I let my heart lead

I don’t even know what to say. I feel my heart inside my body. And I can’t determine if I’m just being dramatic, because everyone who reads this might think that’s it. It’s not. It burns and it makes my face warm. Its radiance travels to my stomach and creates bubbling acid. It hurts. All of me. My eyes blur easily because I stare off too long. I have to blink at least twice to clear it, to refocus across the room at the clock.

That damn clock. It taunts me. It knows it’s the one thing holding my sanity together because it still reads 12:33 a.m. I can still fall asleep in time to feel okay tomorrow. Work is tomorrow. It’s Monday; we all know how that feels. So I roll over and let the feelings simmer into loneliness. I let myself feel, but only for the next 27 minutes, because 1:00 a.m. is exhausting to think about. I need to be asleep by then.

I need an empty brain by then.

My eyes never leak though, I can hold it together that much. I don’t have too much to realize that makes me cry. I am a realist, I know the situation. I know her feelings aren’t a match with mine. She said so. And it’s fine. It’s what is.

It is what it fucking is.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said that out loud. Probably at least ten. More if you count in my head. It’s pretty ridiculous, I’d roll my eyes too. Go ahead, roll them. Thanks.

1:02. I’d turn the clock off but then I probably wouldn’t sleep, in worry that my phone alarm wouldn’t work, even though it’s worked every other day. I’ll fall asleep soon. Just breathe and listen to that sleep app that plays ocean sounds. Seriously, this is where I’m at?

She’s a great person. She’s become the main person I talk to, text, and snap with. WE WEREN’T ANYTHING OFFICIAL ANYWAY! Just stop.

Just. stop.

I fall asleep around 1:46, or at least after that because that’s the last time I see. I wake up to my clock alarm, five minutes fast. And hit the snooze. Five minutes later, the real 5:55 a.m. phone alarm goes off. I swipe left to snooze it. Five minute intervals of alarms go off until I growl into the silence, “okay, okay, just relax!” like the alarms are real. Mornings aren’t my thing. 

I look at my phone, and then her “goodnight” text. She’ll text something when she wakes up and I’ll get it during my plan period, or if I get a chance to check it before that. I’m always waiting to hear from her, and like a routine that I need to break, she’s reliable. I can depend on a constant conversation from her every day, all day. I’ll also see her face every day, all day through Snapchat. My heart reacts every time.

My heart reacts.

But this time, my entire body reacts. It’s not just flirtation or easy fun like before because I know I should be stepping back. I know she sees me as a friend, more than anything else. I know that her words mean friendship now. I know this.

I fucking know!

And it’s my fault that I can’t let go. Or step back. Or pull it together. You know how I know? Because I’ve been telling my friends this for years. I have always been the one with the calm, rational voice that breaks through their insanity and sadness of a breakup or ending to something revolutionary. I’ve always been there to give them the harsh reality, to give them the strength they need to stop crying, to shine a light on why this is overall a good move. I’m the one who thinks logically and not with her heart.

I can’t think logically so I know it’s my fault. My heart got in the way. I didn’t silence it like before. I let it do its thing for once. I thought “You go heart! Follow yourself!” So I let my guard down. And now I can’t function. I can’t breathe.

I can’t breathe!

So I’ll listen to my independent woman mix and drown myself in books that don’t relate. I’ll throw myself into work even though I’m so distracted by her. I’ll eventually let her go. It’ll eventually fade away and we’ll be back to before we met, hopefully with a friend-ship. But for the record, I hate this.

I hate it.

She did nothing wrong. She’s amazingly great. I just can’t control my feelings, and sometimes that has consequences. I’m totally immersed in my heart and trying to get out of it to return to my head where I’ve been happy for so many years. People say that’s not healthy. People believe the heart should direct traffic for my life. They might be right, but I’m braking because I’m a driver under the influence.

I can’t be trusted to navigate the roads that lead me to make decisions. I’m not happy. I never wanted this. I don’t see how it didn’t work out. I do give a shit. I always have given a shit. But sometimes you can’t make the other person meet your heart in the crossroads, no matter how true to your heart you are.

