Concert Photo

Soundtrack to My Life: The Beginning

Jess Change Your World, Down with the Sickness (Mental Health), Following My Dreams, Fun & Rec, Make a Difference, My Heart has a BEAT (Music), My Marriage Leave a Comment

“To change the world, starts with one step. And however small, the first step is hardest of all.”Dave Matthews

I love Dave Matthews Band (that will probably make you have some sort of strong reaction toward me). My husband proposed to me at a Dave Matthews festival in Chicago in 2012. He got me the tickets for my birthday, which occurred during the festival. Dave was my first concert (outside of my mother’s womb), and I’ve seen him the most- almost every year since then in Noblesville, Indiana. But that festival was magical. And terrifying. And HOT. And wonderful. And crazy as hell! Dave said it was the first step that was the hardest, but right now it’s the second step for me—to change my world—and hopefully the world. Maybe because I was drunk for the first step (or post); so the line should be “The first sober step is the hardest of all…” but that really doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

  • Jason & I at the DMB Caravan Festival in Chicago

    Jason & I at the DMB Caravan Festival in Chicago

  • Blue Neon Ferris Wheel at the DMB Caravan Chicago IL

    Ferris Wheel at the DMB Caravan

  • Jason and Jess at the Buckingham fountain in Chicago just after he proposed

    Jason & I just after he proposed at the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

I often say that I have a “soundtrack to my life.” Both of the songs You Might Die Trying (Dave Matthews Band) and Arsonist’s Lullabye (Hozier) would appear on it. Music has always calmed me in my moments of mania, soothed me through my paranoia, calmed me during panic attacks, and lifted me during depression (or added to any of these symptoms/moods, should I choose to go that route). Music can be my savior, my best friend, or my figurative dagger. But some songs stand out and stand the test of time. I saw Hozier in Nashville, on his birthday, on St Patty’s day weekend in an old church. The experience was phenomenal; the acoustics were mind-blowing; the earth shook. My demons and I rocked that night- both during and after the show!

“All you have is your fire, and the place you need to reach. Don’t you ever tame your demons; but always keep ‘em on a leash.”Hozier

When he speaks of only having your “fire” to reach your goal—it took me a long time to embrace that, though I had known it & talked about it for many years. The things that make you different are what make you stronger and unique; and you should celebrate those things instead of wishing them away. Even if they hurt sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I would not wish bipolar (let alone the rest of it) on my worst enemy, but it has made me who I am today. Because I hate to admit it, but at the core of the matter it’s my inner demons who keep my fire burning so bright

I’ve always known that I wanted to help people. Ever since I was little, my mom said I would make sure my friends had toys before I would play with my own. When I was little, I usually said that I wanted to be an author (or gymanist or dancer). When I was in elementary and middle school, I used to write short stories usually featuring my friends. Sometimes I wrote poems, like every teenager. One time I wrote a suicide poem and hung it on my bedroom door. When my parents asked me about it, I laughed it off and it went away. That may have been the first time I put on my “mask.” (More on the mask in a future post).

When you get to high school, and then college, though, they sure beat that love of writing right out of you, don’t they?! Reading too! So instead of writing, I followed my love of helping people and majored in psychology; quickly switching to social work after taking one day of Intro to Social Work with Peggy Adams at BGSU. Overall, I have loved being a social worker. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of getting yelled at, paperwork, low pay, understaffing, getting mad at the system, paperwork, risk of bodily harm, carrying other people’s burdens on your shoulders, crying in the office or the bathroom because you swore you wouldn’t cry about work at home anymore, sleepless nights, unpaid overtime, and more paperwork! But there’s also a lot of victories, and each one of them is personal, and unique, and therefore I can’t list them here- the problems are general, but the victories are personal and so much better!

Anyway, I’m getting off track here. So I’ve loved being a social worker. But I wanted to go bigger- and I wanted to tell my story. I also recognized that my mental health was NOT in a good place, and had not been in a while. I did not feel that this was something that I could correct while working at my current mental health social work position. My health was interfering with my work. So in October of 2015 I left my position at Flower Hospital suddenly, with no notice, after an unresolved dispute about a time clock punch in (manic, much?). Though in the end, it became the best thing for my husband & I (and my demons/fire). I loved that job, and I would have stayed in Ohio for it. Instead, within a week we had decided to follow our dream and move across country to San Diego—which we did, only three months later in January of 2016.

Penske truck packed to the brim for our move to San Diego!
“I could play it safe…(or) I could pursue my dream of helping people on a large-scale level with mental health education, advocacy, and self-improvement. And I could Finally. Be. Honest.”

My point is, when I left my job at the hospital, I made a choice. Not immediately, but within a week. I could play it safe and get another social work job in the area (lots of openings, right before Christmas, maybe pick up a serving or bartending gig for some extra cash?) or Jason could ask for a transfer, we could look for a sub-letter, and I could pursue my dream of helping people on a large-scale level with mental health education, advocacy, and self-improvement. And I could Finally. Be. Honest.

I decided to add some fuel to the fire. Let my demons off the leash, but keep them in the yard. Get off that tree, Sammy!! (Author’s note: I realize I do not have demons inside of me, this is purely for editorial content. Please continue). Around Halloween we decided to move to San Diego as soon as possible and spent the next few weeks planning. Jason asked to transfer in late November and everything progressed from there. He ended up getting a promotion to move here, we found a house we that we love within three days of getting to the city (that’s right, we moved into an AirBnB with our moving truck at first), all our pets survived/thrived on the trip, our sub-letter at the place in Ohio ended up signing their own new lease, our moving sale was a success, and all of our other hard work paid off too! The flame leads on…

Photo of the skyline of San Diego, California

…Onto a struggle at first. It’s been hard here. When we arrived in January, we didn’t know anyone or anything in San Diego…we had never even visited the city before moving here, we just knew it was “home” somehow (we were right, by the way!) and followed our flames! Now it’s July, so there is a little less bad every month. San Diego is a big place, and coming from my sheltered-ass background…I’m kinda intimidated sometimes! But the more friends I make and the more places I go, the more I fall in love with this place! And the more I know that I am here for a reason. This is the place that I am meant to be—at this point in my life, for this purpose. Fate or destiny or something has brought me here under these circumstances, in this location, with these gifts, to Make Change Happen for me—and hopefully for YOU!

“No change happens without the person standing beside them.”

There are plenty of reasons you could be reading this. Whatever your reason, thanks for being here. I wanted you to know a little more about the person you were reading about, and what drives me. The answer is simple and yet undefined—my fire. My true best, my inner strength, my painful demons, my erratic disease, my dry sense of humor, my passionate creativity, my refreshing bizarreness, my simple compassion, my warrior’s spirit. I couldn’t do this without you. No change happens without the person standing beside them.

And I appreciate you, standing beside me.

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