Revelations on the journey to what’s next

Stopping to take a look around on the journey
Stopping to take a look around on the journey

I was in DC this weekend for a friend’s wedding, for the first time since I moved away two months ago. On the one hand, it felt like coming home, back to the place I had lived for six years. It was the city where I got my first three grownup jobs, where I ran my first races, and experienced multiple heartbreaks. It was where I learned to love sushi and wine, and that sometimes it takes four different forms of transportation to get home after a late night baseball game. It’s the place where I made friends for life, people that have seen me evolve from a naive, young college graduate looking to make my mark on the world to a (hopefully) wiser, stronger, more experienced woman… looking to make my mark on the world.

I visited favorite restaurants and bars, caught up with friends, and celebrated my friends’ marriage, but I realized that just two short (some days it felt long) months later, DC wasn’t my home anymore. And despite the fact that my parents’ house is only my temporary home, I already had that “I’m ready to go” feeling after a few days. Going into my visit, I knew I would be looking at it as a gauge on if I wanted to go back — because the thought had crossed my mind more than once in the time since I left. But as I walked around what had been my city, I realized that although I miss the people, and I’ll always go back to visit, I was indeed ready to leave and try something new.

And so what does that mean at this point? Although I don’t have all the answers yet, I feel like I’m a lot closer than I was when I got out here. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my needs and wants, my priorities, and what it will take to make me happy in my career, in my passions and hobbies, my surroundings, and in my relationships. The most important thing I’ve realized in all of this (thanks, Dad!) is that it’s absolutely okay that some of these things have changed, multiple times, even since May. Because, really, this is not the time to settle. There were moments in life when I settled, for a job, for a guy, for friends. But now, when I have my health, and family, and really, no troubles or worries, this is the time to make choices that are only for me, and right for me — not just what’s good enough, or what works.

As I look at the opportunities out there, I may get intrigued for various reasons, but I can’t jump at the first thing that comes my way. As I think about where I want to live, I can’t just go to the place that’s nearest, or cheapest, or easiest. As I meet new people, I won’t just befriend them or date them because they’re there. It’s time for purpose, and intent. And I certainly have time on my side (at least for now).

In the last few weeks as I have wavered over some of my decisions, or felt silly as I admitted feelings and desires out loud to myself, I’ve felt myself becoming more confident in this process, more content, and more excited than I was before about what lies ahead. It may end up being completely different from what I envisioned two months ago, but I’m on a path to really knowing myself and getting to where I belong.

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!