Written: September 2015


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It’s True: Everything we needed to know we learned in kindergarten


4-5 year old Jennifer

Maybe everything we needed to know we did learn in kindergarten…

When trauma comes into our lives, we turn into children, most likely a five-year-old. We tell ourselves, “it’s okay”, we call our Mom or Dad, and sing our favorite songs to get our minds off whatever has us twisted.

First, we go into shock and freeze. We stand still, blink when our vision goes blurry, and figure out what hurts. Then we react accordingly, and usually irrationally. Many of us go hide in a corner until our thoughts make sense again. We spit out words that we normally wouldn’t like, “Oh my god!” or “Why me?” then we go look for help, like we were taught in kindergarten.

If you are scared, lost, or hurt, look for an adult you trust.

So naturally, we find one. We tell them what happened, even the scariest of details, or we point to what hurts. Sometimes it’s our hearts that hurt. They always have told us that “telling the story helps get it out of your head”. Although I believed that as a kid, nowadays as a 28-year-old, that’s harder to do sometimes.

But as kids we recite the experience, the trauma replays in our minds, and the adult gives us a hug, a glass of milk and sends us back to play – even if the thing we are scared of still exists. The adult essentially listens, reassures that we are strong, and sends us back into the world that remains a haunting place filled with traumatic events.

Your friends will have your back.

They approach so smoothly and at the exact right time we need them. We identify who our truest friends are. They ask “what’s wrong?” and comfort us. We learn what friendship is, what kind of people we need to be ourselves, and how to be happy in kindergarten. They also learn how to bring us to a smile in a bad time. No kindergartener is fake; quite the opposite. Five-year-olds are building their public foundation on who they are outside of their mother’s eyesight. It’s the first independent move of one’s life.

Get your mind off of the trauma.

“Why don’t you lie down and take a nap? You’ll feel better after you rest.” You know what? They are right. Naps give us time to digest what happened, get ahold of reality, and awake to a new start. It’s a chance to refresh.

“Get your mind off of it.” This usually means I turn on Disney Channel so that nothing scary or relative to the traumatic event comes on the screen. It’s bright colored, usually cheesy, and will make me think about happier things. The same effect happens when I sing my go-to happy songs. This works for me. Every time. Just like it did in kindergarten.

After experiencing trauma as an adult, I always resort to these coping mechanisms. I always call my mom, I always reach out to a friend who wants to help and means it, and I always refresh somehow, usually through quiet time with a book or a nap. It’s a three-step process, really. Kindergarten should really be renamed as “How do deal with adult situations: a beginner’s manual.”

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The 90s toys that raised me

by Jennifer Dryden


My stuffed animal that wasn’t really stuffed, yet mechanically hard with a faux fur shell, also the one who demanded food by talking like a toddler. My finger pressed its tongue and my reward for feeding him invisible food was a loud and drawn out, “Yummmm”. Ours was tiger striped and then we got a white one because why not buy an overly-expensive-for-the-90s, annoying toy in bulk?


were a bonding tool for the genders. It was one of the only times my brother and I got to play together, or maybe he only liked the fact that he could “win” my pogs and I could feel privileged to get his crappy ones he got in his pack. I was easily molded to think the least popular cardboard circles were the best. And if they had some sort of bright color on it, I was sold upon first sight. So well play, brother, well played.

Nickelodeon Gak.gak

The only appropriate time for a little girl to make farting noises. My brother could make his armpit fart with his hand, and after many attempts behind closed doors with my own hand-pit combo, I bought some orange Gak and learned to fart in a more appropriate fake way.

Pretty Pretty Princess.pretty pretty princess

I never won the crown, I never owned the game. But I knew I was royalty, kind of like a premature Lorde. If that song was around back then, I would have sung the crap out of that, “And I will never be royyyal, it don’t run in my blood… or ability to play this damn game”… or something like that.

Goosebumps Books.goosebumps

“No way in hell am I reading these.” Same with watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? I have always respected my sleep cycle.

Slap bracelets.slap braeclets

The only way I could get revenge on my brother and not get in trouble for it. But vice versa.

