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My Best 10 Moments from 2018....

I’m the first to feel the weight of life, love, work, mortality, and health at the end of every year. I feel lonely and anxious and sometimes a sense of impending doom, while simultaneously feeling unbelievably grateful for so many things and in love with my life. Life is weird that way. Somehow learning that it’s okay to feel and hold space for two entirely different emotions at once has been key. And, if finally finishing this blog post that was originally intended to be a best 18 moments of 2018 (now only 10, hehe) over a week into the year is any indication of how my year is starting, i’m here for it. Truth is I’m just prioritizing other stuff right now: health, relationships, Saunders and sleep. That and we have a mouse problem, so you know. In any case, here are 10 of my favourite memories from the year, in no particular order.

1 // California

When Lucas and I first started dating (literally within the first couple weeks) we decided to book a trip to California on a whim. The trip was just shy of 2 months away - which meant we both assumed we’d still be dating by then, hehe. I surprised him (with the help of my parents) with a night at Disneyland, before heading to Joshua Tree. There we explored the picturesque park, filmed the best#dancepartywithnicole (click that link… you won’t regret it), and spent the night in the middle of nowhere at the cutest Air BnB ever. We had our own hot tub under the stars and I think it might have been one of the most magical evenings of my life. And then we spent a week at my old stomping grounds in LA - seeing my pals, visiting museums, watching sunsets at Griffith Park Observatory, lying on the beach and hiking Runyon (obvs). The other day Lucas said “that was the best trip of my entire life” and I have to agree.

2 // Photographing Alt Summit

One of the biggest highlights every year is attending Altitude Summit, the largest conference for bloggers and creatives, which takes place in Palm Springs at the start of each year. I have had the pleasure of attending numerous times, and have also been fortunate enough to be a speaker there twice. When my life turned upside down I took a year off (my personal life had some ties with the conference and I found it hard to go back in my lowest low) but in early 2018 I was brought in as one of two official photographers (alongside Justin Hackworth)! To be honest, when I said yes, I wasn’t sure what feelings might come up being back there, but it was PERFECT. Women are the most intuitive, kind, thoughtful and open humans and it was so incredible to be able to see so many friends whom normally we only get to stay connected online. If you’re looking to kick off the year feeling inspired: go to Alt Summit and be in a room full of empowered women, many of them moms still hustling and creating the work they’ve felt called to do! I had no idea the friendships I’d make all those years ago would stay so connected and real. This year I was especially moved by Stacy London’s vulnerable keynote.

3 // 30th Birthday Panel

Hosting a panel on Love & Kindness for my 30th Birthday. If you know me, this will make sense. Just over 50 people sat at Free Space with me listening to three powerful stories of love, truth, identity and loss. One of the highlights from the night was talking with trans friend who shared his story for the first time publicly - not a dry eye in the room! It was so beautiful. My sister Rachel and her now-fiancé, Mike, flew in to celebrate with me, and we had an amazing weekend together with our other sister, Libby. Special thanks to Tagwa (follow him on the gram, fam) for capturing the night for me.

4 // Women’s March

Despite being emotional (especially knowing my friend Lauren’s story and the bravery she showed that day), attending the Toronto Women’s March with my girl squad was pretty damn special. It’s a pretty incredible feeling being around so many people hoping to illicit change for the good. And some of the speakers were absolutely INCREDIBLE (and half my age). The future is going to be amazing, if the young women there will have any say. Such an inspiring day and can’t wait to participate this year.

5 // Visiting the Mountains x 2

I had the pleasure of taking one of my Toronto best friends to Banff during one of our work trips out west. It was really special having her meet my lifelong best friend, Sonja. And then a few months later I had the privilege of taking Lucas to the mountains (he’d only been to Lake Louise once when he was 3!) where we were spoiled by my sister and her now-fiancé with the best night ever! Growing up in Calgary I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be able to see the mountains from my door…. but living in Toronto, nothing quite compares.

