Tag Archives: Transformation

Dear Jane: This Isn’t a Temporary State of Being

2 May

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Hello, dear readers. Those of you who have been following awhile might remember Jane, my first follower. She recently sent me an update, which I wanted to share, along with a few words. Thanks always for reading. I hope to have more exciting updates soon!

Dear Jennifer, 

Hello again. It’s been a few months since I wrote to you. That’s really cool that I kind of inspired your adventures. Me – the waitress from Kansas who used to spend more time waiting at the pharmacy window than staring out the window of an airplane. But that’s going to change soon!

My dad is a lot better now, but he still is on a lot of medications. But I think he can handle things on his own. I’m glad I stayed home to take care of him. If I hadn’t, I would have thought about how I was letting him down. But also, staying home led me to the most wonderful man I ever met. 

Thank you for inspiring me to be patient and do things that make me a more interesting person so that I would meet a great guy. It really helped me get to this point where I can actually see myself really being with him for a long time. I’ve decided to postpone my college plans for now so that I can follow him (his name is Kurt) to Arizona where he’s going to finish college. I feel like I’m starting a new life with Kurt – all thanks to you.

I just wanted to say thank you for helping me get through a tough time and for inspiring me to be the kind of woman who could get a guy like that. Good luck with your dating life! (I think you should give that last guy a second chance – you never know when it might be the one!).

Sincerely,

Jane

(name changed for anonymity)


Dear Jane,

I’m happy to hear your father is better. You sound happy and that is always a great thing. I admire you for sacrificing your future to help those you love. I’m sure your dad and brother will be forever grateful to you.

You seem like a sweet and unselfish young woman with genuinely good intentions, so I feel like a jerk for saying this so bluntly, but I just have to: I think you misunderstood me.

You are not alone in mistaking my intentions, or the intentions of even stronger, more determined women. It’s a familiar narrative that I’ve noticed in my past self, in my friends, and even in female protagonists in crappy movies. It goes something like this: woman becomes single, woman gets mad, woman finds voice, voice makes her interesting, some other man finds that attractive, woman couples with new man, woman’s new voice is validated because it led her to a better man.

Let me say this loud and clear, in case there’s any lingering confusion: being an empowered female is not a coping mechanism to employ between romantic relationships. It should be a permanent state of being.

I didn’t make it my mission to become an International Woman of Mystery so I would be more appealing to my next boyfriend. I did it so my emotional and spiritual center of gravity would always reside in myself. I did it to find a long-lost inner confidence. I did it so I would have a permanent independence in an impermanent world.

Sometimes I let my mind wander to a post-apocalyptic state where I have nothing but the clothes on my back, the brain in my head and the soul in my heart. What would I ever do in that future world if my identity resided in someone or something else that no longer existed? I would have even less, and that would be devastating.

It’s not any of our faults for making this mistake. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a female problem. But I do think women are more often raised to believe that the men (or women) we end up with, the weddings we have, and the children we bear warrant our efforts to become more intellectually, emotionally and physically successful.

Jane, be the best version of yourself because the things that make you that way fill you with joy. Do what makes you happy and share that energy with the world. Fall in love, of course, but be careful that you’re not doing it to validate your life, or because you depend on it for your main source of happiness and acceptance. Let the men in your life be not the leads in your story, but the supporting cast, for that very reason.

If I sound redundant, it’s intentional. We have to make these points often and we have to make them loud if we’re really going to change the way we women value ourselves. And so, I must say Jane, you have inspired me once again, though maybe not in the way you planned.

I see now that I still have so much more work to do. Thank you for showing me that.

Yours,
The International Woman of Mystery

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An IWOM Takes NYC

27 Mar

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My apologies for being away, darlings. The International Woman of Mystery has been busy. I wish I could say I was out exploring the pyramids of Egypt of skiing the Swiss Alps. Alas, it hasn’t been quite so exciting. However, I did recently take a business trip to New York City, which has left me feeling inspired.

The trip was unexpected. I got a call from one of my bosses late on a Thursday asking if I could be in the city to attend a weekend conference. At first I was a little annoyed by the last minute request, but then it occurred to me that I’ve never actually spent much time in New York. Nor had I ever traveled there alone. It seemed liked the perfect excuse to take Jenny G. on a little impromptu adventure.

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What Kind of Woman Do I Want to Be?

10 Mar

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Are you the kind of person who could save someone’s life?

I’ve been asking myself this lately as it relates to my future. If the time came, could I fend off a gun-toting villain, could I give someone CPR, could I steer a speeding car out of harm’s way?

Some people believe that everyone has it in them to act heroically when it becomes a matter of life or death; your primal instinct to survive kicks in and your responses become automatic.

I don’t know that I believe that because it suggests that being a hero isn’t a choice – it’s just part of being human. I’d like to think we have a choice in the matter. I’d like to think that the heroic part of it is the choice. True heroes try to save the world, or even just one person, even if they’re not sure how it will end.

