Sometimes I forget that people actually read this stuff. No, make that.. most times I do. Because I've never had to write for anyone but random English teachers or college lit. professors. They'd simply skim the surface; check my grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure... And give me some subjective grade and send me on my way. The paper? Never to be seen again. And the grade? Well, believe me, after the cowgirl thing began at Florida State, and it became harder for me to blend in, the grades got extremely subjective.
But one English teacher stands out in my mind. He was a tiny little man, with fiery red hair and beady little eyes that narrowed at me from behind his frameless glasses that told me "Don't ever do anything that involves writing. Ever. You're terrible at it." Harsh words to say to the youth of America that looks to their teachers for inspiration. Then again, most are getting paid duckets for a thankless job that helps so many.
Believe me when I say, I took that man’s words to heart.
In high school, I went through an identity crisis. I spent so much time questioning my life and was so ridden with teen angst that I would’ve made most John Hughes’ movie plots look like child’s play. Every few days it seemed I would find myself sitting in front of my guidance counselor, Mr. Peak, questioning why kids were so cruel, or why I had to deal with the hardships I faced. To anyone else outside his office, I probably looked like some overly pretentious spoiled brat, looking for a way to "legally" ditch class. But in all actuality, I was learning lessons about life you can't get from reading books or writing perfectly assembled five paragraph essays.
In our sessions, I shared with Mr. Peak the things I was scared to share even with my closest of friends. Like the extreme sadness I experienced watching my grandfather slowly slip away from us before our very eyes. Like the fact that someone took a baseball bat to my car just weeks after I had broken up with a guy on the baseball team… random right? Or like .. Well, there are certain parts of my life I can never bare for anyone to read. But for the few people that will read this, and instinctively know.. Yeah, that messed me up pretty bad too.
But the one thing Mr. Peak always understood about me was my love and passion for music. No matter how big life’s problems got, I always had my music. It was what got me through the other five grueling classes of the day. I knew come 6th period I would be among people that "understood me" and loved to create something as much as I did. I may not have been the best at it, but I poured my heart and soul into it. The 6th period wind ensemble, 7th period "showcase" or as most people in pop culture these days have come to address it.. "Glee." I belonged to the live band that accompanied them, but it wasn't from lack of vocal talent. I just preferred to play piano; after all, it was my one true love. Even on the really crappy days, where I bombed that AP physics exam or when the mean girls convinced my prom date "not to go to the dance with me or they wouldn't be his friend anymore"...I always had my music and it never broke my heart. In fact, I poured myself into variations of song. That is until the end of my senior year.
It was just a mere two weeks or so until our senior day, which I can only describe as a half ass version of the one depicted in "Grease." The teachers had already taught you all they could, the final exams had been taken, and essentially… Well, you were pretty much just going to mail in the rest of your remaining days anyway, so why drag this out any longer? With the end of the year came the end of the year music concerts. It was something I always looked forward to, but this one was special to me, as it was the culmination of four years of hard work on my life’s greatest passion. The band concert always went well, and I usually landed the all the flute solos. I even got to conduct some too, which I found I got as much joy from as actually playing. But then came “Finale”, my show choir’s end of the year performance. I had spent weeks preparing for this event: making a senior slide show, helping people with their solo numbers. I dealt with overbearing stage moms that insisted I was playing in the wrong key when it was really their kid just being tone deaf, then me learning songs in new keys to rectify said problem. And I did this all with a smile on my face. Why? How? Because I loved what I did, but more so the way it made me feel.
That Wednesday night was the big show, and boy do I remember it well. We had finished the final song.. And now came the curtain call. One by one the names of all my fellow band mates and glee clubbers were called until we were down to just me. This is it, I thought, my big moment..
But my name never came.
I looked out into the crowd of people, and found the faces of my family.. My mom, my dad, my grandmother.. All of whom had come to see me. And.. Nothing. The moment I locked eyes with my mom... I lost it. There on the stage, in front of a sold out auditorium, I tilted my head down, and wept. As they say in mean girls... "Gretchen Weiners had cracked."
The next day I came to school in a daze. I was a shell of my former self. My eyes puffy from crying, I tried to put on my best happy face for all those end of the year pictures people take while they sign each other’s yearbooks. Somewhere near 3rd period, I tapped out.
A lot of dark shit went through my head that day at school, but mainly just that my music had failed me. How could it do such a thing after all these years I had been its loyal disciple? How could it break my heart in front of a room full of people like that and rob me of what little self-worth I possessed? I got so angry, and so upset.. I just wanted to pull a fire alarm and disappear into the parking lot so I could jump in my car and blow that popsicle stand. But as it turns out... I didn't have to.