Blow Pens.blow pens

The real fear of what would happen if I sucked in versus blew out of the pen. I never tried it even when my awful friends dared me to. #lifelongmystery


The only handheld game we had that was legit. Mario in that two inch black and green screen was life. I let my brother beat the hard levels because #realistic on my own button-punching abilities, and those monsters were terrifyingly sharp and I ONLY HAD TWO GUYS LEFT! #SOS


Dat hair though! I stand behind this as what kicked off the piercing-of-the-belly-button phase of teens. I stayed strong and I am so glad I did. #bellybuttonsaregross

Beanie Babies.pug bb

346 of them are for sale, if interested. Except the pug, he’s forever mine. #reasonsIhaveschooldebt #saveyour$5youngJennifer

Kitty SurpriseKitty Surprise.

They are selling it at Wal-Mart in 2015. I had a hot pink cat… the baby kittens were basically a bean bag with a plastic cat head, and I would protect them with my life. I remember squealing when I opened it at Christmas – any way to be a mama, I was in.

Don’t Wake Daddy! Board game.dont wake daddy

Why the hell wasn’t Mommy included? I mean I wouldn’t DARE wake my dad when I was little, but for future reference, don’t wake Mommy, children. Wake the other one. Like I said before, I respect my sleep and you should too. #gladwehadthistalk

Full House.full house

I have all nine seasons on DVD, and my children will be sheltered from TV except for Full House until they can reach the DVD/cable boxes. Danny Tanner might be an absolute creep in real life, but he raised those girls the best he could in the show and I even stand by Uncle Jesse’s questionable dates.

Bead lizards.Beaded Lizard 24

I remember making mine a home out of a Lisa Frank sticker box and hiding in my 4th grade desk. Again, we see the obsession of mothering something. String+beads=lizard. #IwillcallyouLizzyandyoushallbemine

Zenon: Girl of the 21st Centuryz car

My first real girl crush major. Zenon Car was equal parts of pretty, adventurous, rebellious and confident. “Zoom zoom zoom, make my heart go boom boom!” #zetuslapedus

The Lion King.the lion king

The first time I realized I had emotions and cried for imaginary characters. Simba, my stuffed animal/best friend, still lives with me and has gone everywhere with me on this crazy life journey. #RIPMufasa

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I pray the most for you

I pray the most for you. And I don’t even know who you are yet. I pray whenever I feel myself without you. Whenever I feel the hole only you can fill, according to so many people already in love. “It’ll come,” they say.

I pray that you’re okay and that life is treating you well, but not well enough not to wonder about me. I hope you’re either happy or learning a lesson with another girl, so when you get to me you’ll know for sure. I know this might all sound crazy, like some kind of desperation coming from someone who’s so good at being alone.

I’m not really that good at it.

I’m fine with not sharing a bed, watching a movie solo every few weekends. I don’t just want anyone to spend my time with. I want a woman with the same intentions, and lately that’s been asking for too much. I act like a complicated, high maintenance woman. I believe strongly in independence, women’s rights and letting love be love. I wouldn’t call that high maintenance or complicated. I’m really not that hard to read, if you take the time.

I want to hold your hand and play with your hair while we watch a movie, your head on my lap. I want to watch movies I’ve never seen and for you to watch for my response to your favorite part. Then when it’s not what you expected, I want you to make me explain my thoughts in detail. I want you to challenge me… on everything.

I know you’ll teach me things I’ve never considered to be important, I want them to become my priorities too. I want to hear about what you care about, what you dream about, and why something frustrates you. I want to take action together, let’s join a campaign to change the world.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

I want you not to care what people think and for us to exist in our happiness like a single cloud in the sky on a sunny day, unafraid and proud to be seen. I want us to exist together, in our own insane love.

I’ve daydreamed coming home to you, whoever you are. It’s the first time in years I’ve let myself embrace this thought, to think on it, to dream it. It’s been so vibrant lately. I believe in too many dreams of mine, and with my determination swimming through my veins, dreams usually come true; I usually find a way to live them. I know you are out there because of this.

I hope I’m your prayer before you close your eyes at night too. I bet I am.