6 // Finalizing My Divorce

Not sure if this quite fits with the best moments of 2018, but from a personal standpoint it is. See, I have trouble letting go. I’m a hoarder of people, and memories, and relationships. So while I knew this relationship would never be, somehow completely ending it with the supreme court felt very official. Not to mention, I knew it would be hard for my ex and I hate hurting people. It was, and we both survived. Still friendly. I even wrote a piece about it: Lessons From Being Divorced at 30. I hope you’ll take a read.

7 // Hosting for Vice

Like, what?! Still can’t believe that happened. I’ve only hosted two interviews so far but it has been a blast! The first one was with Olly Alexander of the ban Years & Years, and more recently I got to learn about and try authentic Vietnamese coffee! And yes, there are raw eggs in it! To watch my interview with the beautiful human, Olly, click HERE. And to learn about traditional Vietnamese coffee, head over HERE. I hope this is just the beginning… and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to watch myself without cringing and having to stop! Ha!

8 // Photographing the P&G Beauty Awards

I had a pretty exciting full circle moment (read all about it HERE) in November when I was given the opportunity to photograph the P&G Beauty Awards at the breathtaking AGO. For the last 9 years they’ve used the same photographer (one of Toronto, albeit Canada’s most well known celebrity and fashion photographers) but on their tenth anniversary they took a chance on me! And since i’m proponent of Free the Bid, and feminism in general it was exciting to be the first female photographer! It was pretty awesome watching Dan Levy host, and I was excited for everyone who won.

9 // Going to London and Paris!

In July, Lucas and I were fortunate enough to travel to London and Paris. We witnessed England win a few World Cup games (and then lose…) before jumping over to Paris and being in the heart of it all when they won! The celebrations lasted all week. We also watched the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower for Bastille Day. Talk about timing! It was a really special trip where Lucas and I grew closer as a couple, ate delicious food, explored awesome neighbourhoods and practiced photography together. We even had the opportunity to create two travel posts for Bather’s Excellent Adventure series. Click here to read about our adventures in London, and our journey to Paris.

10 // Photoshoot with Scarlet O’Neill

Earlier this fall I entered a giveaway with one of the most lovely and talented photographers in Toronto, Scarlet O’Neil. Apparently professing my love for Lucas and my second chance at love (see original giveaway post here) received a lot of support and we won! As a lover of documenting life, and someone who scrolls through my camera roll on the daily this meant the world! The queen of photographing everyone else has never had a professional couple’s shoot taken. I was overjoyed. And Scarlet was amazing! I don’t shoot couples or weddings so I’ve always been curious by the photographer’s approach to making people feel comfortable. I won’t give away Scarlet’s secret sauce but I will say she was the most approachable, funny, sassy, welcoming, supportive, encouraging and spicy human ever! She was quick and had us playing games and whispering in each other’s ears. Cute story: Scarlet had just purchased that Pendleton blanket for our shoot, and a few months later Lucas bought me an identical one as a tangible memory of our shoot. So cute! All photographs below courtesy of Scarlet O’Neill - follow her on instagram for inspiration.

Obviously it’s hard to summarize a year in ten highlights, but it does help me see some of the beauty in 2018! Some honourable mentions:

  • Lucas moving in with me.

  • Flying in a private plane above Kincardine and Lucas’ cottage

  • Cottage weekend at our friend Brian’s beautiful place in Muskoka

  • Lucas meeting all of my family and friends in Calgary

  • Some incredible shoots with amazing brands (Le Chateau, Saks, Cadillac Fairview, Solei, ABLE….)

  • Surprising Sonja in Calgary at her 30th Birthday!

  • Way too many memories with my bestie gals

  • Spending the day with my favourite pups, Mack and Sarge

  • Finding the joy every. single. day

Here’s to 2019. Drinking water. Health > wealth. More deep breaths. Relationships > Careers. Speaking up. Spending time with family and friends. Being spontaneous. Chasing light. Choosing love. And knowing your worth and learning to own it.

Nicole Hudson