These questions all popped up because I’ve been seriously considering what I’m doing with my life. Now that I finally feel established in Denver, it is perhaps time to consider my motivations and long-term goals. In between that, I’ve been procrastinating making any decisions by watching the Kill Bill movies and the Netflix series “Jessica Jones” that feature female heroes. Totally inspired by the courage and tenacity of these hard-core women, I started questioning whether or not I had it in me to live in a similar way. Is there a reason I was never drawn to a career as an EMT, surgeon, police officer or member of the military? Was it because in my heart, I knew I couldn’t do it and didn’t want to do it? Or was it because I was too scared to see if I could?

But wouldn’t it be cool if the result of my moving to Denver is that I changed a life, or several? Wouldn’t it be cool if all this nonsense about a guy was the impetus for me becoming the kind of person who could help the world in a really important way?

Kill Bill is a revenge story, where Uma Thurman’s character, The Bride, searches the globe for the man who tried to kill her, and for anyone who helped. We watch her travel to Japan and learn to use a Samurai sword; we watch her demolish entire gangs of killers with her badass martial arts moves. She’s tough and singular in her vision. She learns new skills and stops at nothing to seek a justified revenge and save her life.

Jessica Jones is a graphic novel superhero, who at first chooses to use her wit to help others rather than use her superpowers. Jessica is unapologetically unpolished and dysfunctional, but also brave, smart, strong and compassionate. She takes tremendous risks and makes personal sacrifices to save others’ lives. She is one of the most inspirational superheroes I’ve seen on the screen.

With the exception of perhaps Wonder Woman, it seems to me a relatively new concept to portray a woman as a traditionally masculine hero. What I mean is that her being a woman does not change the way she fights evil. She uses physical strength and intelligence to save the day, without any caveats from the storyteller.

We’re lucky we live in a time that this portrayal is becoming more popular. We’re lucky we live in a country where women have the choice to be this kind of hero. And I’m lucky I have the luxury to discover who I really am and how I can really contribute to the world.

I want to be the kind of woman who devotes her life to saving others’ lives. What does that look like? Does it mean I have to wear hole-y jeans, combat boots and a leather jacket, or a yellow tracksuit? Or can I still be Audrey Hepburn chic in my trench coat and still save the day?

So I come back to the question: am I someone who could do that? Do I have it in me to be like The Bride or Jessica Jones? Is that what this International Woman of Mystery thing is all about? Would I make the choice to be heroic, even in the face of uncertainty, if the opportunity presented itself?

Perhaps it’s time I figure this out.

-Jennifer

Hello Next Big Thing

25 Feb

 

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There comes a point when you are getting over someone, when you are at the lowest depths of loneliness and self-pity that a sudden burst of energy comes on, a result of finally having exhausted all you have left to mourn for someone.

You might call this closure.

I am finding that in order to reach closure, I have to grieve; it’s inevitable. It’s the only route through this mess of feelings to true liberation.

It feels silly to say that: grief. No one died. Other people have been through far, far worse than getting dumped by their fiancé. It makes me feel insensitive to people who really have lost someone.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am not one of those people who embraces this process – I am much better at avoidance and distraction. Going through this whole transformation of self-awareness to become a more ideal woman has effectively helped me avoid grief. The idea of “grieving” a man I wish I hadn’t loved makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I even threw myself destructively into a two-day romance I wasn’t ready for in the hopes of moving on. Besides, superheroes don’t cry. They suck it up and forget about it.

But then I got that coat in the mail. Without warning, the physical presence of that damn coat brought me face-to-face with Mr. Poison and the feelings I buried when I left Boston. I thought I could outsmart the questions about what I did wrong, the memories of the best times we had, the mental rehashing of all our fights, and all our makeups.

Listen here: grief does not discriminate. It affects everyone, for every kind of loss. You can’t avoid it, no matter how far or fast or hard you run.

Having realized this, when I got home the other night after giving that coat away, I let myself cry hard and long, to deeply feel the pain of the loss.

I’ve never cried like that before, but maybe that’s what’s been missing in my ability to move on from things. It forced me into emotionally dark spaces I wished I didn’t have to visit, but the end result is true catharsis that has given me a freedom I have never felt before.

It’s the freedom to finally say: goodbye Mr. Poison (for real this time).

Someone recently told me that when you grieve a relationship, you are really grieving the part of yourself that was inherently tied to that person. Whether you like it or not, you become someone a little bit different when you’re in a relationship, perhaps a better version of yourself, perhaps a worse version of yourself. Either way, you somehow can’t be that person around anyone else, so without his presence to influence you, that part of you dies.

And so this new grieving process also allows me to say: goodbye girl I used to be.

Hello next big life thing. I’m ready.

