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I've been harbouring a secret for quite some time. And if you know me, you know I can't keep secrets. Sure, you can tell me you're pregnant, you're surprising your partner with a proposal, or the name of your unborn child - I'll keep those secrets guarded forever. But secrets about me. My life. Well, those are as good as gossip gold. I have to tell you. So the fact that I haven't blurted out this news all over social media is beyond me.

[Yes, a lot of you know my secret. I've been disclosing it privately to clients as they come and go... because, I can't keep a secret.]

So here it goes.

I'm moving.

I'm leaving the comforts of Sault Ste. Marie. I'm taking my cushiony bubble that I've grown accustomed to and heading to the country. I'm heading to a place that has been like a second home for me for 12 years: St. Joseph Island. Specifically, Richards Landing. After years of deliberation, going through various scenarios and alternatives, my husband, son, and I have decided its time to relocate. We've purchased my husband's family home, that his late mother and father built. It's a beautiful pine-plank cabin that overlooks the St. Marys River. I've loved this home since I first stepped foot in it. And I've wanted it for my own ever since. And it just happened that 2023 is the year to make it my own.

So what does this mean for my business? Well, my business will be going with me. I'll be relocating Meaghan Kent Photography INC. to Richards Landing. With the gorgeous wood cabin, comes a massive garage. And that garage will house my studio. The next time you come visit my studio, you'll be wowed by the transformation from my humble little basement studio with terrible lighting that has supported me over the last seven years. The new studio is going to be a massive upgrade.

The new studio will feature two floors. That's right, two floors.

The first floor, or the main floor, will be where the majority of the shooting will happen - from newborns, maternity, minis, milestones, cake smashes, and more. There will be a large sitting area with backdrops permanently fixed to the walls. The floor will be heated. Yes, heated. No more chilly concrete floors. There will be windows. Lots, and lots of natural light so you no longer feel like you're in a dungeon, or the troll cave as a I called my first studio. And high ceilings. That means bigger backdrops for more lifestyle shoots and more opportunity for freedom and free play. A macramé swing will also be suspended for more fun photoshoots. There will be a fridge and snack bar to help feed everyone and keep your milk and formula cold. And there will be new pictures on the wall - because they're always a hit and everyone is always vying for a spot on the wall! Lastly, and most importantly, the first floor will be totally accessible.

I will have a full bathroom, complete with vanity, sink, and shower on the first floor.

Upstairs, things get a little different. I am calling this my lifestyle area. There will be a queen-size bed, a first for the studio. This will allow me to do even more types of photoshoots. From boudoir, lifestyle newborn shoots, mommy and me sessions, and more. The options really are endless. Beside the bed is also a large patio window, allowing for lots of natural light to spill in. And that macramé swing from the first floor can also be brought upstairs.

And that's just the studio. Being on the water also affords for more photo options. Bring the family for a splash session on our small beach or even a paddle along the shoreline. There's no other photographer in the region that can afford you these opportunities right from the comfort of their home. And it's all available at not additional cost to you. If you make the effort to come see me, I promise, I'll make the session worth your while.

Right now, the garage is a work in progress. We're hoping to have everything completed by the fall. But enough of the studio will be completed by our move-in date that shoots in the next few weeks will not be affected by the construction.

Am I scared? I'm terrified. Petrified. But also so overwhelmingly excited. I cannot wait to share my new home with you all.


** A rendition of this story first appeared on the Northern Ontario Travel blog magazine in 2014 for Algoma Country. It has been revised for this blog. **

I've spent many nights wrapped in the comfort of a sleeping bag underneath the stars on the shoreline of Lake Superior. I have witnessed the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights, countless times. But you never ever forget the first time you see those magnificent lights.

My family spent their summers and weekends at Old Mill Bay in northern Ontario. The shallow, warm water bay is five minutes past Harmony Bay on Highway 17, and about a half-hour drive from Sault Ste. Marie. Growing up, it was a popular tent and trailer park, nestled against the Trans-Canada Highway. We lived for the warm breezes, sandbars, and the dark skies.

My mother rarely spent nights with us at Old Mill Bay. My sister and I grew up with a very ill mother, who battled and beat Ovarian cancer when we were mere children, and later endured kidney disease into our early pre-teens. Her kidney failure meant regular dialysis treatments and lengthy hospital stays. My mom often stayed in town while my sister, father and I enjoyed life on Lake Superior. Mom would sometimes visit us during the day on the bay, sometimes early enough for breakfast, and stay until early afternoon, before she retreated back to the Sault for another treatment. She was rarely present for the evening campfires, where my sister, father, and I would eat s'mores and roast spider dogs on the open flames.

Not having our mother around for these traditional camping activities was normal. We understood our mother's illness and the need for her to be in the city to receive treatment. However, things were about to change.

My father donated a kidney to my mother in 2001 after undergoing extensive testing in London, Ontario. The two had a rare, brother-sister match and were the first-ever laparoscopic kidney transplant in north America. The procedure was a success, saving my mother's life.

After they recovered from the transplant, we returned to our second home at Old Mill Bay. Only this time, my mother stayed the night.

In fact, she stayed every night. And took part in our evening rituals that she'd missed for so many years. It turns out my mother loved s'mores. I believe she ate three the first night she stayed at camp!

That first night was just before Labour Day, and the evenings were beginning to cool. The sky was particularly clear, speckled with thousands of stars, and the old man's face on the moon watched over us. The water was perfectly still—a rarity for Lake Superior. The thousands of crickets were singing their evening tune, while the toads croaked in the creek down the beach from us. It was peaceful.

