You can tell a lot about a person who’s willing to play in the rain.

Adventurous, tough, fun, easy-going: these are the things I knew about Molly before I met her.

That meeting took place on a stormy day at Lincoln Park three Novembers ago. She was turning 11 and this milestone was the occasion for our photo shoot.

This particular Seattle fall day presented with some pretty relentless rain, even for Seattle. I was driving home from the coast and at times my windshield wipers could barely keep up with the downpour. Though I rarely call a shoot due to weather (you can create really beautiful images on a rainy day), I reluctantly fired off a text to Molly’s mom suggesting we might want to postpone. Her reply was my first indication that Molly and I were going to get along great:

Molly wants to go for it.

YES. A kindred spirit.

Fast forward three years and two more photo shoots and Molly has tutu’d with me through curious crowds in Pioneer Square...

...and shivered on the shores of Lake Washington on a brisk January day—and had fun while doing it.

She’s confident, enthusiastic and up for anything: all great "can do" traits that are sure to serve her well in life.

She’s all these things and an accomplished dancer and ballerina, too. Molly started training in dance when she was two-and-a-half years old in a group called Tiny Tutus. At three, she began to train in ballet. “I’ve always known that I want to dance. That’s just always been what I’ve wanted,” she said.

Stories of single-minded devotion such as Molly's have always inspired me. As one who's more as a jack-of-some-trades, I’m awed by others who, from the earliest of ages, have known precisely their life’s purpose—and have gone for it.

Sacrifice and passion: this, Molly says, is the price she’s had to pay for such single-mindedness. “I’ve had to say no to a lot of other stuff.” Like, basketball and soccer and softball and volleyball and…the list goes on. Such devotion has paid off: Molly was the Petite Miss Dance for the Pacific Northwest in 2012, and each year since is recognized at competitions.

“When I get on stage, I get an actual spark. It makes all the hard work worth it. If you really love something, the sacrifices are worth it in the end.”

The result? “I do my best, in everything,” she humbly observes.  “In school, others might shoot for a B but I shoot for an A. I’ve always been taught to do my best.”

This work ethic, combined with a highly honed skill via dance of knowing how to work with others, is why Molly plans one day to teach dance to other girls.

“I’ve had to grow up fighting for myself and that has forced me to learn how to believe in myself,” she says while describing a situation where, because of her petite stature, she wasn’t being respected by other members of her team. It’s these deeper lessons of identity and confidence, in addition to the technical aspects of becoming an accomplished dancer, that motivate Molly to help shape the lives of future aspiring dancers. 

Molly is currently in eighth grade and knows exactly what she wants in life. When she graduates from high school, she'll pursue degrees in business and dance followed by a stint of working professionally in Los Angeles. After that, she’ll open her own studio to teach others.

How lucky are the dancers whose lives Molly will one day shape. I can see it now. "Alright kids, today we're going to do something special... 

Let's go outside and dance in the rain..."