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My place to stand. My person to be.


Until I was honest with myself I never knew how comfortable I could be in my own skin. It was the leap that scared me. As soon as I declared myself gay openly, I breathed life into the arteries that had been clotting for years. I got to dress the way I wanted to dress without feeling like I wasn’t girly enough, and I got to buy shoes that weren’t fancy flats or heels. I threw away half of my dresses, keeping only a couple for occasions like rehearsal dinners for weddings I always seem to be in. I got skinny jeans and high tops, and embraced the black and gold obsession I’ve had for months. This is me. The real one.

Living inside my head for years caused me to evaluate every option through logic… and every once in a while I would let my heart weigh in. I threw away ideas dealing with serious relationships because that topic confused me the most. I focused on my career, planning for what biases could come with the ‘announcement’ when it was right. I eliminated certain small towns and districts as they disagreed with the way my heart is made. I set myself up for the smoothest coming out I could. I built up my sass and ability not to care about how strangers or acquaintances felt about me. If I didn’t prepare myself like this, I don’t know if I would have ever come out. And now that I am out, I think about all the other LGBT youth out there struggling, hard, to get out of their heads.

The reality of a lot of the LGBT community is we live inside our bodies, inside our heads, until some light gets in and tells us it’s okay. That light can be anything and anyone. Mine was a girl, who I’d rather kiss than not. It sounds too simplistic, something you might say any straight person might experience. Believe me, this girl wasn’t the first one. There were many more after that. I then stopped acting like this wasn’t a thing. I fought through the physical sickness and the burning in my chest because every time I stopped thinking too hard, I felt the weight lift and everything calm.

I began to get a type, which sounds so stupid, because yes, everyone deserves love and blah blah blah. But to me, living in my head and finally having a type on the outside was something to hold onto. Something to believe myself a little more. I started to brand myself with what I truly loved, and surrounding myself with people who loved me too, unconditionally. My mindset changed from keep it in to let it go. (No Elsa puns intended.)

These past six years I’ve been single were evolving years. I consciously chose not to date. I knew in my mind that being with a guy wasn’t for me, especially when one would hold my hand and I’d internally roll my eyes and count down the seconds until it was appropriate to let go. We’d sit on the couch together and watch a movie, his body leaning towards mine and I would hug a pillow instead of leaning in to hold onto him, praying he wouldn’t make a move. So, I decided after college to just stop.

I needed some sincere me time. I became the single woman mascot; I joked that me being single was like a superpower. My friends ate it up. And the real questions about my sexuality never floated to the surface from anyone, and it was my fault. It was all quite calculated. I liked my consistent life outside of my head; I had prepared myself for success. I couldn’t ruin it now, I thought. Little did I know, saying it would set me free.

When someone says, “I just can’t keep it in anymore!” about anything, I believe them. I got there one day. I was tired of living in my head, hoping with my heart, and praying to a God I didn’t even know truly loved me. One text relieved the pressure and the first person knew who I was for the first time in my life.

The LGBT community – open or not – live and have lived inside our heads for a long time, so coming out is basically a physical step when in actuality none of us are in a closet. A physical step in the sense that our entire body reacts. I remember shaking. I remember lying in bed the night before I told one of my best friends, tears rolling from my eyes that were too tired, a head so full it ached. My stomach in knots. This friend is religious, and I was turning around in my head if I could live without them.

She reassured me that everything would be okay and our friendship could never be stronger than it was right then. It’s in moments like these that I knew I had a good group of friends. Coming out to my tight group of friends one-by-one was something I grew to love because their reactions varied from followup questions, hilarious comments, and “tell me everything”s. I never needed to be worried, or in my head, or crying late into the night. I was me, and as long as I stuck by being me, I couldn’t fail.

There were a couple friends who reacted harshly, and yeah, it made me cry, but comparatively when I hung up the phone with them I was still me, freer than before I dialed. I decided that was enough. It is enough.

