New beginnings: California, here I come

East Coast to West Coast
East Coast to West Coast

I’ve been thinking about what to say in this blog post for a few months, maybe even more, since the idea first started forming in my head. And in the last couple of weeks, saying it out loud and in emails have made it more and more of a reality, but somehow, saying it on this dear old blog of mine that I’ve been writing for six years is what’s going to really do it for me… so I’ll just say it:

I’m leaving DC, moving to California, and pursuing my lifelong dream of being a writer. And I’m doing it just short of two months from now.

For many of you on the inside circle of my life, this isn’t a surprise. You know the story, or you at least knew it was a spark of an idea at one point. To you, I say thanks for listening, and thanks for challenging me to go for it.

But let’s back up a bit to the beginning. I moved to DC in February of 2007, a semester early out of college, and raring to get started in the city I had pined for since my first visit at 12 years old. “I’m going to move there someday,” I told my parents. “I’m going to write for The Washington Post.”

Fast forward about 10 years — I still wanted to move there, but I was also debating giving magazines a shot in New York City. “Newspapers aren’t hiring,” I told my parents. “So I’ll get some other writing job, and maybe do advocacy work.”

Six years later, I’ve had some of the most amazing career experiences anyone could want. My first job was at a top PR agency, my second had me meeting Ted Turner and Rick Reilly and kids who wanted nothing more than to prevent malaria and help girls go to school. And in my most recent job, I’ve worked with some of the smartest, most connected, and creative people I’ve ever met — all of us inspired by our two fearless leaders who have made the communications, technology, and philanthropy worlds a better and cooler space.

I wouldn’t give any of it back, not for a second. But it’s not my dream. In a “book” I wrote for school at nine years old, my bio said, “Jenna’s favorite food is macaroni and cheese, her favorite movie is The Sound of Music, and she wants to be an author or a teacher when she grows up.” Nineteen years later when I started to think about what I wanted next in my life, I realized it was all still true…but I wasn’t doing a very good job at really pursuing that last piece. Sure, I write this blog, and I write for my employers’ blogs. But Tweets and email marketing don’t make a writer — at least not the type of writer I always wanted to be.

I’m not heading off to another job. I’m not going back to newspapers, and I’m not running off to write the next 50 Shades or Harry Potter. What I will write for, and what I will write about may cover the extremes — health and food, and culture and family, and love and life…I’ll figure it out. What will matter most is that I will be giving it a shot, the shot that I swept under the rug when I left school because I thought I wouldn’t get hired as a journalist, because it seemed silly to try to actually get a career doing what I did for so many nights at the school paper.

About three years ago, a friend on his own journey to figure out his next step asked me what my perfect day looked like. I couldn’t answer him then. But when my dad asked me two months ago, my mind started churning, and within 24 hours and a couple of conversations with friends later, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And that I wanted to do it now.

So why California? There are two reasons; one is more simple, one is harder to explain. The first is family. Anyone who knows me knows how close I am to my parents. As an only child, they are my best friends and my rocks. With my extended family in Louisiana and no other obligations, the idea of being near them for the next chapter of my life makes me feel whole and happy. And the fact that they now live on a ranchette in the middle of wine country doesn’t hurt. And that they have another Corgi coming to join McGee.

The second reason — it’s just time for a change. I love DC, I love my job, and I love my friends. But for the last couple of years I’ve been feeling restless, and I knew a scenery change was imminent — it was just a matter of figuring out what I wanted to do. I could write here in DC, sure. I could do a lot of things here, though, and since factor number one is pretty important, factor two makes it easy to make the switch. There’s something in my bones telling me that California will suit who I am as a person, and bring a sense of place to me that I was starting to miss here in DC, without family, without a companion, without a dog.

So that’s the story, for now. There is so much more I could say about my friends here in DC, about what’s next, and how I came to this decision. And I will say it — in this blog, and to you, if you’d like to know more. And of course, I’ll be writing about this journey, fittingly, a journey to be fearless, and a journey back to the person I wanted to be as a nine-year-old little girl.

Thank you to everyone who has made me feel like my dreams are worth pursuing. I’m ready to find out what happens next!

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Living Fearfully

Last week, the organization I work for declared its intention to Be Fearless in all that we do in 2012 in beyond. Inspired by our new message and journey, I am starting a Be Fearless blog series on Lagniappe, in which I’ll feature Fearless stories from guest bloggers, and my own reflections, in coming months. The first up is from my friend Lauree Ostrofsky, a DC-area life coach, who lives by the phrase “I’m scared and doing it anyway.”

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I'm scared & doing it anywayHow will I live fearlessly this year?

My first answer: I won’t.

Fearless – living without fear – sounds like a hero in an epic movie like Braveheart or Gladiator.

I’m more like Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. I’d rather yell “get me out of here,” than face awful things. If I can’t be granted that, then I’ll begrudgingly do it.

How’s that for inspiration from a life coach?

I write about fear a lot. I face fear a lot. A recent blog post took me weeks to publish out of fear…of what the response might be, of how much I exposed about myself.

But, I published it.

If that is living fearlessly, than that’s what I do.

I have a mantra that began years ago while having surgery to remove a benign brain tumor: “I’m Scared & Doing it Anyway.” I believe that you can take fear by the hand and walk through the door. Fear is there. You see it. I see it. Move forward with it.

It’s living with fear, rather than without it.

Fear is there to keep you safe. Usually the thing you want most is not in the safe, comfortable territory you’re already in. So you and fear need a little chat: Yes, we want that…shiny new whatever. Yes, it’s outside of our comfort zone. Yes, it’s worth it. Let’s do it.

Back to living fearlessly. This year I will:

Be my own best friend. I will notice how I treat myself, what I tell myself, and choose better. The more I believe I’m worthy of loving kindness and generosity – and treat myself that way – the more I will receive it.

Date. (I may have just broken out in hives.) I will go on dates this year and meet a great guy. For some reason I’m scared about it right now, which means I need to do it. Gulp.

Challenge what is possible. There is no reason to settle. If I’m “trying to make it work,” whatever it is, it is a sign to find another way.

Being scared and doing it anyway, and living fearlessly, all comes down to starting. I will start this year. I will put one foot in front of the other. I will open to a blank page and write.

Who knows what will happen next?

Happy living fearfully to you.