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My friend Brandon is an awesome human.

I will never forget the first time I talked to Brandon Foto.

I met him at a bagel shop. He was bubbly and cheerful. He was one of those people that just sparkles. I don't even know if that makes sense. If it is possible for people to illuminate a room, Brandon wrote the handbook on how to do so. 

I figured I would never speak to him again after that day. He was living in New Orleans at the time and had only come in town for the day.

A few weeks later, I got an email, and by email, I really mean I got an ebook from this Brandon Foto character regarding a project I had just launched. 

That one email is still single handedly the most personal, kind and encouraging set of words I have ever received. I read it every time I am having a bad day. 

At the end of last summer, I ran into Brandon on my university's campus only to find out that he would be transferring back to Southern Miss that fall. 

Once he moved back, we became instant friends it seems. I'm not really sure how it happened - well, other than that Brandon is super intentional and refuses to put up with me being sketch. He's pretty good at basically forcing you to hang out with him. 

The night we went from being just good friends to best friends came about after a friend of ours got married in Jackson, MS. I had agreed to photograph the wedding with my usual partner in crime, Alex, who just happened to be the groom's roommate at the time.

We had looked forward to this wedding all summer. Just a few days before the wedding, Alex found out that his graduate class conflicted with the wedding.

I panicked. I knew this was a big wedding, and that I couldn't wing it on my own. Brandon (mind you the guy has really only known me for a few weeks) offered to go as my assistant to help out. I can honestly say that he was by far the best assistant/road trip warrior/laugh at silly people dancing/eat to much wedding cake with/wedding partner in crime that I could have asked for. He didn't complain one bit about having to take my gear all over the place or having to stay for the entire wedding or having to drive back late that night. 

Not one complaint. He saw a need, so he met it - with a cheerful heart to boot. That night on the drive home, Brandon and I had one of those wordvomiteverypartofyourlife conversations. 

He shared with me his struggles because of his back and hip problems. He shared with me how difficult it was some days for him to even get out of bed. And he shared with me that the most frustrating part was that the doctors didn't know what was causing his body to go haywire. 

Even as he shared those personal struggles, he still had such hope in his voice. My mind was blown. How could a guy who was carrying so much stay so positive and keep a good spirit?

People like Brandon remind me why I believe in God. He attributes his ability to even breathe back to a saving God who loves him. 

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From that night on, Brandon and I have basically been inseparable. In the 8 months that we've been besties, I've started compiling a mental list of reasons to be thankful for this man. 

1. He is persistent.

- Brandon will call me, text me, track me down, send up a flare gun- whatever it takes. I really appreciate having friends who I know want to hang out with me, but who also understand that I am terrible with my phone. Sometimes you have to be drastic to get my attention. He's definitely not scared of pulling out all the stops when he wants to see someone. - 

2. He will do anything for a person. 

- Go as my assistant to a wedding? Yep. Never whine when I want to take pics of him? Yep. Model in a sorority tank top for my sorority? Yep. Go on sporadic nature hikes? Yep. Drop what he's doing in the library to make sure I don't get mugged walking to my car? Yep. He puts other people before himself. - 

3. He thinks of other people's safety when they don't have the common sense to do it themselves.

- Brandon is the oldest child and has younger sisters, so naturally, he is pretty protective. I am an only child who tends to forget that some things aren't necessarily the smartest option for a girl. Brandon always looks out for his female friends and makes sure we are safe. - 

4. He talks to everyone.

- If we are at a party, Brandon seeks out the people who look like they may not know anyone and talks to them. He always makes people feel welcome. He makes sure that people know that they aren't just another passerby. - 

5. He is really in-tune with other people's love languages. 

-  Brandon is one of those people who can pick up on other people's love languages at the drop of a hat. Case and point- He knows that my number one love language is touch. I am a super touchy person. He knows that I am going to get super offended if someone rejects a hug when I reach out to give one. He always makes sure to give me a hug and doesn't complain when I randomly scratch his arm or pat his back (he often refers to me as a cat- this is a pretty spot on comparison) - 

6. He is intentional with his words.

- Everyone I know who knows Brandon will agree with me on this one - Brandon is not scared to reach out, no matter how random it seems, and encourage someone. He constantly acknowledges the value that other people hold and tells them why they are valuable. - 

7. He keeps his head up.

- Even when circumstances are terrible, Brandon finds a way to be positive. Even on his worst days, he will still say something positive. His ability to look past his earthly circumstances baffles me day in and day out. -

8. He doesn't take himself too seriously.

- Singing in the car? Check. Chuckling at the memes I make of him? Check. Not asking questions when I tell him to take a girly jumpy picture with his sisters? Check. Constantly calling himself stoic because its literally the opposite of his actual demeanor? Absolutely.

9. He holds me accountable.

- Brandon's diligence in making me study for History 102 with him in Stout Hall the night before each test is probably the only reason I made an A in the class. We made a pact to hold one another accountable in the class last semester - he definitely kept his end of the bargain. - 

10. He understand introverts.

- Brandon is probably the most extraverted person that I know, but he also seems to get how we introverts function. He knows that I am not angry with him or secretly plotting his demise when we are sitting in a room together not saying a word. He will occasionally talk/want to play a random guitar song, but then we go back to silence. When friends can sit in a room together and doing nothing, that is perfection. - 

11. He is open and honest about his feelings.

- Whatever Brandon thinks, he says. While this can get people in trouble sometimes, it makes the whole "say what you really want to say" thing easier for people like me when my friends are super blunt. I am not naturally confrontational, nor do I like to tell people when I am upset. Brandon and I have one of the most blunt friendships. We can tell each other when the other is driving the other one up a wall. We can tell each other when one of us thinks the other one is acting really dumb and immature. Honesty is an epic quality in a friendship. -

12. He is comfortable to adapting his plan.

- I am a chronic planner. I plan everything. Brandon has taught me how to adapt to changing plans and taught me that it is ok for me to change my mind about something. - 

There are a multitude of other reasons that I could spit out regarding why I am incredibly thankful that Brandon Thomas Foto is in my life, but I will let you discover those for yourself if you ever meet him.

Thank you for always making sure that the people in your life know they are valuable to you. THank you for constantly encouraging me and lifting me up through your words and actions. 

Thank you for being my friend, Brandon. You rock. Love you, bud.

(and thank you for continuing to send me sporadic encouraging emails from time to time.)