Feature Friday: Capturing Beauty

“Tilt your head, you are gorgeous when you look at the camera like that!”

I laugh as my best friend cheers me on from behind the camera. It’s so ironic that she is a photographer; Audrey is one of the most beautiful girls I have ever known, and it’s funny that she found a passion to showcase others’ beauty. After doing two photoshoots with her I decided I had to take a picture or two of her every time we went out; after all, she should totally be in front of the camera too!

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Audrey is blessed to be outwardly beautiful, but it’s her heart I love most. She is one of my very best friends, and that has absolutely nothing to do with looks and everything to do with character. Audrey is someone who has been a fiercely loyal friend since I met her, and even though we both want to do similar things in the world, we support each other and push each other to be better, rather than choosing to compete. I can always count on her to make me laugh when I want to cry, and be a great friend even when she has a million other things going on.

I have so many different stories I could write about Audrey, but today I wanted to focus a little on her journey to DC and how she has handled being a grounded twentysomething.

Krista:
You moved to DC without having a set plan or a job lined up, but everything worked out. This is a great example of your faith in God providing for our needs. How did you feel when you made such a big step?

Audrey:
At the time I decided to move to Washington I was attending college in a really tiny, snowy college town. I’m from Las Vegas so even just the idea of being cold is so upsetting to me — I don’t do snow! I remember thinking, “I would absolutely love to get out of here, but don’t see how that’s a possibility right now.” The thought of a few semesters left in my little college town also seemed a little daunting to this solar-powered girl.

I can’t describe why, but I sincerely just felt so good about moving. I had no plan, so even though I felt direction-less I applied for three internships — one in Texas, one in California, and one in DC. It was November and I was somehow hoping to score a last-minute winter internship. I have always been a firm believer that in life, we get what we are willing to work for. I think a lot of the time we sit back and wait for signs in life or big things to happen when really God is saying, “What are you waiting for? If you want it, go for it!” He can’t guide us if we aren’t willing to take that first step in the dark.

I was in class one day and got a call from a man who was the owner of a pretty prestigious company I had applied to in Washington, DC. He didn’t hesitate to tell me how under qualified he felt like I was for the position, and needless to say it was pretty intimidating. Nevertheless, he agreed to meet with me in person and two weeks later I found myself driving across the country.  Needless to say, that door closed and the next six weeks I felt like I was totally in the dark, but I kept applying, networking, and most importantly, I never stopped praying. I am now working at a job that is so perfect for me at this time in my life and I am tremendously grateful the internship didn’t work out. It is amazing how when a door closes it is often a blessing in disguise, and I think God blesses us when we keep our faith even if we can’t see the bigger picture at the time.

K:
Are you still happy with your decision to move here?

A:
I am so happy! And I mean, I get “Krista time” so what is not to love about that?! I think happiness is something we create, not something we magically find. Although I would be happy anywhere, the way things fell into place once I got here has seriously been so inspired. Since moving back I have had people come into my life in such incredible ways that I couldn’t imagine life without.

K:
What is your favorite thing about the DC area?

A:
I am from Nevada so growing up if we wanted to go to another state it was often an all day road trip. I love that I can get in my car or catch a train and in just a couple of hours I can be somewhere else entirely. DC also has such a contagious energy about it that I love but it also transforms at night and is so peaceful. You can spend a lot of money and go to an elaborate show and dinner or spend absolutely nothing at all walking around the monuments or in a museum and still have such a rewarding experience. The history and diversity here never cease to amaze me.

K:
You are someone I really love because you’ve never let a relationship, a job, or a busy schedule get in the way of your friendships. Have you always been like that? What advice would you give to girls trying to juggle a busy life?

A:
For me, life is all about finding the balance. I think in this area especially, everyone is busy but some people wear it as a badge of honor and I am just so not that way. I try to give everyone the best of me throughout the day and put my best face forward but then there are times when I just need to unwind and be with girlfriends and unwind over Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Factory over a good vent sesh 😉 Ya feel me?

K:
Umm, of course I do!

We haven’t ever really been single at the same time, but our interactions never change when either of us gets a boyfriend. Do you think there’s a reason for this? What makes you value “girl time” as well as quality time with your boyfriend?

