I got an email this morning from a Jenifer who is currently living abroad. I deleted a few details to protect her privacy. This is a beautiful, poignant, and empowering story.
I read about your project on Craigslist and love it. Having the most common name in the year 1970, I go by Jena. Not Jen or Jenny but Jena. Jena, because I thought my name was too common. My middle name is Annabelle and my name is spelled with just one "N".
My story is that I am a mother, lawyer, lover of the earth, animals and building lasting relationships. I grew up in the small town of Moab, Utah. My life journeys took me to Brussels, Belgium, where I am finishing up a post graduate degree in international law and international relations. I have lived here since September 2008, with my two children and our dog. Brussels has been a challenging, rewarding and wonderful experience.
When I first told people that I am moving to Brussels for the year, the first response for many was "what are you going to do with the children?" Well meaning friends even asked me if I wanted them to keep the children in their home while I went on Europe to fulfill my dreams. What they didn't seem to understand was that giving my children the experience of learning a foreign language, new culture, seeing the art and beauty of Europe was a big part of my dream. I suppose many thought it would be hard for me to manage two children while going to school in a foreign country. Or perhaps they thought that pulling them away from the comfort of their friends and school would be more damaging. Truth be told, going to school and raising children was far easier than running my own law practice in the U.S. I should know, I have done both before.
While I was in law school, my husband was sick and dying from cancer. The monthly visits to the oncologist ensured that I could never step foot in a doctor's office again without feeling extreme anxiety. As my husband died during my second year of law school I was forced to take the remaining year, one day and one commute at a time. After he died, I was looking forward to putting an end to life's tragedies for a few years. Unfortunately, this didn't happen, because my son's father (my kids have different dads) also died a year later. By this time I was just 33 years old with two kids without a dad. I rarely feel sorry for myself, because I know there are millions with far worse stories to tell.
My life is an endless quest for knowledge and understanding. The more educated I become, the more I realize how little I know about life, myself and human suffering. For the first time in years am I grateful for the gifts I have received in life. Once again I truly feel blessed for being American and what it stands for. I can eat and drink, own my own home, live safe and secure, vote, express my religion and opinion open and freely; I can teach my daughter that being a woman is special and not inferior to men.
I no longer fell my name is common, I celebrate it. I'm a white wave, feminine and ferocious.