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!

The nature of a transitory town

When I first came to DC three years ago, I wasn’t looking for new best friends (I have a couple of great ones), but I was hoping I would find some people to hang out with from time to time in this new place since I was away from home, from my boyfriend, from all of my friends.

Within a few weeks, I became friends with a group of people (mostly all guys) that a college buddy m

et when she had moved to DC, only a couple of months before. But sad to say, within my first year here, each and every single one of those people moved from DC, because they all worked for Exxon and that’s how Exxon works I guess.

An HMC moment

When I started my job, I did the happy hours and lunch here and there with some of my fellow coworkers, but it w

asn’t until my friend Jacqueline’s wedding that five of us really bonded. We began calling ourselves the Hot Mess Club – HMC for short. Soon after Jacqueline married, she left our office. About six months after that, I left. And now, our friend Christin is moving to Chicago, Abby may be moving to New Mexico at any moment, Alanna is looking at Costa Rica later this year, and who knows where I may end up in 2010.

Read more

Chili pies, me oh my

This weekend my best friend from back home, Molly, stayed with me and we had a blast. It had been a few years since we had seen each other, so it was really great hanging out with her again. We looked at old yearbooks and pictures of course, and made an old school favorite, chili pies. If you haven’t had them, you need to and it’s soooo easy. My mom used to make them at Sonic when she was younger, and it was always a special treat. All you need is Fritos, chili and shredded cheddar cheese. And voila…so yummo. I wish I had taken a picture. Overall, it was a great weekend.

So that takes us to my final week in my townhome with the two guy roomies, and my final week with Dan. I move next Tuesday so things will start to get hectic with the packing and such surrounding that, but all the logistics are settled (utilities, etc.) so that is good for my state of mind. I’ll be so glad to settle into my new place, and I’ve already bought a few new things for it.

This weekend is Dan’s birthday, so we’re celebrating by going out with some friends, dinner out, and a concert on Saturday. It’ll be so weird to have him gone, but I can look forward to seeing him again a few times this fall and also know that this summer was awesome having him here and that we did a lot of fun stuff.

Apartment search is over

…finally! I was starting to freak out, too. There were some options that I thought were good and fell through, one in particular, and I was starting to get worried because every building I was calling had no more August availability. In the end, I got a studio in a great place in Cleveland Park, and I’m paying a lot more than I wanted, but it’s the only thing that’s out there. I don’t think I could have waited much longer to get something at the price I wanted, in an area I wanted. I’m pleased with the place and the area this time, so that’s really important to me. The money will work itself out – I’m a star budgeter when I need to be, and I know what sacrifices can be made. It also means I should try to get some freelance work going again- anyone know of anything I can do?

So that means only a few weeks left in my current place. Yay for being able to have my own space and not worry about my stuff being messed up or doors being left unlocked at all hours!

I finally went to the batting cages this weekend when Dan and I went to Syracuse. I had been wanting to for awhile. And boy is it harder than it looks! I did the slowest possible level of baseball, and it took me a few rounds until I actually hit a few. I was much better at the slow softball. And now I’m crazy sore in my arms and back. Another first- we went to a drive-in movie. It was pretty cool, and cheap compared to today’s theater costs. We saw Hancock – it was not bad at all. And the last fun thing we did was stop in Hershey, PA on the way home today. We did the Factory “tour” and then got a few things in the gift shop and had massive sundaes and should have just shared one.

Next weekend: Baltimore aquarium and Orioles game