A:
Growing up my family didn’t communicate a ton. I was raised with a single mom who worked so hard to make a living for my brothers and I, but she was spread thin so my girl friends became my closest confidants. I think a lot of girls lose their identity in their boyfriends. A lot of the time people see relationships as the whole cake instead of the icing on the cake of life. Having a relationship with someone you love and trust is a beautiful thing, but you are both still individuals. At the end of the day most people are likely to go through a couple of relationships before they end up with the person they will marry, and when those relationships end you shouldn’t be calling up your girl friends like, “Hey… Remember me?” I think it is totally healthy to spend some time apart in relationships — it keeps you both satisfied and allows you to miss each other instead of having to do everything together. I also have the most fiercely loyal, hilarious, and loving friends in my life that just seem to get me. Who wouldn’t want girl time with friends like that!?

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K:
Something I find really cool about our relationship is that we both want similar things in life, but build each other up and share successes, rather than competing. What advice would you give to others in remaining supportive of their friends, rather than competing with them?

A:
When I was in high school I was really insecure. I had this small mindset that I needed to prove myself, but the only person I wasn’t good enough for was myself. As I got older I realized that I was really self destructive and then embarked on a journey where I was trying to be more self-aware. Once I shifted that way of thinking I learned that I not only found joy in my own accomplishments but also the accomplishments of those around me. Someone else’s success doesn’t diminish your own and I wish more women understood that. I remember having froyo “girl time” dates with you all the way back to my first year in college and we always wanted the same things, but I was always so impressed with this about you as well! Having humble but accomplished women in my life makes me want to be better — not bitter — and I wasted a lot of years being the latter. I would tell girls that felt this way to learn to genuinely be comfortable in their own skin and then start vocalizing to others things you genuinely admire about them instead of trying to lead with your own accomplishments. I am so uncomfortable around women who constantly try to make themselves look better than others. None of my girl friends are this way. It’s a shallow and small way to live. If you are threatened by someone else, look inside yourself. What is it about them that you are intimidated by and what is really triggering these emotions of insecurity and jealousy in you? Be honest with yourself and then face that head on.

K:
As I mentioned in your introduction, I always think it’s funny doing photoshoots with you because you are clearly someone who cameras just adore! What got you interested in photography?

A:
Haha oh man, I don’t see it that way, I just genuinely love doing it! I have always wanted to photograph people’s love stories and when I was little I remember looking through bridal magazines and being at weddings thinking how that would be my dream job — to capture those beautiful moments. I still have a long way to go but luckily we live in an era where you can learn absolutely anything and thanks to YouTube it is a lot easier to get a head start in something you don’t know a lot about.

K:
What is your favorite thing about photography?

A:
It is so fun to live in the moment but then that moment is gone and photography is something that helps us remember some of life’s sweetest moments forever. I wanted to be able to create something people can hold on to — whether that is a candid moment of two people dancing or a picture someone can look at that makes them smile because they feel beautiful or see themselves in a new light. I love creating that!

K:
If you could choose anyone in the world to photograph who would it be, and why?

A:
My nephew because he is such a sassy little stud. He’s like Bieber and is a little high maintenance about his crazy paparazzi aunt these days! I am not the kind of person to get starstruck or anything like that, so that’s a tough one. I seriously can’t think of a single celebrity I would really want to photograph over one of my friends or family members, but that’s just my personality. A couple of months ago I was doing a woman’s hair and makeup who was a single mom and had never really been pampered like that before. Afterward she looked in the mirror and got teary eyed and couldn’t stop smiling. I seriously live for moments like that with hair/makeup/and photography where I can help someone feel beautiful and see what I already see in them. I don’t see being a girly girl as something shallow or worldly but rather as something I have a knack for that I can use to help others smile and I love that.

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This is one of many times Audrey did my hair and makeup for a little photoshoot. I am one spoiled girl!

If you’re interested in getting a photographer for something in the DMV, shoot me a message and I’ll connect you with Audrey!


IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: I’M MOVING!

In just a couple of weeks I will no longer be on this website. My dating life changed a loooong time ago, so I am finally taking the time to make some changes that reflect this and moving my site to KristaLauren.com (As I have mentioned before I would have done this a lot sooner, but I am technologically challenged and 10 times out of 10 prefer to write instead of work on my site). Make sure you sign up to receive emails for my posts, like my Facebook page, or bookmark my new site if you want to stay a part of my Single in The Suburbs family. 🙂

Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

Yesterday I shared a pretty personal post to my Instagram account. This isn’t a particularly new thing, but it is always scary putting your heart out there for the world to see.

Something I am going to start talking about a little more on here is body image. I have been so content with my body image for the most part since my junior year of college, but there have definitely a few little bumps along the road, yesterday being one of them.

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I’ve had an overwhelming two weeks with a lot of sickness (like, normal people colds and such — not only my chronic illnesses) and really gotten off my normal POTS recovery schedule. Missing a day or two here and there is alright, but a large collection of days? Not good.

