Nichole Garcia | Green Bay, WI
Growing up in the projects and being raised by a single mom for most of my childhood, my siblings and I never felt like we were missing anything. My mom made it a point to give us the things she thought we deserved. The means weren’t always there, so she would make our clothes or find a creative way to make a plain backpack cute by using glitter and neon paints or fabric cutouts. She would do the same with our shoes and even took the time to make pretty braids in our hair.
I feel like I got my mom’s creativity. She planted it in my youth. I loved doing art projects and taking pictures. My sister and I would get dressed up and take each other’s pictures, and one year I received an instant camera as a gift. I used it every day and still have some of those photos.
My uncle at the time was in advertising in New York. He saw some of my pictures and said, ‘Wow, Nichole, you’re outstanding. You could be a photographer.’ And I never thought anything of it. I just enjoyed my cool uncle living in New York saying that about me.
When I was 20, I joined the military because it meant an opportunity to go to college, which probably wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for tuition assistance from the GI Bill. But just being in the Army, everything changes. So no matter your decision, it’s back to being in the moment and learning.
I felt like I was meant to be in the Army as soon as I arrived. My siblings were in the military, as well as my great-grandfather. Fighting for people who can’t always fight for themselves is another thing that my mom taught me. Whether working at a group home for neglected girls or working with parents as a paraprofessional to teach children with behavioral challenges, she exemplified that every day. So, putting that into work on such a grand scale was incredible.
When you decide to join the military, you must go through steps to ensure that you are adequately ready for duty, both physically and mentally. Then you have to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. Depending on what you score on that test tells you what the possibilities of a job that you would have in the military are.
I saw this list of all the jobs available to me based on my test results, and I thought, ‘maybe I should just be a medic.’ I didn’t think I would ever choose to do that in real life. Why not let the army teach me how to do it? I decided this would be an opportunity to learn something I might not have had a desire to.
From day one in the army, I learned many important lessons that I carry with me to this day. The biggest lessons are not letting fear overcome you, understanding what you can and cannot plan for, and not letting people’s expectations determine what you can do. That first day off the bus, drill sergeants were yelling, and I was super scared. I didn’t know what to expect.
Everything seemed to unlock during training. I remembered telling myself, ‘You don’t have to be afraid of this. Follow the rules, toe the line. And when you’re headed through this four-mile ruck march with a 20-pound rucksack and an eight-pound weapon, just take it one step at a time.’
I met my husband during our advanced training to become Army medics. He is from the Pulaski area. So when we decided to start our family, that’s where we moved. Without going to college or having traditional schooling, the medical field was my only job experience. I stayed in the medical field for 13 years as a civilian.
At a certain point, I realized the medical field was not where I wanted to be. I wanted to explore something else. And then an opportunity came up. My cousin had a professional camera that he wanted to sell, and I remembered how much I enjoyed taking photos.
I loved taking pictures of my three sons. People would always tell me the pictures were good, but I figured they could be better if I had a nicer camera. So when my cousin offered to sell me his professional camera, I bought it from him. Instead of mainly getting compliments about the content (my boys), I started getting more compliments about the actual quality of the photos.
At that point, I thought, ‘Maybe I could do this.’ I started by photographing friends and taking pictures of them with their kids, and that’s where it all started. I did that for about a year, and then I decided to go bigger. That’s when I began Squid Photography.
Squid is my army nickname. My maiden name is Esqueda, which was not super easy to pronounce if you aren’t familiar with Spanish. So my drill sergeant would always call me Esquida, and it went from Esquida to Squidward, and then that got shortened to Squid. Just Squid. Since my husband first met me at training, he knew me as Squid before he knew my name. After 18 years of being together, he still calls me Squid as a term of endearment. It was the first thing that popped into my head when I thought about what I should name my business. It’s unique, different, and a little off the wall, just like me.
As I became more motherly, that creative passion opened even further. I wanted to make the most fabulous Halloween costumes for my kids. I wanted to show off my Pirate pride for their sports teams through the clothes I’d wear to support them. Eventually, I began doing my marketing, and this experience and my knowledge of social media and business-led me to become the creative brand manager for C3 Corporation.
Photography started as a creative outlet, the same creativity my mother cultivated when I was young. It’s about being able to create art through people. But mostly, it’s about the relationship or the interaction with the person that truly makes it worthwhile.
I feel like I represent a different type of group through the experiences I’ve had and the communities I’m a part of. For example, my husband was deployed right when our first son was born, and this was a defining moment in my life as a wife and mother. So I tried to write my blog for a while, but I never allowed the time for my personal life, professional life, and small business. Instead, I started writing for a Green Bay Area Mom Blog. It is a once-a-month commitment, which I can do. I share my knowledge about being a mother and how I approach it, frequently I find that my opinion is never quite the same as everybody else’s (LOL.)
Sharing these thoughts about why I think the way I do, I hopefully get people not just to make a conclusion or a decision based on a news headline or a portion of a story they hear or see because life isn’t always that simple. We’re all human. We’re all full of flaws and faults. So that’s the approach I take when writing for the blog.
I’ve faced a lot of adversity. I think you learn the most about life and its importance when facing challenges, and I’ve gained a lot of life experiences from having to make my own way. The tagline on my resume is ‘creative mind with military fortitude,’ which describes me and my work in a nutshell.
Photos 1 and 2: Nichole and her husband Jeremy met during basic training to be Army medics. They were learning how to administer subcutaneous (Sub Q) shots. Photo 3: Nichole with her husband and three sons.