Sunday, January 30, 2011


I'm starting this blog for a few reasons. I'm not really sure who, if anyone, will read it. But, part of the reason for it is a way to journal the year ahead of me. Another aspect of this blog will be a Project 365 photo journal, to capture a little bit of my life each day.

Let me start at the beginning and work through to today.

In April of 2008, I met an amazing person, who has become my best friend, my mentor, my sounding board. When we met I was living an unhappy and unproductive life. I was working full time in a job I really didn't enjoy and stuck in a marriage that was getting worse by the day.

I had explained to this person that I had attempted college right out of high school in 1996, as most people these days do. But, I quickly found myself in a pattern of enrolling for classes and stopping attending after just a few weeks. Soon, I just gave up on the whole idea of college and began working a full-time job.

The years passed and I continued working. I'd looked into going back to school, but never felt like I would be able to handle it. I'd pretty much given up on the idea of ever getting a college degree.

The person that would become my mentor sent me an email one day, which I have saved and looked at often.

I wanted to say how much I respect your intelligence and how much I want you to get what you deserve out of life.

Everyone is handicapped by history. By accident of birth we may not be rich or beautiful. Our parents may have taught us to expect failure.

But we are given talents. We have the obligation to push past the accidents of history and make the most of them.

You have a first-class mind. You see through stupid people and muddy thinking and unclear language. You have creative and sophisticated ideas. You have a brain that entitles you -- requires you -- to do important things in this world.

I expect you to excel.

I will do anything I can to help. But more than anything, I want to persuade you to raise your ambitions. You should not be satisfied with the life you see ahead of you. I want you to imagine -- and achieve -- the life you deserve.

You have the talent. All you need is to believe in yourself.
I cried when I read those words. It had been a long time since anyone had expressed confidence in me. And goodness knows, I had none in myself.

Throughout 2008, we kept in contact, him encouraging me and me fighting him on the subject of returning to school. I was convinced I would fail again, and I knew that I couldn't handle that emotionally. It was easier to not try, than to try and fail.

Irises - Vincent van Gogh - 1889
On my 30th birthday, the 21st of November I had the opportunity to go to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. While wandering the galleries I came across Irises by Vincent van Gogh. I remembered that my mom had a print of this in our house when I was growing up. I'd always liked it, but never had an appreciation for the artistic genius van Gogh was.
I remember standing in front of the painting for what felt like hours, but was probably just a few minutes. I was completely riveted. I was in complete disbelief that I was standing in front of a real van Gogh painting, the same one that I was so familiar with from my teenage years.

I subconsciously realized in those long minutes that I needed to make drastic changes in my life.

It took me several weeks to process everything going through my mind. With the help of my mentor I made the terrifying step of requesting my official transcripts from Fresno City College. Looking at those was a wake up call. Filled with D's and F's, I had a 1.6 GPA (only that high because I had apparently managed to finish English 1A). I was on academic probation by the school. Just before Christmas 2008 I met with a counselor and got the required permissions to enroll for classes to start the spring semester in just a few weeks.

I started first with retaking classes that had failing grades on my transcript. I made spreadsheets to help me plan out the order in which I needed to retake classes, and plan for the future. I made checklists, charts and more spreadsheets. If I could succeed at anything, it was organization.

I made it through that semester, taking two classes, with straight A's. This gave me a tiny boost in confidence. I enrolled for summer and fall classes. One summer class, three in the fall. Straight A's again. Looking back, I know it wasn't easy, it was just that I had discovered that this was something I really wanted. A college degree. Working full time and going to school is difficult for any one, it took tremendous effort. There were nights i cried. There were nights I wanted to give up. There were nights I celebrated a good grade on a paper or test.

2009 flew by so quickly. As 2010 began, my marriage was getting worse. We fought constantly. I was taking a lot of anti-depressants as well as xanax to keep myself functioning. One particularly bad night in March was a turning point for me. My husband had come home from being gone for a weekend. I was lonely, tired and irritable. We began fighting as soon as he walked in the door. Somewhere during that fight I found myself holding a handful of Vicodin, thinking to myself, "Fuck it. I can't take this any more." I sat on the floor of apartment sobbing. He called 911. The police and ambulance came soon. I was taken to the hospital on a 5150 hold. As soon as I was loaded into the ambulance I was calmer. I talked to the paramedic about his work, about my school, and about life in general. I spent about 6 hours at the hospital. I talked to many different social workers, nurses, doctors, etc. I remember feeling totally calm and at peace. One of the doctors asked if I had taken any of the vicodin. I told him I hadn't. He explained that they needed to do a blood test to verify that. I was fine with that. While waiting the several hours for the test results to come back, I slept. After passing through the many evaluations, and the clean blood test I was released.

The day I was released I decided I needed to make another change. I started looking for a place to live on my own. A week later I moved out into my own apartment. It was quite an adjustment to live alone for the first time in my life. I remember that I had so many amazing friends surrounding me. The day I moved is pretty much a blur. Some amazing friends loaded my things up in various cars, trucks and suv's. They unloaded it all, and started putting things away in my new place. I sat on the living room floor in amazement at the activity happening around me.

I had always considered myself someone that just didn't have friends. I have difficulty trusting people. I remember moving day... I remember thinking, "Why are these people being so nice to me?"
2010 progressed, I continued with classes. I ramped up the intensity of classes I was taking, and started making plans for what would happen when I was done at City College. I filed for divorce in April, and it was finalized in October. Through those six months of waiting for the divorce to be finalized, I became infinitely closer to a group of friends that I met through my local yarn store. They were all knitters, they shared my sense of humor, they supported me when I had bad days, they celebrated with me when I had good days. They supplied me with Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and hugs when ever necessary! It occurred to me sometime in early October, just days before the divorce was to be finalized, these people were friends. I finally realized, I have friends. Wow.

Hold on... we're almost done.

Over the course of the crazy year that 2010 was, I realized that I wanted the best that I possibly could do for myself in regards to my education. I researched schools all over the state.In November, I filled out my applications for two University of California schools, UC Davis and UC Berkeley. I'd decided on a major of Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on historic preservation. It had occurred to me that I'd always loved architecture, and while I had no desire to be an architect, I wanted to learn about and work to save these amazing old buildings. I've decided that when I am ready to transfer, I am going attend school full time, and work just a part time on campus job if necessary.

So, today, I am in my last semester at Fresno City College. I stupidly put off all of my science courses until now, so am taking archaeology, geology, biology as well as statistics. 14 units. Did I mention I am still working 40 hours a week? This is possibly the definition of insanity.

On April 29th, decisions will be released by Berkeley which is my first choice school. 89 days from today. I've applied for the Fall semester of this year. So, this is the year that I will jump into living the life I've dreamed of. This year, I'm jumping in with both feet.


  1. Sweetie.. you are an incredible writer... the journey you have made shows how strong you are and how incredible your strength is.. I went to the Getty a while back. It is an earth moving experience and we didn't even make it through all the buildings.. I saw the Van Gogh though. I had to take a few extra minutes and stop there. My mom has loved Van Gogh since as long as I can remember. How many kids know who Don Mclean is? Starry..Starry night.. paint your...I had to move on because the gaurd was giving me the eyeball. I wasn't that close..It's hard to get my thoughts down because there is so much I want to say but I'm so glad to see you speaking up and becoming what I have always seen in you. You amaze me.

  2. Love you, Jen. I'll be favoriting this, so that I can continue to follow it.


  3. You are one of the most courageous people I know Jenn. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I second the comment about you being an incredible writer. I hope you will be able to continue to find time to write once you start Uni.