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People You Should Know: Jenna Leigh

It's strange to think that it was only a year ago that Jenna and I met, because she feels like a childhood friend.  We laugh constantly, make fun of the other, talk about ev-er-y thing...she's a friend that will "give it to me straight" but let me just vent if needed.  She is not only an amazing businesswoman with a very successful photography business, but she is someone that loves life, loves the people in it, and pushes me in every area of life.  A few weeks back, Jenna let me tag along and shoot an amazing elopement session with her in Seattle, Washington...an experience I won't soon forget. (Click HERE to see images)

Jenna and her husband Drew, married in August of 2011 and recently moved into a beautiful home in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin.  In addition to being a photographer and blogger, she is devoted to Crossfit (yikes!!), a lover of her pups, does some watercolor script and has a really beautiful Instagram account (that's right! Instagram!!) that is worth checking out. :)  @jennakutcher

I asked Jenna if she would answer some questions for me as a guest blogger today, and because she's the awesome friend that she is, she said yes.  So, in her own words, here are some Q + A's with Jenna of Photographs by Jenna Leigh...

So, Jenna, what are you the most proud of?  
I pride myself on being 25 years and being a successful business owner. No one in my family owns their own business, so I felt like I was going out on a limb and jumping when I told them that I was leaving the corporate world to be a photographer. (Um, what?!) I never went to school for anything photography related, so you can imagine the shock. Three years later, I am still in business and only growing, I chased my own happiness and that in turn led to a successful career that allows me to do things I love like: work from home, travel, and celebrate marriages. 

What three qualities draw you to a person?  

Confidence. I've never been shy or lacking of confidence, I don't know what the heck my parents put in my cereal but I have always believed that I could do anything I wanted to. When I meet other people who believe in themselves, I could hug them (or chest bump them, whatever came first!) I am a true believer in putting out the energy that you want to come back to you, fake it 'til you make it was my motto in my earlier stages as a wedding photographer and I think it still plays a role in my life. People with confidence are so beautiful to me, because they are the game changers - the ones who move in the direction of their dreams and I really love dream chasers. 

What's the best advice you ever received in work, relationships, life?  
Just be happy. Life is so short, nothing is promised, because of that I want each day to be filled with as much happiness as I can grasp. Instead of chasing success or money, I want to chase happiness - and to follow my own path to find it. I don't want awards or acolades to tell me how my life was lived, I want wrinkles for proof that I smiled and laughed my way through life. When people ask me where I want to be in five years, I laugh. I have no clue what the future holds, but I do know one thing: I just want to be happy. Choosing joy is a lifestyle, finding happiness in the mundane day to day is an intentional mindset, but it's one that makes your life far more beautiful. Happiness trumps money, success, and fame in my book, always. People are as happy as they make up their mind to me. 

What's one piece of advice for other people who are chasing dreams?
Ugh, there are a million things that I whisper to myself every single day but I think the one that I always come back to is: comparison is the thief of joy. In a hyper social world, it's so easy to compare your live to others. We are constantly bombarded by how awesome (or terrible) others lives are that we forget to live our own. As a creative artist who works in solitude, it's easy to get caught up in what other people are creating, shooting, doing - I have taken some steps to stop the bombardment of comparing that causes me to question my passion and in turn I have tried to find simple ways to seek beauty in the everyday life (yoga pants and all.) We need to remember that social media is like looking at peoples highlight reels, we don't see the outtakes or bloopers. I want to surround myself with other people who are on the path to happiness and forget about the ones who make you feel inferior. We rise by lifting others, this is so undeniably true and for that I always tell myself to not let the act of comparing myself, steal my joy. 

Do you have a mantra or some theme you try to live your life by? 
"Do everything with so much love in your heart that you would never want to do it any other way." Amen, sister, amen. This is something that is hanging in my office as a constant reminder to act in love. I truly believe that being kind is something that is so simple but a game changer. I feel like in life we are led to feel the need to rise to the top, dismissing others and forgetting about where we came from - but I want to change that. With everything I pour myself into, I want to be so crazy passionate about it that it screams "JENNNNNNA!" I want people to recognize the love I have for life, for my family, for my career and I want that to shine through each and every facet of who I am as a human and what I create. I never want to do things half heartedly - if my heart isn't in it, it probably wasn't a good fit in the first place. I love sharing my life because I never know who it might impact, who it may inspire, or who may connect with my story. 