So for those who didn’t know, well now you do. For those who don’t approve, I don’t give a shit. For those who support me like they have for years, thank you. For all the LGBT youth, be you and forget everyone else. It requires a few extra breaths and a couple friends to talk to. Be proud of who you are, love who you love, and be a support system for each other. I’m excited for the next generation being born into a country where women can marry women and men can marry men without a fight. What’s greater than seeing people happy?



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An open note to my school-year-stressed-out self


Remember when you’re sitting in the routine among one hundred papers to grade and deadline week that you can breathe. You can take a minute, or better yet an hour, to let it all go. To realize that all that you think has to be done right now, can wait another day. You work hard, you always have. It’s enough.

Remember during these times what the Chicago skyline looked like at night atop a high rise. Think back on Nashville to the powerful and reassuring words Katie shared. Remember screaming at the height of your lung’s capacity on Millennium Force. Remember the conversations that ended in your family and friends supporting you in all facets of your journey. If what today brings bleeds into tomorrow, remember a weekend isn’t too far away and sleep will relax muscles your awake self can’t – like your brain. Your strength lies in your words, your prayers for stability, and your ability to be a positive force in other’s lives.

Take time to write. Take time to stop, accept the reality of your now and make a plan. You thrive on lists; make one. The check mark is the most powerful thing you can create on paper. The power and pride it holds pushes you forward. Check off being fabulous, because girl, you know you are! 😋

Remember that the challenges your kids face are not yours. But realize your impact on them every day. You can spark a smile or a chuckle at how interactive and excited you teach concepts. You teach them things every day. And you can’t control everything, even though you try. Let it go.

Remember the feeling of laughing endlessly at Amelia and Alex. Remember how six-year-old Alex gets the hiccups when she laughs; that’s the best. Laugh now.

Wander back to when you first met her eyes and felt something you thought was lost long ago. That’s hope. If nothing else, you felt hope for the first time in years. You’re a better person for it and your outlook is a little clearer now.

This summer has taught you about freedom and personal happiness. You fought the urge to stay home, in your comfort zone. You smiled more than other summers, and realized this adult life is all you make it to be. Believe in a good life, you’ve made a good start.

So, let it be. And be thankful.

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Big Brother 17 Cast First Impressions


Courtesy of Yahoo Images

If you know me you know I am obsessed with Big Brother. My entire year hits holiday in late June and I’m the happiest when I can fall asleep with the 24/7 live feeds on and wake up at 3:30 a.m. just to see what the house guests are up to. People hate broken sleep, but for three months or around 100 days, I live and breath Big Brother, sleepless nights stalking them via feeds, and basically playing the game alongside them.

The show starts in two days, Wednesday, June 25, and I just watched the cast interviews. I have ranked them from HATE–>Annoying–>Boring–>Meh–>OK–>Cool–>Like–>LOVE. This is NOT my prediction for a winner, but my first impressions based solely on their interviews with Jeff on CBS.com’s live feeds.

Liz = HATE: you basically can see her nipples in her revealing dress and although her strategy is clearly to be a slut without being a slut, it’s just a big no for me. I wrote down “deep, annoying voice = OMG EVICT ASAP!” Then as she flipped her hair and nearly blinked off her fake eyelashes, I drew a skull and bones and wrote “laugh=death”.

Johnny Mack = Annoying: Anyone who wants to keep a secret about being a superfan is just thinking wrong right off the bat. Who cares. If you’re on the show, you’re either a superfan or recruited in a drunken bar in LA or New York. I’d rather be a superfan. Seems like an airhead, is too loud. But I can see him bonding with the “bros” of the house, but will definitely be the first to go, or the pon all the time. I wrote down “what a goofy idiot = my reaction”.

James = Boring: An Asian person in camo = cool match, right? He looks more interesting than what he speaks about, but he seems like a nice man with a family. Based on his past, he is probably mentally strong, which could get him far if he also plays that “I’m a hunter and an Asian” card. I’m just left looking at the video’s length and thinking, “I’m bored as hell.”

