As a kid, the first thing I remember “wanting to be when I grew up” was a vet. I felt that way up until my senior year of high school when I tore my ACL. I had dreamed of running track competitively in college, so tearing my ACL forced me to reevaluate my future. I went through physical therapy, but I didn’t quite follow the rules like I was supposed to, so I ended up tearing my ACL again. This time I went to a different surgeon, different physical therapist, and I followed ALL of those pesky rules. Being around doctors and physical therapists for more than a year, I decided that physical therapy was what I wanted to do instead of being a vet. Luckily, I still received the opportunity to run in college (at UMO) and I enjoyed every moment of that once in a lifetime experience. I had my future planned out – my major, minor, courses I needed to apply to PT school, everything…or so I thought.
Even though I had these big dreams to become a physical therapist and work with athletes like myself, I also knew I wanted to coach athletes as well. Running has always been a passion of mine, something that I grew up doing and will always love (and hate at times). I just couldn’t imagine how I was going to have the time to be both a full-time physical therapist as well as an athletic coach. Then I took an art class.
The overachiever in me decided to double major in exercise science + fine art. I’ve always loved art and think I’m pretty decent at drawing. Art was the fun part for me – a chance to let loose and just create. It was a much-needed break from all the anatomy and kinesiology classes. In case you didn’t know, pursuing two majors and running cross country and track in college is no joke. I was stretching myself way too thin, so I decided to focus on what I was truly enjoying – art. Of course, I still kept running.. until I had to have knee surgery for the third time.
So in 2012, I graduated with a degree in fine art and became a teacher! Surprised? I was. I never really had much interest in teaching until my last year of undergrad. I knew I wanted to coach so I figured my best chance at coaching would be by becoming a teacher as well. I was good at art so I figured, why not be an art teacher? I took over the art position at my own high school shortly after I graduated. I went in as lateral entry so, honestly, I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. When I started all I knew about how to teach art was based on how I was taught art. Eventually, I got the hang of it. I’m the type of person that has to go above and beyond with what I’m doing so after my first year of teaching I decided to obtain my master’s degree AND coach three sports. Oh and almost every weekend I was doing photography. To say I had no life is an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all of these things – teaching, learning, coaching + photography but something had to give. I finished grad school in 2015 which eased up the stress but then my photography business started growing.
I’ve always had a camera and I’ve always enjoyed photography. My parents bought my first DSLR when I was in college and I took a few introductory classes while at Mount Olive. I photographed friends and family members for the longest time and finally took the plunge and shot my first wedding. I was hooked. Since then, I have photographed 50+ weddings and have decided to pursue photography full-time.
“WORKING HARD FOR SOMETHING WE DON’T CARE ABOUT IS CALLED STRESS. WORKING HARD FOR SOMETHING WE LOVE IS CALLED PASSION.” – Simon Sinek
I found myself working for the weekend, only because that meant a wedding or session to photograph – a break from my job. I enjoy teaching but with everything I was doing, I was overwhelmed. Burnout is real. I don’t blame anyone but myself for reaching that point, though. I should have known better than to take on coaching three sports while going back to school and being a new teacher. I found myself getting upset easier (and quicker) and sometimes not even wanting to come to work.
People used to ask me if I thought I would become a full-time photographer and I would immediately say no. Thinking about leaving teaching and relying solely on photography was scary and I wanted no part of it. Plus, I would feel guilty leaving students who considered me their “favorite teacher”, my athletes – some who I would be leaving their senior year and of course the principal would have to find another art teacher. I didn’t want to make him have to do that. That was the problem. I wasn’t putting myself first. I was thinking solely about how my decision to pursue my passion would affect others rather than how the bundle of roles I was juggling was currently affecting me. It only took a few more days of coming home crying to realize I needed to make a change.
In the Fall, I booked a sunrise session at Topsail Island to photograph a pregnancy announcement. After leaving my house that morning around 4am, I was a little upset with myself for scheduling something so early, so far away.. until I arrived. My clients were on their boat, I was on their friends’ boat and we both rode out into the ocean as the sun was coming up to capture their vision. As I was standing in the back of the boat, waiting to arrive at our destination, all I could think about was how cool it was to actually be “working” right then. I was on a boat in the middle of the ocean photographing someone’s pregnancy announcement. That’s when I decided I was leaving teaching and THIS was going to be my full-time job. I absolutely love making people smile and being able to capture that is icing on the cake. I strive to express my clients’ lives in the most fun and creative way possible and to deliver timeless images that represent true emotion.
slideshow pc // kayla jean photography