Jennifer s Story
Winona, Minnesota USA
“Past, present, future. Only one is a guarantee. It’s also the one that most people want to go back and change...
I have a dark past, but who doesn’t? I’ve lied, cheated, been dramatic, played games, I’ve been a ‘slut’, a ‘drunk’, and a ‘smoker’. I’ve hurt people that I love. I have no excuses for any of it. I can tell you now that if I could go back into the past, I would not change a single part of my life. I own all of it, it’s mine and I don’t owe anything to anyone; I apologize to no one.
Without even a second of my past, I would not be the person I am today. I wish I had understood two basic things a long time ago: 1. No one can make you feel anything and 2. You are the only one in control over yourself.
I bottled my emotions, except anger and pride. I was eager to please my parents and grandparents, but unable to please myself. This would, of course, be the underlying center point.
During my childhood, I liked when humans around me were happy because of something I did. This turned into an internal fire to always make sure I did things to make others proud of me; I desired approval. Even now, as I transform into ‘the real’ Jennifer, I am having a very difficult time demolishing my need for approval. That fire turned into a wildfire, and the depression set in.
The inability to deal with simple emotions started to include bigger and bigger emotions until it all turned into sheer panic that I would then spend 20 years running from. My heart and mind waged a war against each other and I began to lose control over everything. I turned from one vice to the next, constantly looking for something to ground me and to keep me grounded- always seeming to be torn between right and wrong, up or down, dream vs reality. I would do something suggested by others, knowing in my gut that doing it their way was going to cause me to spiral out of control again. But, I wanted to make them happy. I needed to make them happy…
I married a man after knowing him for 11 days. He promised me all the things I thought I would need to be happy. On the day that I will always remember as the day that changed my life, John was slamming my head into the ceramic tile flooring and all I could think, besides ouch, was that I was going to die a stranger to myself. Regret flashed across my mind- pictures of a faceless Jennifer were crystal clear images of hate and loathing. John might have knocked some sense into me that day because it might have been the first time ever that I decided that I was worth more.
It took technical school, moving to a different place, getting a job dedicated to caring for others, giving up all vices- except wine, of course- and a deep desire to please myself to get me on my current path. It’s been one hell of a ride, and I have learned so much about life, love, and everything in-between.
The path to find myself actually started off by choosing the best, most achievable dream. In making that decision, I had to break myself down into a 1000-piece puzzle. As I watch the puzzle slowly coming together, the important things become clear.
First, the easiest picture to put together was my relationship with God. We have always fought constantly until Easter Sunday 2017. I was sitting out on a dock near the lake with my boys and looking at the beautiful sky, and I felt Him. He put his arms around me and the wall surrounding my feelings started to crumble. I realized I was beginning to feel and express contentment. Then, I looked down at my boys and saw God looking at me through their eyes. I now see and feel God everywhere and, when he wants me to really listen, he lets me know. From that moment on, it’s been a bittersweet adventure of accepting things about myself, or discovering the empowering feeling that comes with making a decision all on my own.
Learning. I found the courage to go back to school at 38 years old and, although I may be torn between being a nurse or being a teacher, in the end, I will be helping and caring for people.
Growing. I have grown to love myself and to love others with appreciation and respect. I find that the space in my heart where contentment lies is growing each day.
Discovering. This gave me the opportunity to see myself as a human that is worth something to this world. I kind of like the person I am. I love laughing and feeling all my emotions. I love watching my boys and seeing their personalities shine. I found passion in standing up for what and who I believe in.
I have one God, but no religion. I have but one life to live and I am living it to the best of my ability. I have one heart to love as many people as possible. I have one brain that thinks black-and-white, but loves seeing the colors that make me who I am.
I am not a robot; I have feelings and thoughts, and I am not going to wake up tomorrow as the same person I am today. I love and appreciate my friends who have helped guide and protect me, and have accepted me in all states of transformation. They have all brought such joy and uniqueness to my life. Their willingness to open up their hearts and minds is why I have the courage to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Do I own my past? 100%. Have I forgiven myself? Yes. Every single day, I look down the long paths that are my past, my present, and my future and I can smile. As my future begins to form into a beautiful picture of possibilities, my past fades into the background.
For us, as humans, we cannot change the past but learn to use it for growth. It may be an ugly foundation of our life, but you can’t build toward the future without it. I am completely sure that my puzzle, although unfinished, is perfect just the way it is and my silver lining is… real happiness.”