROCKSTAR of a little brother tear it up on the field/court in his last two years of school. with the move, i also promoted into the management team as a shift supervisor. 


but what i am most EXCITED about is the OPPORTUNITY i have to FINALLY pursue my PHOTOGRAPHY. it’s always been a hobby that got stuck on the back burner, because sports were in the spotlight. lately, my FIRE has been LIT by the experience i have had taking pictures, and meeting all of you! so, i am happy to say that EMILY VANDEHEY PHOTOGRAPHY IS HERE TO STAY, and i am defining myself through this career! my WHY was answered as soon as i put that camera back in my hands.

word about this website has been out there for a bit, so i want to THANK you for your patience and jumping into this WAVE of life with me. i figured now that i am TWENTY that is was time to launch! the evolution of this past year has really GIFTED me the opportunity to view life from another PERSPECTIVE and recognize the importance of our days. i learned that they can be numbered, and you must live out all of your dreams before it’s too late.


for those of you who made it through this novel, THANK YOU for taking the time to read about silly ol’ emily. i hope that some part of this can shed LIGHT on the craziness of life, and help you realize that there are other people out here who may be going through something SIMILAR to you. maybe you’ve felt confused about your FUTURE or why something tough is happening to you, but know that that tunnel of DARKNESS does end, and when you make it through, you will find LIGHT. the hardest times of sacrifice are what make you strongest. TRUST that God wouldn’t ever put more weight on your shoulders than He knew you couldn’t handle. 

or maybe you are hurting and nobody can see it. maybe you are SCARED to stray onto another path because what’s on the other side is unknown... let me tell you that these last 6 months have been some of the HAPPIEST of my life. i met the most AMAZING people who were STRANGERS at the beginning of it. i started putting myself out there, and just being me. i realized that you don’t have to be a big name athlete in order to have a great PURPOSE. i found talents in myself that i didn’t know were there before. i FOUND my career path. most importantly, i found JESUS and He is the one who helped me find my true self. DON’T BE AFRAID. take those chances even if they seem scary. live like there is no tomorrow because we never know when there won’t be. 


i look forward to MEETING all of you, and hearing about your STORY. my hopes are that you feel comfortable enough to share it, after hearing mine, and we can find the best light to bring it to life

cheers, my loves!