-Jennifer

New Construction

13 Feb

Resourcefulness

I got home from a run the other day to find six large, cardboard boxes outside my apartment door. I studied the information on them, mystified at who would possibly have sent me so much stuff.

In fact, my mom had sent me all my books from home. What a lovely surprise!

As a child and teenager, I was an avid reader (still am) and books were the only things I ever wanted for birthdays and Christmases. Accordingly, I acquired a large collection of books: first edition Harry Potters, Hemingway in hard cover, vintage children’s storybooks, French philosophy books sent from Paris, feminist fiction from Aunt Petra, classics that looked like they belonged in a dark library, and all the Shakespeare plays in leather-bound covers.

I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in their pages once again. I dragged the boxes into my apartment, and spent the better half of an afternoon joyfully opening them, rediscovering the books I hadn’t seen in such a long time.

Because many of them had been gifts, their covers were high quality, just begging for a prominent display. After studying my mostly blank walls, I decided that a full wall of books would be the most dramatic and elegant way to shelve them. Thus, I needed to build some shelves.

For a moment I considered hiring someone to install them for me, but then I realized how expensive that would be, especially after I bought all the shelving. I also considered buying bookcases, but I would have to buy too many of them to display all my books, and I just didn’t have the money for that, nor the space. I then sensed an opportunity to cross another item off my list. I would be resourceful.

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This Is Unacceptable

28 Jan

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My Boston friends have caught onto this blog.

Apparently Katie, that girl that I skied with in Vail, told them about it (I had told her about it in a moment of drunken vulnerability that I now regret), and a few of them were curious, so they looked it up.

I received exactly three emails in the last week from three of those close female friends who read the blog.

One email was generally encouraging – thank you, friend, for that.

The other two emails had a critical edge – subtle, but damaging. There was nothing directly punishing or aggressive in them, but the implications behind their loaded comments hurt when I first read them. It was clear they didn’t agree with the way I handled the breakup, and they didn’t seem to like my Jenny G. persona. I let them know that, to little acknowledgment in return.

It’s possible they’re reading this now, so I won’t republish their comments here. But I will say that their questions and passive criticisms made me feel like they were judging not what I’m doing, but who I am. It felt like they think that the person driving my actions is not someone they particularly care for. It felt like they were saying, “Why can’t you fit the version of who I wish you were?”

It was a familiar feeling. When I was with Mr. Poison, he was often disappointed or irritated by my reactions. He used my faults for ransom. Change your faults or I will leave you was the constant, unspoken ultimatum. I criticized myself based on what we fought about. I put myself down in the hope that it would motivate me to change. If I could be perfect the way Mr. Poison wanted, then he would love me perfectly.

It makes you feel like you are unworthy of love unless you change. If you fall for that, you will spend your entire life changing who you are to please someone else. Of course, they will never be pleased because their disapproval has more to do with themselves than with you, and you will never be happy because you’re putting your love of yourself in someone else’s hands.

This is not to say that we can’t get annoyed with each other. This isn’t to say we can’t ask someone to improve a behavior because it’s hurtful or dysfunctional or unsafe. And this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t want to be wiser, more mature, healthier people.

But my friends’ criticisms, like the ones from Mr. Poison, were not about a behavior. They were about a personality trait. They got down to the bare bones of who I am at my core, and in the moment of truth, none of them liked that so much.

After I got the emails, I re-read my blog, from beginning to end, scrutinizing every detail, every perspective, every event, through the lens of someone who actually knows me. I looked at the posts critically. I searched for points where I could have said something less cheesy, or emoted less and opined intelligently a little more. I cringed at the parts where I could feel some of my annoying tendencies coming out.

And then I thought: this is unacceptable. No one should make me feel this way.

Moving to Denver and devoting myself to this IWOM project is one of the first times I can remember developing myself into the person I wanted to be – not the person I believed I needed to be to receive love and acceptance from certain people.

Changing for yourself and for no one else simply makes you a happier person. It takes the burden off others who feel like you depend on them to make you happy. It allows you to bring so much more joy into others’ lives. It’s liberating to figure out that you alone hold the cards to make you happy just by embracing and enhancing your inherent you. And guess what? It’s been that way all along.

When I started this blog, I honestly did not think my friends in Boston would find it, read it, or judge it. I certainly wasn’t writing it for them. Back then, I think the only person I was writing for was myself. I never really thought about an audience until Jane showed up. Now, I am more aware than ever of that audience. I can’t say it makes me totally comfortable, but if I really want to inspire others through my adventures, I’d better get used to it. I’ll just have to remind myself to continue to stay true to myself.

-Jennifer

Ten Things I Want to Be

5 Jan

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A few months have elapsed since I first began my transformation from everyday Jennifer into Jenny G.: International Woman of Mystery. I’ve acquired most of the items from my initial list of mystery must-haves. Experienced relative success in creating the proper aesthetic. The foundations have been laid. But this is only the beginning. There is still more work to do.

