The Power of a Smile

In my current job as a school photographer, it's my job to get the kiddies (and the faculty) to crack a smile when I take their picture. Sometimes I've been successful in this venture......sometimes not so much as the kid or teacher gives me that reminder that "they don't smile." In fact, I'll bet some of them wonder why I stress the importance of that smile. As for me, you can tell it doesn't take much to get me to crack a smile for the camera.

Frankly, it doesn't matter to me what they do in their school picture, just so long as they pose nicely and do the few, simple moves that I ask of them. I need to be able to do my job effectively so that they feel it's satisfactory to show to everyone else. But when it comes down to it, there's just that something warms me inside the minute I know that that smile was made for me (or by me). Like last week, I was taking pictures of six little preschooler girls at an academy......and they were adorable! Each one came up to me, posed perfectly, gave me their best smile, then went back to sit with their class. After calling each of them by name and interacting, they inquired my first name. I said, "my name is Jennifer," which was followed by the teacher saying, "say thank you to Miss Jennifer." In unison, they thanked me.....and I was reminded of why I love children! Just that moment that they gave me one extra smile after the camera was turned off reminded me that it's those simple moments that mean the most.

Now in the world of a rockstar, that smile still applies to my life. Since I love taking pictures at shows, I enjoy the moments where I watch the guys take in the craziness of the crowd, the intensity of a song, and smile in that moment, because I know what's on their mind. It's knowing that even in that small frame of time, they've reached their crowd.......that "it" factor that reminds them of why they got into doing music in the first place. Sometimes, it even warrants some of the funniest onstage antics I have ever seen and I can't help but be grateful to capture that very instance with a camera. Since I'm always in the midst of that crowd when they're playing, I take in that energy and let it wash over me.......breathing in that moment with them. And just like them, I give into that feeling and all the emotions that follow with it.

It's what drives me to be at shows as much as I do......aside from the opportunity to hang out with all of the new friends I've made along the way! Here's me with my friend Melissa at the Whiskey Bar in Hoboken. While I may not get to see her as much (since she lives so far away), I always enjoy knowing that when we hang out, there's a lot of laughter, stories, and good energy. It has always been said that when you are a positive person and you surround yourself with even more positivity, that that positive energy multiplies exponentially.......and it's wonderful!

Life is full of simple pleasures and I believe that a smile is one of them. Whether it be the child who looks up at me and gives me the best picture......or a friendly face onstage or in the crowd......even the way Matt smiles at me while he's up on stage watching me have a good time, all of it has a profound and positive effect on me. Smiling is the simplest form of showing someone that you're happy and enjoying their company.....or just that when they're around it makes you light up! So to smiling, I salute you.

~Jenny Rockstar~


Finding my voice......

I've come to the conclusion that every now and then, even a rockstar needs a break! On occasion, I have been known to miss a show or two in exchange for Matt to have a "boys weekend" with the band. And while at times it hurts me a little that I'll be missing him (and his show), it gives me the perfect opportunity to relax and reflect on just how lucky I truly am.

Before the band scene majorly factored into my life, one would be hard pressed to find me out at a show. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find me anywhere without my ex. As a West Point cadet, Kyle (my ex) always had to follow certain rules and regulations. I can distinctly remember one weekend where I waited nearly 90 minutes in a parking lot until he was released by his commanding officers. Needless to say, I was not happy about it, but I learned to adapt to these rules and regulations myself. It was almost as though I was living his lifestyle with him......only from outside the barracks of West Point.

We did have some wonderful moments. Aside from our random trips to the Jersey Shore, California, and a few to PA and Boston, we tried to get out and do small fun things with one another. I can remember some of our best memories being the ones where we found a photo booth on the Seaside boardwalk and just had fun being silly! The picture on the right was one I would consider one of our better moments together......we were always goofing off when in a good mood. In fact, just looking at this picture makes me smile a little, because it reminds me that even though we weren't right for one another, we still did make each other happy at one point. It wasn't always fighting or belittling one another. We genuinely did want to make things work and have as much fun as we could along the way.

Unfortunately, I also sacrificed a lot, especially with seeing any of my friends, my family, even having to skip out on huge family events, if it meant I got to spend some more time with Kyle. It also meant a complete lifestyle change for me as those little pieces of what made me who I am started to slip away. I watched more Fox News, dressed a little more conservatively, and learned that supporting the troops also meant supporting our current president (even though I think that he lacked the ability to lead our country). My opinions became very muted at this time, because anything against Kyle's beliefs meant I was against making the relationship work. He disliked my friends and as a result I would spend less time with them. Instead, I fought more with my friends, cut people off who should have never been cut off in the first place, and lost "Jenn" somewhere in that mix.

If there's one thing I now understand, being alone as an Army girlfriend was one of the loneliest existences one could ever face. I can't remember a day where I didn't cry myself to sleep or worry about the future of my relationship. And I couldn't even talk to other Army spouses without Kyle having an issue. It was isolating and cold feeling like that. I needed warmth and love beyond all other things............and it was lacking. The picture below on the right was taken about a month after Kyle broke up with me........I wasn't ready to face life. I wanted to hide, especially after the way I had isolated myself from everyone. Luckily enough, when I really needed them, my friends were there for me, without question. I'm grateful that they stayed in my life.

Looking back on it all, I was determined that in my next relationship, I would not only try and give more time to my friends, but also to the person I was with. I wanted to be able to spend time with them whenever I wanted to, without any restrictions in my way. It was also important to find someone who would want me as I am, not who they imagined me to be. Because if I couldn't be myself, then who was I, really? So I spent more time going out with everyone.....and on those days that I needed to cry, my friends allowed me to get it all out and then they would take me out for a nice relaxing night. After a while, I forgot what a night by myself felt like, since it always felt like everyone took turns kidnapping me for a little while. All I wanted was to return to those moments where I felt the most alive.......and happy. I needed to get back into the music scene by any means necessary, no matter what. It was where I felt alive and happy and safe, away from anything that reminded me of my past relationship and the path it had taken me down. I needed to find the girl that danced to the beat of her own drum.

I wondered where this girl had gone for so long.......and why it took four years of a bad relationship to rediscover that this was where I was most at home. Then I realized I had silenced her, just to make myself what someone else wanted me to be. And the funny thing is, when Kyle and I talked about it and I told him how much I compromised and sacrificed, he told me he would have rather me been myself instead of changing......when clearly at the time he seemed to prefer the opposite of that. But it didn't matter anymore. I needed to go down my own path for a while and figure things out. There was no more "us"......we were now just Jenn and Kyle, two people who were once right for one another, but drifted down two different paths.

A few months later, after taking some time doing whatever I wanted to do, Matt came into my life.......and as they say, the rest is history! Without that journey, I'm sure I wouldn't be the same person I am now. And while I do still get sad missing certain shows, I also know that it reminds me to appreciate the journey.

~Jenny Rockstar~