Dear friends, family, colleges, mentors, random SLR readers, exs past, present and future, hangers-ons and one Yorkshire named Bentley… I’ve got some big (ahem BIG!) news to share.

Either someone is playing an elaborate prank on me, or I just became the newest Hearst Fellowship Recipient.

I just got the call on Sunday from Kenn Altine, the Hearst recruiter who encouraged me to submit an application last fall, informing me I am one of the four selected for this year.

I was literally speechless.

I think I managed to say, “are you kidding?” before I just went silent, unable to find any more words.

Is this my big break? It sure feels like it. I’m still not sure what to make of it all.

Over the last couple days I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I got into photojournalism in the first place, mostly because I kept getting asked that during the interviews. And now again, in the wake of this news, I’m thinking a lot about how random life can be.

I would not be a Hearst fellow if I hadn’t meet Kenn last summer as an AAJA Voices student project staffer. He would never have sent me an application if I had decided to head up to my room for a nap after my hectic week with no sleep, instead of downstairs to the job fair where I was only able to catch the last half hour of it.

I would not have chosen to make him one of the four recruiters I had spoken to, had I not had been a subscriber of The San Francisco Chronicle. We probably wouldn’t have had such a pleasant conversation if I hadn’t known that paper or the people that worked there so well or the stories of those people.

I would never have been at the AAJA summer convention if I hadn’t been accepted into the student projects and I never would have applied for the project had I not met Joyce Lin at the AEJMC convention the prior year, where she told me all about the summer ‘06 convention she’d just come back from.

And I never would have been at the AEJMC convention had I not been recommended for it by then current photojournalism instructor Thomas Rodgers, who would not have thought of me had I not earned his endorsement when I was photo editor and he was our adviser on the Spartan Daily.

And I would never have taken on the task of photo editor had the prior photojournalism instructor, my college PJ teacher, Dennis Dunleavly, not encouraged me to.

And… I can keep going further and further back… but my point is, as I think about these things now, it’s funny how one little choice can have a ripple effect on everything else you ever do.

What if… so many what ifs.

And today again, as I take down this new path, I’m thinking a lot about the coulda, shoulda, woulda and what ifs. I think that’s why I loved watching the “Back to the Future” movies so much as a kid (the seemed to always be on NBC in the late 80s and early 90s), the idea of how one thing can change everything fascinated me then and continues to today.

Life is an adventure, you only go around once, live for today. Life’s always been more interesting without a road map.

I’m in.