Davon = Meh: She’s the only black person in the cast and that pisses me off. But putting that aside because I chose to be a teacher and not a casting agent, she is a new mom to a seven-month-old daughter. When she said that I immediately questioned if she’d be pumping while in the house and secretly shipping the milk off to her daughter. Why such a thought? I don’t know; don’t try to understand my mind! She’s loud, a “straight shooter” and seems fun. Way more fun than Candace, who was awfully annoying. Also, when you read way down this list you’ll meet Vanessa (back off, I called dibs!), I was worried about her as a pro poker player, because Davon is a poker dealer. I hope she doesn’t recognize her! #saveVanessa

Becky = OK: There’s nothing about her that’s memorable besides the fat that she won’t win, and in which case, we don’t have to remember her. My prediction is that she’ll be “friends” with Shelli and probably the HATE bitch Liz. The end.

Clay = OK: Yeah, all the women will fall in love with his face and the odd resemblance to Jeff Schroeder. It’s just how society works. Accept it and move on. I laughed out loud when he said he was a “superfan” except that he’s a poser. Yeah, that’s right, I said ‘poser’. That’s what he is. He has only watched the show for four months, although he claims he got through eight seasons. News Flash: THAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A SUPERFAN! That makes you a student, ya ass! He seems like a sweetheart with that southern charm that could get Shelli or Becky or (god help us all) Liz. I hope he’s better than Liz. But then again, look at Brenden and Rachel. *eye roll*

Jace = Like: He’s the surfer, skater, personal trainer, long-haired blonde guy. He seems personable, had a good vocabulary and said he’s all for the fans. I appresh him, but he uses a lot of cliches. #Englishteacherprobs But I like him.

Steve = Like: He’s the less OCD version of Ian. He’s a student someplace for audio engineering and music. Superfan and nerdy. Super adorable and will use it to his advantage to win over house guests… as he should. I wrote “Good kid!” next to his name because that’s what people will say about him in the house. You go, smartypants!

Austin = Like: He’s the scary looking wrestler guy who could easily be mistaken for a caveman. What his picture looks like is the opposite of how he talks and I like that twist. He’s a pro wrestler and has a second persona when he puts on his big black top hat. His alter ego’s name is Judas. He seems really nice! I like him.

Shelli = Like: I like her because she reminds me of my best friend from journalism school Andrea. She seems nice and funny. I like her. She’ll be a woman in the house I won’t hate on, unless she befriends Liz too much. I’m hoping Shelli is smarter than that. *crosses fingers*

Audrey = Like: Aside from the fact that we all know she’s transgendered, which I fully support and love that BB is being so open mineded, she seems tough and serious about the game. Also, damn, modern medicine and surgery, FTW! She looks good, and I doubt many people will even notice she’s trans. #LGBTlove You go, Glen Coco!

Jason = Love: He stocks grocery store shelves, but his full-time job is being flipping funny. He is so pumped up to be on BB and he wants to form a girls alliance (which won’t work), but he thinks that a girls alliance will work with his “gay glue” to keep them all together. Not a bad idea at all. I kept laughing at his bubbly and happy personality. I love this guy.

Meg = LOVE: She’s a waitress in NYC so she’s a socialite. Plus she lives in a huge city that has to deal with people of all sorts, which makes her patient. I would probably be drawn to her as an ally if I were on this year’s show simply because she quoted Taylor Swift with “hater’s gunna hate”. Also she’s super funny and completely adorable with what comes out of her mouth. Her peppiness might be her downfall, but we’d be friends. I even wrote down, “I want to be her friend!” in my notes.

Vanessa = LOVE: She’s a pro poker player and a DJ. Right from the start, I’m intrigued at how she’ll play the game and manipulate people with a “poker face”. She seems to be a logical thinker and goodhearted. Plus she’s hot and gay and yes, please. Love her style and potential to kick ass. I just hope Davon doesn’t recognize her (as she’s a poker dealer). I question BB’s intentions with casting two poker-infused people. Vanessa’s my favorite for many reasons.

So there you go! My first impressions of the 14 BB17 house guests. Last year there was 16… hmmmmm, let me over analyze this for another day. What’s the twist? I’ve heard many things like having a former house guest come in each week to lead some sort of competition or something else. Who knows, but as always I will expect the unexpected and keep applying so I can get my run at my one true summer’s love. #BB17

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