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Jenny Hess

BA Creative Writing & English - Fiction, Class of 2017

"I'm in a school with professors who actively encourage me in the field that I have chosen."

My story starts when I was six years old and knew that I wanted to be a writer. Of course, at that age, my parents and teachers thought that I might as well have said I wanted to be a dinosaur. I've always known that I wanted to be a storyteller, a lore keeper of fictional people and an architect of imaginary worlds. But, when I was in high school, everyone told me that would never happen because writing isn't actually a profession. Guidance counselors encouraged me to choose something more "realistic" instead of striving for the life I wanted. So I did what they asked and wound up working in pharmaceuticals at a hospital a few years after graduation. While there were many great things happening in my life at the time, I absolutely hated my job. I found myself waking up every day with a deep bitterness from the realization that I had essentially wasted years of my life, because I was forced to decide on a career I didn't even really want when I was still in my teens.

That kind of realization can have devastating effects. After losing my job, I essentially had a nervous breakdown. I started sleepwalking through life and took a handful of jobs completely outside of my interests and my previous pay grade. Increased tension between my mother and me left me cut off and alienated. Rock bottom is different for every person, but this was definitely my lowest point. I knew that I had to get back on track and that I had to start defining success on my own terms. I knew that I had to start creating the life I wanted for myself despite everything I'd ever been told. I tried to get the ball rolling several times on my own.

I completed my financial aid enrollments for two or three years before attending SNHU. I had applied to college three other times prior to finally taking the leap. Each time my own personal anxiety and fear of failure stopped me. The person who was most influential in finally getting me to cross that bridge was my psychologist. I spent my time with her battling an anxiety disorder and a panic disorder, and the result of all that hard work was finally being able to go back to college. That doesn't seem like much success, rather the start of a journey—but it was a victory to me.

When it came time to enroll at SNHU, everything went by extremely fast. I wound up being informed that I only missed the deadline for the January term by a day and that I could be squeezed into classes right away, if I didn't want to wait until next term. The panic and anxiety that I had been working so hard to alleviate wasn't even an issue. Something told me that it was time, and that if I didn't start now it would just give me time to talk myself out of it again. So, I closed my eyes and dove in. I have not regretted that decision once. It takes a lot of practice in understanding the knowledge that you’re strong enough to handle failure and that the world doesn’t end if you stumble. It’s not an innate quality that some people have and some don’t; some people learn it when they’re young, and the rest of us have to learn it when we’re adults. It's hard, and it’s not fair, and it’s not fun, but there’s no getting around it, and you can do it—you can. Most important, after you've experienced failure and loss, you can pick yourself back up and move on. It's never too late to change what you've become.

SNHU has become the place for me to flourish because I'm finally in a school where the faculty members aren't telling me to choose a different career. I'm in a school with professors who actively encourage me in the field that I have chosen, even though I've been a spectacular failure before and might stumble again in the future. I have teachers who push me to write in my own style and to keep developing my own unique voice. I feel like, for the first time in a long time, I'm not struggling to find myself. I wake up every day, and I get to keep creating myself.