Jenna Noelle Johns

BECAUSE YOU CAN'T? START OVER.

Choices manufacture the "up nexts" and "after the commercial breaks" of life. Choices alone can put a staple through a chapter of pages and seal them together, adding a sense of permanence to the forefront of your mind. But are choices ever REALLY permanent though? Or is it just our pride that holds us back from changing the structure of our original decisions?

Here, an example: 

When I was 18, I was a hot-headed dragon of stubborn decisions and miserable-child syndrome (a precious little nickname mother granted me after one particular argument.) She was my arch nemesis, while at the same time being my very best friend. It was my turn to go to college after my two older siblings successfully made a choice to go to 4-year universities. Considering my educational track record, my success rate was on the duller side of the spectrum. So looking forward, I saw my only accelerated schooling option in something creative. I made up my mind to go to a 2-year, $100,000 artistic college - Brooks Institute of Visual Journalism in Ventura, California. And by the grace of God I was accepted to their exclusive, inconceivably low rate of admission (99%) - miracles are real, people. I took all the calls from the Admissions office by myself, worked out the 300 years I'd be paying off my loan, pretended I knew business words and signed all the documents, and drove up to Ventura on a rainy Wednesday morning to meet the Dean. 

I handed her my documents that I had to have printed at a Kinkos in Ventura because I couldn't get my dads printer to work (good start at being an adult). She was from London and I immediately knew this place was my destiny. She gave me a speech at how incredibly successful each student was after graduating from the place, and with a whopping 34% graduation rate I knew my stubbornness was great enough to make myself believe I'd fit into that 34%. We took a quick tour around the campus that I'm now realizing is the size of my Los Angeles apartment because A. No one can afford to even breathe the oxygen of that land, and B. No one can afford to even breathe the oxygen of that land. 

Long story short, I was amazed and sincerely wooed by the endless opportunities that would arise from going to that school. I got myself a sweatshirt to show for it (they didn't sell sweatshirts so I made myself one with the $13 in my bank account). My stubbornness quickly turned itself into determination and I moved my scrawny glutes to Santa Barbara. I lived with my sister for 6 days, living off Honey Bunches of Oats and an occasional glass of wine. I commuted from Santa Barbara to Ventura to work at Starbucks because I got the store # wrong when I was transferring locations (strike 2), and I quickly decided to "maybe not" go to the first day of school. After 6 days of being sick as a dog, frozen and pathetic on my sisters couch, I trekked back home for a quick photoshoot to make some dough and then go right on back to my misery. I got home, feeling a little better, and woke up the next morning to the worst stomach flu I've ever experienced in my life. I was sick for a week and never went back to Santa Barbara. And here's the best part: I didn't need to because I never unpacked. 

Walking back into my old Starbucks and sharing this humbling information with my boss was nothing short of a "Yeah, we get it, you're 18" moment. Every conversation leading up to this triumphant return was strictly about my choice to move. And guess what, fellas, I was always advised against it. But you know what? I will always laugh at it. I will always roll my eyes at myself and then quickly give myself a hug because I mf did it anyway. I'll always have this story to tell my children - the one about my exotic, 2-hours-from-home move to Santa Barbara that lasted for 6 days. Not so I can warn them, only to steer them in any direction other than that of not following your dreams. Was that a double negative? I don't know. In case you haven't noticed, my grammar is not what it used to be back in college. 

My mother did absolutely nothing wrong in this. She made her best attempt to save me from this story, but she let it happen anyway. She had no choice, really. I've been this stubborn since I was an embryo. (Sorry for using that word.) The point is, she had no choice, but I did. And I chose something that I was able to un-choose, despite "all odds." Un-choosing is embarrassing and makes you feel small. It makes you feel like a failure but honestly, people? Failure is the most encouraging thing you can ever experience if you have the courage to see it in that light. 

No decision you make in your life will ever be un-choosable - that's not an excuse to give up on things when they get tough, it just means that we're humans and sometimes left-turns were meant to be right-turns. It means moving to Santa Barbara for 6 days and coming home with your tail between your legs and a bag of coins to represent your bank account. It means getting a tattoo and 3 years later sitting through excruciating pain to have it removed. (not me, I'm #inked4lyfe). It means that sometimes you need to get the hell over yourself and admit that you're not right about everything. 

One may argue that love is not a choice - I will argue right on back. If love were anything but a choice, I'd still be dating my kindergarten boyfriend without him even knowing it. Attraction is not a choice, I'll give you that. But the complexity of love, in all of it's gorgeous simplicity, is something you choose. Because love is something that grows with time, experience, and hardship. It doesn't pop up out of the earth like a little tree and sit there in perfection for the rest of its life. It needs to be watered and groomed every single day. Who you love and how you go about it is your choice, my sweet deary (Suze Orman). Choose it wisely, care for it deeply, and be conscious about the fact that your love is your power. The specific, precious treasure that is your own kind of complicated, messy love is the most beautiful thing on earth that you have to give.

You deserve to experience anything and everything that is good about this world. Soak it in, and give it back. Break free from the chains that hold you to the walls written with lies that beg you to believe you're unworthy of beautiful things. You are amazing, you are worthy of love, and you are bigger than your biggest fear.

Here I am preaching this novel, but I needed someone to remind me of this truth last night. A new friend who's story I know only small bits of, but what I do know of it made my soul sing. They put the "for sale" sign in the front yard of the house of fear that was taking up too much real estate in my heart. Now I get to make a choice on what I'll do with the freedom. The freedom that was already there. 

So, here's a for sale sign. Drop it like it's hot somewhere in your heart and evict the shit out of whatever is holding you back from choices you've been wanting to make forever. Let's practice what we preach with baby steps. I just took my first step and spit up on myself, so I'm gonna take a knee for a minute. But please, always communicate with people you trust, my babies. That can be me, your bff, your mom, your iguana, your journal, therapist, whoever - just don't let another day go by without it. If you want that to be me, here's my email: jennajohns@jennanoellejohns.com. Cause I'm just a girl, standing in front of a whoever's reading this, asking them to love themselves.

Cheers, Brothers & Sisters. Xoxo.

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