Then, the sky opened up in all of its glory: the Northern Lights. My father, my sister, my mother, and I lay still on the beach, gazing awestruck at the sky. The colours were so vibrant, so spectacular—like nothing we had ever seen before.

We stayed out under the stars for hours watching the lights dance. We forgot about everything else in the world. It will remain one of the most perfect and fond memories of my childhood.

As different cultures have beliefs about the lights and what they mean, so too do I. For me, they embody simplicity and perfection. Awe and amazement. Family and love. And perhaps most importantly, health.

Every time I've seen them since, I remember Old Mill Bay. And the joy of that night spent in my favourite spot in Algoma Country.

  • Writer's pictureMeaghan Kent

The following speech was delivered to the graduating class of White Pines Collegiate and Vocational School at their first in-person ceremony since 2019.


Thank you for that kind introduction. Thank you for having me here today. It is an absolute honour to be with you all as you celebrate the end of your high school careers and begin this next journey in your life.

I graduated from White Pines in 2007, 15 years ago. I remember sitting where you all are today, eagerly waiting to throw my cap against the wishes of our principal and teachers. We did it anyways. Do it anyways!

I remember my teachers calling out our names as we crossed the stage to get our diplomas, and they would tell the audience where we were going next year, and what we were studying. Meaghan Smith, heading to Algoma University to study History and French. I was going to become a teacher.

But I quickly learned that not all dreams and goals are realized. Sometimes life forces you to take a different path. And sometimes your passions change.

The French program got canceled in my second year of university so I couldn’t study it. In the words of Ross Geller, I had to pivot. So I decided to study English so I could have the two teachables needed to be a high school teacher. So I crammed a four-year English degree into three years.

In my third year of university, I quickly learned after being a tutor in a grade 4 classroom that I did not want to be a teacher - no offense to the lovely teachers here today. So I went to my academic advisor and asked, "What can I do with a degree in History and English?" He told me I should become a professor. So I pivoted again.

When I graduated from Algoma U, I went to the University of Western Ontario to get my Master of Arts in History. And after completing that, I learned that I really didn’t want to be a professor.

I started working instead. I worked as a recruiter for Algoma U, talking to university- and college-bound hopefuls like yourself, convincing them on the university experience. And then after four months in that role, I landed my dream job. Or so I thought it was. In grade 10, right upstairs from this auditorium, I remember telling my art teacher Mrs. Nisbet that I wanted to be a writer. And she wholeheartedly supported me. She would actually allow me to change assignments so they would better fit my passion in writing.

I worked at Algoma U for 7 years as a writer and in communications. It was a great job. But something was missing. Much like I didn’t want to be a teacher, a professor, or a recruiter, I didn’t really want to be a writer anymore. So I pivoted again.

And every time I pivoted, I was reminded of a professor I had at Algoma U, the late Dr. Alana Bondar. In my fourth year of my undergraduate degree, she asked me in the ladies' bathroom, if "my heart was happy". And ever since that day, I've been reminded that if you're not happy with what you're doing, why are you doing it?

If there’s one piece of advice I can bestow on each and every person in this room - whether you’re a graduate, a parent, a teacher, or support staff - it’s to be happy. Once you find what makes you happy, everything else will fall into place. Trust me on that.

Somewhere in those 7 years at Algoma U, I picked up a camera and taught myself everything that I know today. It started out as a hobby and quickly became a full-time job. I like to say I attended the school of YouTube for photography. Today, I’m a first-generation entrepreneur and I’ve never felt more driven, passionate, and most importantly, happy, in my career. Today, I'm an award-winning lifestyle and wedding photographer, who gets to travel the world. It doesn't get much better than that!

When I tell my clients that I have no professional training or diploma in photography, but degrees in History and English, they often laugh and say "those must be a big waste of money". But they're not. And those degrees hang proudly in my home. Sure, I may not be working in my fields, but I wouldn't trade my experiences at Algoma U or Western for anything. I navigated adulthood, I gained confidence, and had many, many reality checks. I learned to speak up and out. I learned that it’s okay to change my mind and that I will be supported by people - even complete strangers - in those ever-changing decisions. But perhaps most importantly, I learned to be passionate. To immerse myself in what I love and allow it to consume me. I learned that you have to do what makes you happy, not what makes your parents or guardians happy, not what makes your friends or life partners happy. What makes you happy.

Maybe that's going to college or university. Maybe that's going into the trades. Maybe that's entering the work world or taking a gap year to travel. Maybe it's doing that infamous victory lap because you're just not ready yet. And that's okay. Listen to your heart. Make your own decisions. If you're happy, then nothing else matters.

We change. Our passions change. It’s okay to not be the person we once were or thought we were going to become. I am not the person I was when I graduated from here.

So to the Class of 2022, I say, happy exploring. Happy pivoting. You've pivoted over the past two years through this pandemic in your high school life in ways that I cannot even begin to imagine. And look at you - you've come out stronger and more resilient.

It may take you a while to find your joy in life. And that’s okay. Change your major, change your degree, change your school, change your trade, change your job. It’s okay. Just do what makes you happy. It took me nine whole years from graduating from White Pines to find out what really made me happy. You may already know what makes you happy, and if you do, follow that passion.

And to the parents and guardians here today: when your graduate comes to you to one day with a change of heart, support them. Don't be upset that they've changed their major or program, or gone to pursue something radically different. Let them explore and find their true happiness. All of these changes will make sense one day and be a part of their important journey to happiness. If you're anything like me, then you want nothing else for your child then for them to be happy. That's all I want for my three-year-old son. Happiness.

So the next time someone asks you what you want to be when you grow up, tell them this: tell them you want to be happy.

Congratulations, Class of 2022! I'm so proud of you!

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