Everyday People Doing Extraordinary things: Everyone Meet Kristen Mendiola

Hello! Welcome to my second feature of this new section of my blog. These features are intended to introduce you to some amazing people in my life who are doing extraordinary things with their lives. This month’s feature is Kristen Mendiola . I met Kristen over a year ago when she was hired to photograph a food media event. We immediately hit it off and since then I have learned so much more about food, Chicago, traveling, photography, and whiskey!

Please enjoy and feel free to reach out to Kristen if you have any questions!

  1. Please introduce yourself: I grew up in Michigan, so it still and always will hold a special place in my heart.  I received my BA in Advertising and later decided to get an MBA in Marketing.  Originally, I thought living in Chicago would be a pit stop before moving to California, but I’ve been here for years and absolutely loving it.  I work in paid search marketing and am a freelance photographer.  I have two siblings, four hyperactive nephews and one adorable niece.  They’re some of the greatest joys of my life.
  2. You recently got personal on Instagram with a post about depression, what made you post about it?
    • After a lot of thought, I recently opened up about something very personal that I haven’t even talked about with my family or friends.  The reason I did this was to serve as a sense of hope and empowerment to anyone that might be feeling the same way.  I was depressed.  Getting through the day seemed impossible.  Just getting out of bed was daunting – not in the way that you hate Mondays, but that I loathed being alive.  Every day felt like the same torturing routine when all I wanted was to feel nothing.
  3. What helped you overcome it?
    • My close friends knew something was up with me, but not the true extent of it.  I remember only one friend out right approaching me about how I was feeling and one of the biggest causes of it.  It wouldn’t have mattered if anyone tried to talk to me because I was the only person that could help myself.  I was drowning in my own emotions.  I honestly can’t remember the exact moment, but I decided that I needed to make a drastic change in my life.  I think I mainly got tired of feeling sorry for myself.  Once I acknowledged the issue, gave myself time to heal and understand the things that were bringing me down, I eventually felt brand new.  I had to rediscover myself because I had lost my identity.  When I was ready, I took the time to immerse myself in the things that I was passionate about – music, photography, travel, art and fitness.  To me, there are very few things more satisfying than finding the perfect song that can express how I feel.  Photography became and still is the way that I get to express myself creatively, because I don’t consider myself to be a creative person. Running the marathon for the second time gave me a way to focus my energy on achieving a tangible goal.  Experiencing other cultures and people through art and travel gave me something to look forward to.
  4. How did you start getting into photography? Are you self-taught?
    • I’ve always been that person that usually has a camera on them. I’m a self-taught photographer, bought my first digital camera in 2001 and my first DSLR in 2006.  I’ve always loved photography, but only started focusing on my skillset and improving my own photography in the past few years.  One of the things I love about photography is that it’s a balance between art and science.  You can always improve your photos and reinvent your style.  Being a huge foodie, it’s so inspiring to be around other people in the restaurant and food industry that are passionate about what they do.  I consider it an honor to be able to document the care and meticulousness that goes into creating just one dish.  When you take portraits of someone and perfectly encapsulate that moment or that mood, it’s a thing of beauty.
  5. Would you say you have “overcome” depression?
    • Everyone has their ups and downs, as do I, but definitely in a much better place than before.
  6. Where do you see yourself in 3, 5, and 10 years from now?
    • Honestly, I don’t know where I see myself in 3, 5 or 10 years from now.  But if I have the people I love most in my life, my health and continue to travel and eat the world, I’ll be happy.
  7. Words of advice for those who ever felt a roadblock?
    • It’s easy to compare yourself to other people and lose sight of your own goals, but if you take the time to find what you’re passionate about and what makes you happy, you can do no wrong.  Surround yourself with people that you aspire to be.  It may not seem like it helps, but go through the motions of every day.  Pick up a book, try something new.  Reading was actually one of the things that helped me see the bigger picture and inspired me to be a better person.  One book that really resonated with me was East of Eden.  It’s simple, but it holds true and is one of my favorite quotes:
      • “I don’t want advice.”
        “Nobody does. It’s a giver’s present. Go through the motions, Adam.”
        “What motions?”
        “Act out being alive, like a play.  And after a while, a long while, it will be true.”
    • Lastly, take the time to celebrate your small wins.  It’s easy to be your own worst enemy, so writing down accomplishments helps serve as a reminder of how far you’ve come.


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