So not only was I starting to feel worse, but I started getting inside my own head and letting my mind bully my body. Since day one of getting sick I made the decision to be kind and gentle with myself, take one day at a time, and not compare myself to others. Theodore Roosevelt was spot-on when he said,

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I knew that comparing the new life I never wanted for myself — having a chronic illness — with my friends who were going out into the world and getting their first post-college jobs and apartments would only be detrimental to my health. Rather than moping at home about the death of my shiny new dream job at Seventeen magazine I decided to focus on the things I could do. I could watch The Food Network and learn to cook, even if my body wasn’t actually up to cooking yet. I could write short blog posts with my dictation software. I could call my grandparents and make their day a little brighter; I still had the ability to be there for my friends and family. So those were the things I focused on.

When a handful of my friends started doing a bikini body workout I felt a little left out. Not that it was their fault; they would be happy to have me on board, but I am physically unable to do that kind of exercise with my new collection of illnesses. My Instagram feed and Facebook page began to flood with photos of weight lifting, sports bra before and after photos, and small digs at different body types. After a short while it all started to get in my head. Since I got sick I have not been able to do intense cardio workouts (I would faint pretty quickly), and I can’t lift more than a couple of pounds. I lost the muscle tone I was used to having my entire life, and I was the person so many of the girls would complain about being online — the before picture… And I absolutely cannot help the way I look.

This got me thinking more about the culture we live in. When did we start putting our self-worth in the hands of others, and why do we listen to the lies they tell us about our bodies? What exactly is the perfect body and why do we work so hard to change our physical appearance, but forget about changing our mindset? Being healthy is a wonderful thing, but appreciating everything your body can do at every single stage in life is incredibly important. Loving yourself  no matter what your shape or size is, and realizing that your worth isn’t dependent on the body that carries you is an important factor to being content and secure in yourself.

It sucks that we sometimes question our worth because of something as minuscule as the paint job on our outer shell. I genuinely think every single person I meet is beautiful in his or her own way. I can come up with a long list of amazing things about a person if I get to know them. Just ask my friends; odds are I have written them a letter (Or a hundred) about what a great person they are. Why are we so much harder on ourselves than we would be on a friend?

There is absolutely nothing wrong about working out and taking care of your body, (It’s actually a great thing!) but it becomes dangerous you make yourself sick by striving for perfection. I want to be someone people think of when they start to question their own beauty and self-worth. I want to serve as a reminder that it’s not at all about what is on the outside, but rather what’s on the inside that really matters. It may sound corny, but kindness is what counts, and the way we make others feel about themselves speaks volumes above how many “likes” we get on Instagram or whether or not we look like the people we see on television, in magazines, or on the runway. Once we get past our flesh and really dig deep into our souls we can make a lasting difference in this world.

In Sickness And In Health

Although I’m not an expert on many things, I would say having a chronic illness is a subject I’m pretty well versed on now. I’ve been both single and in a long-term relationship with a CI, which isn’t a super-common thing for someone in their twenties.

We never know what the future holds and sadly there is a lot of pain in this world. I could have never in a million years imagined getting a chronic illness at 22 years old, but here I am. It’s still so weird for me to think about. You don’t ever think things like this will happen to you.

Through this crazy journey life is taking me on I’ve realized the enormous difference of someone staying with you through an illness and someone supporting you. Guys, you have no idea how big this is.

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Real life with someone is very different than the glamour and attempted perfection on a wedding day. (This was from a bridal photoshoot I did a few years ago)

When someone stays with you just to be around, you feel alone. You feel like a burden, and it’s not going to help you get any better.

But when someone is there because they want to be and because they are able to put your needs above their own for a period of time, you have a significant other who is giving a genuine and selfless love — and, in turn, you can be there in their time of need.

This, to me, is one of the most beautiful things a person can offer, and it’s something that can’t be faked. Sickness still isn’t easy, but life is a heck of a lot more wonderful when you have someone who will support you when you need a shoulder to lean on. On the other hand, it’s an amazing feeling loving someone enough to want to be able to take away their pain, no matter what that may be. I’ve felt very strongly about a few people that way in my life, and it’s a very genuine and incredible feeling that I can only attribute to the selfless love I am hoping you all get from a partner.

Today’s lesson: There are amazing people in this world who will love you through your trials, whatever they may be. Don’t settle for someone who will just stay. Wait for the person who will hold your hand and be with you every step of the way, no matter where life takes you both.