I’ve brainstormed a bit and have begun to identify the traits I most identify with The International Woman of Mystery. Phase Two entails the refinement of said traits. Starting now.

1. Fearless: A work in progress, to be sure. As previously stated, conquering fear is sort of like eating the elephant. One bite at a time. Having successfully completed my first few missions, I feel hungry for more adventure. I vow to seek out more opportunities that test my prowess and challenge my deepest fears.

2. Elusive: Any good International Woman of Mystery will be adept in the art of, well, mysteriousness. I aspire to be a master of disguise as much as a figure of intrigue. Adopting an alias has been a good start, but now I must become more advanced in my ability to roam the streets of Denver (and The World) undetected. Jenny G. will keep the people guessing.

3. Resourceful: One can never have too many skills, but as a woman of the world, this is especially important. Wherever and whenever possible, I make it my mission to always cultivate new methods for survival and new abilities to add to my repertoire.

4. Strong: Self-explanatory. The International Woman of Mystery must possess prowess on a physical level as much as a mental one. Always ready for battle. I will work on my stamina, my acuity and my overall ability to kick some ass.

5. Zen: As I’ve already discovered through my adventures (and misadventures), it can be tough out there for a woman of the world. The International Woman of Mystery must be transcendent. I will learn to find an inner calm that allows her to stay centered and focused even while kicking ass.

6. Independent: James Bond didn’t become a super agent by relying on others, and neither will Jenny G. I’ve already taken some respectable steps toward claiming my independence, but I must always be mindful not to lose ground in this arena. Gone are the days of relying on a man, my parents or my feminine wiles to save me. It’s time to stand on my own two feet. No exceptions. No excuses.

7. Benevolent: Ass-kicking and international espionage are all well and good, but it seems important not to lose heart. This International Woman of Mystery will find ways to give back and maybe even inspire others with her kindness and generosity.

8. Spontaneous: All these other skills are virtually a waste if I’m not out living the dream. Jenny G. must be ever ready for adventure. Even at a moment’s notice. I’ve never been particularly good at going with the flow. This coming year, I will embrace the impromptu. I will work on following my heart more than my day planner.

9. Stylish: I’ve done some work already toward looking the part, but I don’t just mean the superficial aspects of my new identity. In addition to assembling a classier wardrobe, Jenny G. will strive to exude sophistication on all levels.

10. Confident: There is no such thing as an ill-confident International Woman of Mystery. In this life, my self-assurance is likely to be tested. I will learn to trust in my own ability and stand up to adversity. I can do this. I will do this.

Ciao,
Jenny G.

Home For The Holidays: Part Two

26 Dec

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I’ll admit, I added that last line of the last post for dramatic effect. It sounded good though, didn’t it? Like a real International Woman of Mystery?

I hadn’t been this upset since that night in Boston. Then, I fled. Now, I write.

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The Hair

12 Nov

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My Jennifer,

Your mother told me about the happenings with [Mr. Poison] and now you are in Denver, Colorado. I am sorry you have hurt, but you have the courage and adventure in your life now. You can begin a new life.

You are a good woman. [Mr. Poison] was not as good as you. I said to your mother many times.

I send you this check for you to buy something nice (impractical).

Sincerely and love,
Aunt Petra

My Great Aunt Petra was the only one of my mother’s four aunts who never married. When Aunt Petra was my age, women in Hungary didn’t even dream about not being a housewife; Aunt Petra rebelled and instead moved to New York, where she eventually directed a small art gallery. Though she dated frequently, she never married because, according to my mom, “Petra didn’t want to spend her life waiting for a man to come home from work.” I didn’t know a lot about Aunt Petra, but I always kind of admired her. I wish I had appreciated her perspective more.

I carried Aunt Petra’s note in my handbag as I walked to the upscale hair salon where I was about to cash in on her encouragement to do something nice and impractical for myself.

It was one of those perfect afternoons in late fall, an unseasonably warm day where the whole city seemed to be alive in one last celebration before winter. A warm wind caught my hair, and I felt like I was in a movie montage, on top of the world. I thought of the woman with the sleek bob who had recommended this hairstylist. Maybe I should get a bob, I thought, and became giddy with the thought of a total transformation.

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The Look

9 Nov

A Decision

Today I decided to tackle a critical element: Looking the part.

I’ve been testing my wings, as of late, with various missions and research. Still, something was missing. I’ve started to feel like an International Woman of Mystery, but when I look in the mirror, it occurs to me that this disheveled, too casual look has got to go. Having worked from home for several years, it was easy to get into a style rut (or the lack thereof.) But now I’ve got business to attend to.

An entire wardrobe overhaul might be in the works eventually, but for today I’ve decided I need a signature look.

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