My friend Jen, she is a warrior. Initially, I knew of her because she and her husband were friends with my husband’s brother. I met her around the festivities of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law’s wedding – though I didn’t even remember meeting at that time, which I blame on having a new baby, not on her or her remarkability. The time that I hold dear to meeting her though was the first time I really talked to her and we hit it off, just before she and her husband decided to move cross county with their young family. I recall saying something along the lines of “We should hang out ALL the time”! and she replied back, total deadpan, “That could be a challenge…” But I promised to write her and we became pen pals which we have remained for years – though in all honesty we have grown into more phone call pals than pen pals these days.
She is fearless and funny and smart and adorable and I don’t mean that in a condescending way – but in the way that it is nearly impossible to not fall in love with her when she is telling you a story. Though she is no stranger to building a brand or a business or overhauling everything about her life (that cross country move was from Florida to Colorado – a slight weather pattern change), this year she outdid her track record and teamed up with a business that pushed her far outside of her comfort zone. For months, I along with countless supporters watched her grow and gloriously guide us got through her posts, showing us all how to add a little flair, fun and fierceness to our days. With her humor and wit she explained how we could each take better care of ourselves, and how by stepping up and out boldly we could be the change for other women to do the same.
She was a whirlwind of production with live sales and product demos and meticulously crafted blog posts and stylings thoughtfully added in what had to be an obscene amount of hours spent in service to others. And she was great at it. As she outgrew her shell and pushed on challenging herself, making goals and exceeding them, it suddenly made it not only possible, but likely that those of us watching her would try to do the same. The comments section filled her feed with things unrelated to her product – but completely in line with her message – subtle shifts from friends old and new (and trust me, if you spend one meaningful conversation with her, you will be a friend – the force is great with that one) were not only happening but being talked about – one day at a time, one person at a time in ways big and small…with baby steps such as a stay at home mom recounting how she traded her sweatpants and messy bun for a dress and a blowout (and how TREMENDOUS that made her FEEL) to another woman saying that she had always wanted to push herself out of her security cocoon but feared what was on the other side of it – we were all met with Jen’s trademark belief that we could do anything we allowed ourselves to dream – and we were all better for it. It was certainly about WHAT she was selling – but what she was selling was herself and by extension, the best versions of ourselves collectively.
Again she was good, so good in fact that this little side venture that she started, turned into a full time job, one that she felt conflicted about as her heart remained with her darling family who understandably felt the sting of less time with her, less of her attention and a different brand of it when she could give it. There began her deep divide: here she was rising up so many people and she herself felt let down. Her husband had been overwhelmingly supportive of her and her business and her kids were ever proud of their Mama, but truth be told, she wanted more. She wanted the full force of mothering – the saturation of the stay-at-home gig and the never-miss-a-tiny-moment-magic of the way she had been able to experience her family before. And she felt guilty for wanting that too. She was always tempered by the knowledge that some Moms have to work and they soldiered on heartbroken at missing their kids…She felt the pull to keep going, in solidarity with them until one day she stood with nothing but the truth that living her life by rules that other people have followed would always leave her conflicted.
With her characteristic smile and a few tears, she once again bared her soul as she explained that she loved the company but she loved her time with her family more, that the lessons she learned were huge and that she would continue to grow because of them, but the company was for her a masterful teacher and not a way of life. That is what growing into yourself looks like and it takes a unique kind of bravery to show other people that personal of a transition. When she did it though, full of vulnerability and hope and even a little disappointment, she once again made it okay for us all to take a breath or cry or have a laugh about the sometimes fickle nature of realizing that a dream that you thought was yours was likely meant for someone else, or that you outgrew that dream in the process of grasping it. She put it all out there one more time and I know that I wasn’t the only one who watched and gave her a standing ovation.