Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don't call me crazy, call me Jennifer.

When I was a kid, there were only a few things that I desperately longed for, with all of my being. Every night before I went to sleep, I would go to my window, look up at the stars and request small favors from the heavens above. One of them was my little sister, and shortly after that wish was granted, (and her teeth started emerging from her gums), I began begging the stars to allow me to exchange her for a cocker spaniel.

Something else that I would have given anything to acquire was the name "Jennifer". I remember being about 6 years old and meeting one of my dad's student assistants who worked in his office (named Jennifer). For some reason, the way this young girl carried herself really impressed me. I took careful mental notes on the girl's "swagger"... the way her sweatshirt was tied so fashionably around her waist, how her hair scrunchie doubled as a bracelet around her wrist, and the way she knew all the lyrics to the Ace of Base song "Don't Turn Around". She was so cool, so confident, so college, and I wanted to grow up to be just like her. So, after this informal introduction between I, a 6 year old with an over-active imagination and Jennifer, a Candace Cameron look-a-like, 

I became convinced that my birth-name, Nicole, just wouldn't do from that point forward. I was a Jennifer, and by-golly I was gonna become a Jennifer, if it was the last thing I did on this earth.

Needless to say, this didn't exactly fly with my parents, and it will do your tender hearts good to know that I am still a Nicole, and have no plans on legally changing that anytime soon.

It's funny when you reflect back on your life, and remember the plans you initially made for your future.

When I was in grade school, I was convinced that I'd be driving around a brand-spankin' new red mustang at the age of 16. Actually, as my luck would have it, I did end up driving a Ford; an old Ford Truck with a two-toned paint job and no air-conditioning. Man, I was hot stuff, cruisin' around in that sucker, as I'm sure you can just imagine.

In high school, I envisioned myself meeting a Ken-Doll-All-American type of guy as soon as I started college, falling madly and deeply in love with him after he wooed me with his Jane Austen-esque romantic tactics. I would then graduate at the top of my class in nursing, get married by 22, have kids popping out by 24, own a white-picket fenced house in the suburbs, and my biggest stressor in life would be racing to soccer practice in my mini-van with the smell of fresh happy meals consuming my senses. 

I was so sure of this fool proof plan.

Then, I discovered that drinking beer is more fun than studying, and boys are morons who think Jane Austen is a news reporter on one of the local television stations.

Things don't always turn out the way you dream when you're a kid. And that can really throw a wrench in your life-plans. Recently, a large majority of my friends began graduating from college, getting engaged and married, purchasing large ticket items, and I found myself right back at square one.

I am not where I had once envisioned that I would be at this point in my life, and about a year ago, this harsh reality check smacked me in the face and left a mark. I was depressed, distraught, and disappointed in myself.

Fortunately, I had an important epiphany, which actually happens to me more often than you'd think.

I'm not Jennifer. I am Nicole.

Large amounts of money, diamond rings, beautiful, famous acquaintances are not things that will ever bring me joy or happiness.

I've always felt that once you find comfort in being yourself, everything else will fall into place. My problem was, a small part of me still wanted to be Jennifer, because Jennifer was who society told me I needed to become.

Well here's what I have to say to society...

My life is my life; it's not anyone else's. I'm gonna go through the things that I need to go through, in order to get to where I need to be. People might not understand why I do things unconventionally, or differently from them, but that doesn't matter. They have their life to live their way and I have mine. I'm going to get through the tough times, no matter how hard I have to struggle, and I'm going to embrace the good times with every ounce of appreciation in my being.

I'm eternally grateful for the life I've been given, for the people in it, and for all of the wonderful experiences and memories I've acquired along the way. I'm equally as excited to embark upon the rest of my journey and what's yet to come.

And hey, now I actually love the name Nicole.

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