What's your favorite word?  
Oh my goodness, ummm... I feel like I say the word "crazy" a lot. Like "that's crazy" or "I'm crazy about.." I might need to ask someone else what I say a lot, Tami? Any thoughts? 

What's your least favorite word?  
I hate curse words. There are millions of adjectives on the planet to use, grab a thesaurus and expand your vocabulary, you will not only appear smarter but you won't offend people. 

What's one thing you KNOW to be true?  
Life is less stressful when tackled in yoga pants (kidding, sort of.)  Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive. Truthfully, this past year I have clung to things that have given me total happiness - from watercolor painting to napping to daily blogging to killing myself at CrossFit workouts. Putting priority on the things that make you happy in your life truly allows you to lead a life you are proud of, even if no one else cares. When you find something you love, cling to it - regardless of if you are amazing or you stink at it. Anything that makes you feel fully alive is worth doing and in the end, you will likely be more successful because you are doing the things you love. "The things that you are passionate about aren't random, they are your calling." 

If you could go back and tell your high school self something, what would it be?  
Oh man, I wrote a whole blog post about this topic. http://photosbyjennaleigh.com/blog/dear-me-ten-years-ago/ Here's an excerpt: 

"I want to tell you not to worry, that life always has a way of working out and that God's plan is much mightier than your own. I also want to let you know that you never stopped loving carbs... and now that it's legal, you really like wine. (Like really, reeealllyy) Coffee is your future savior and you don't have to make it half cream and sugar to suck it down and feel cool. Trust me, black coffee isn't as bad as you think.
I want to tell you that what you think matters most doesn't: like prom dresses, cars, and boys. Oh, those boys who you text good night to - they won't matter down the road and chances are you will forget their names. Stop worrying about meeting your husband and focus on your friends that matter, for real, you won't marry anyone from your small little town anyways. I want to tell you that it's okay that you are flat chested and have dark eyebrows, someday you'll realize that boobs really aren't that great and you'll wish you were back to that sweet A-cup that you so awkwardly hate.  I want you to know that kindness is key and that everyones journey is beautiful. I wish you would reach out to those who may be hurting and wouldn't worry so much about what people think. Those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter - write that down, it's important. "
How do you want to feel 3 years from now? 
I want to feel happy and fulfilled. I want to be filled with dreams but also completeness. I don't care if I am a barista at the coffee shop or a world renowned photographer, what I want is to be happy, fulfilled and fully alive. 

What does "loving well" look like to you?  
Man, "loving well" is something that I feel like my life needs to be centered around. First and forement, loving my Savior well, taking intentional time for devotion everyday, praying with my husband, digging into the word. He is greater than I. He must become greater and greater while I intentionally become less and less, this is something I working on every single day. Every act of love should first and foremost be faith centered.

The next one is one I know I need to work on: "loving well" on myself. I am a mover and shaker (not like a Beyonce shaker, but more like I never say no.) I need to love myself enough to slow down, to schedule breaks, to allow rest. I am always on to the next thing, the next piece of work, the next weekend away and I need to get better at listening to my body and loving myself enough to slow it all down. I also need to stop that critcal crap, we are so hard on ourselves and I fall into the trap that I am not doing enough, being enough, working enough. I think that "loving well" on myself includes believing that I am enough, that I am worthy.

The last piece of that is "loving well" on my family and friends, most importantly my husband. Pouring into his life, praying for him, and supporting him. It's so easy to fall into the trap of eating dinner on the couch, watching tv, then going to bed - how do we pour into each others lives and support each other in not just a friendship standpoint but in a marriage. 

Thanks sooooo much Jenna girl...for being an inspiration, a comrade in life, and my dear friend.  Love you for so many reasons!! Let's not wait another year to make time for an adventure. ;)

Images of Jenna + Drew taken by Life Tree Photography 


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