Star Spotlight 13: Jennell

Sometimes, the most supportive kinships come from the most unforeseen places. When the universe works in this way, I find myself feeling bemused, amazed, and very grateful.

Jennell is one of those women who has arrived unexpectedly in my life, and I can say honestly that her presence has been a total blessing in my life. We met initially when she reached out after hearing me interviewed on one of her favorite podcasts; she learned I lived in Portland, and sent a sweet email saying hello and telling a bit of her own story. Even this initial act indicates to me powerful and admirable character traits: Jennell’s willingness to put herself out there, to make a connection, to be vulnerable and sincere and reach out to a stranger. All of this is scary: it means risking the possibility of being hurt or rejected, let down or disappointed. It required Jennell opening her heart and sharing intimately, with the full understanding that she may or may not get anything in return. I am so grateful that she was willing to put herself on the line, for what has followed is a friendship based on solidarity, loving connection, mutual admiration, reciprocated support, and bonding over similar experiences.

Jennell and I have different backgrounds. We grew up in different places, have families with diverse stories, have a wide variety of experience with relationships and school and work and play. However, in some ways, our stories are very similar. We have both have been faced with many obstacles, and are committed to living a life without living a lie. We both know how hard it feels to hate yourself, to live from a baseline of fear and shame and self-doubt and loathing. We both have struggled with physical and mental dis-ease, and have reached toward soothing techniques and behaviors to make us feel safe, comforted, in control, in denial. We both have spent years refusing to face our inner demons, and both have now chosen to now face them head-on.

I am constantly astonished by Jennell’s ability to take on trials and tribulations. She’s had a hard life, and even in the past year we’ve been connected I’ve seen her faced with curveball after curveball, emotional and physical and mental pain and sickness. There have been times that she’s felt despondent; times she hasn’t want to keep fighting. But fight, she does. Jennell rallies like a rockstar. Sure, the fight might not be pretty; sure, the rally may ebb and flow with energy and motivation. But she committed to doing the work she needs to do, no matter how tough it may be. One of the things that amazes me most is the fact that she forges on even when the end is unknown. I’d characterize Jennell’s year as one of more and more questions, coupled with less and less answers. I can’t even imagine how intense and overwhelming this must be! However, despite essentially being given a “get out of fight free” card (how easy would it be to just stop doing the work, due to exhaustion or heartbreak or despair?!), but she gets up and goes for it and tries, even if she doesn’t succeed. She’s a powerful example to me of the importance of standing up for myself, of believing in myself, of knowing that I’m worth advocating for — even when it doesn’t feel like it, or when I don’t want to.

She’s a few years younger than I, but no years less wise. She’s sensitive and kind, with a quick wit and a great sense of humor. She’s an amazing writer, with an intuitive ability to transform her feelings and thoughts into words on the page. She knows how to laugh at herself, how to call herself on her shit, without taking it too seriously. She’s fiercely intelligent and simultaneously deeply humble. She’s in the process of growing a life of caring for others (and herself!), of filling the world with more inner strength and empowerment, of reflecting back to people how beautiful they are through her own beautiful lens. She’s a woman with a mission — and I can’t wait to see where this perseverance and passion takes her!

Jennell, you bless me and so many others. Your truth is a blessing, your wisdom is a blessing, your hilarity and lightheartedness is a blessing. Your commitment to the truth is a blessing. Your unwavering devotion to teaching yourself, and sharing what you’ve learned with the world, is a blessing. Your willingness to show up and do the work, no matter how much you’re struggling, is a blessing. Thank you for blessing the world through all your YOU-ness! Please choose a charity for me to donate to on your behalf.

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