My mom showed up to school mid-afternoon. She had found a note I had written the night before. It wasn't addressed to anyone in particular, just an open letter.. to my parents, to my friends, to my ex-boyfriends, to my music, to God.. To anyone that had ever touched my life in those four years. Before anyone goes jumping to conclusions, it wasn’t “that kind” of note or anything, just more so a list of all the crap I had silently endured over my tenure there. I won't go into all the heart-breaking details, but I can vouch for what happened next. My mother, an employee of the school system herself, marched into the principal’s office... and proceeded to tell them what I had written. They stood there, speechless, unable to pull together one coherent reason why such a bright child, with as big a heart as mine had been treated so poorly in their care. Beyond being forgotten at my own senior finale, and ridiculed by my English teacher, I had had enough.. And my mom had had all she could handle in watching me.
While my music may have failed me, my writing may have saved my life. It wasn't the perfect five-part essay. It was probably filled with spelling errors and sentences fractions. But no one seemed to care. It was written from the broken heart of a girl that wanted nothing more than for someone to understand what it felt like .. To be her... "To want to matter."
My life experiences these past five years have been anything but ordinary. They've often bordered on that territory of complete absurdity and randomness that have had everyone besides Daniel from the dentist asking.. "Is this real life?" Maybe that's why I took to writing. Music, though powerful, is hard to bring along for life’s journey. Sure, there's always the iPod, but it doesn't compare to the feeling I got when I touched the keys of my piano. So my computers keyboard became the next best thing.
I write for myself. I write because it makes ME feel better and keeps ME off a psychiatrist couch when shit in life just gets a little too real. If people want to rip apart my writing style, or my terrible spelling, or crude, mostly self-deprecating humor, then so be it. I am what I am... And whatever that vague, grey area is.. I wouldn't change it for the world. I can't promise you that I will write complete sentences, because I write in stream of consciousness. And that stream happens to be more contaminated than the Hudson River, with raging attention deficit disorder and borderline OCD. I can tell you I will probably never win an award for my writings, nor frankly do I give a damn if I ever do. I don't write to report on things, nor do I claim to be without bias. I would never dare call myself a serious journalist. Hell, I would never use “serious” to describe any aspect of myself. I'm simply a girl, sitting in front of a computer asking you to love her for who she is... a fast talking, southern girl with a big heart, a bigger mouth, and not enough self-censorship to tell her when not to use either of them. If my critics choose to write 2,000 word essays on “Why I suck at life” well… I really just feel bad for them. One, that they had that much time on their hands, and two, that they feel the need to tear others down to validate their own existence. I don't promise you that you'll always agree with me, or even find my humor funny.. But that doesn't say someone else won't. If that's the case, then you simply don't have to read it. No hard feelings. I was writing before you got here, and I’ll be writing long after you're gone. But for those of you that come back time and time again, have “ridden the bus,” and gotten to know me through the years, I thank you for your continued friendship and support. I figure, if life has to drag me through all the ups and downs it has, I might as well share it with whoever wants to read it. Because no matter how crappy life may get sometimes, it’s always better when you've got some company along for the ride.
"Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those that mind don't matter. And those that matter don't mind" – Dr. Seuss.
Nice work, straight from the heart!
Love ya girl! You need to come home for a game this year! Marisa just started HS ya know!
I can honestly say I probably write 20X more that will never see the light of day than the amount of things I have and plan to have published. I completely understand the theraputic effestc of writing. Though I'm weird and still do it with pen and paper. ;)
(on bended knee) Jenn, will you marry me?
Cynical and snark is lazy journalism.
The best advice ever given to me: Write what you feel and what you know.
The rest is out of your hands.
If you affect somebody, they may let you know. But often they don't. Validation by others can be wonderfully conforting, but what means the most is if you can look in the mirror and honestly say to yourself, "I did the best I could."
And if you can, eff the critics.
That was beautiful....eloquent in its expression and raw in its emotion. Whoever told you that you werent a writer was an idiot. Thank you for sharing.
As someone who's sarcastic part of their brain routinely takes over for the rest, I understand the need for to clear one's head.
Usually there's so many different things running through my mind, the only way for me to rationalize or organize my thoughts is to put them down on paper. I wouldn't consider writing a strong suit of mine either, but always gives some sort of clarification. It doesn't matter if it's a logical flowing blog or a random thoughts, it always seems to help. I totally get where you're coming from.
Keep up the good work on the blog!
I do the same thing, every night I stop and sit down to write things out. It started for me a few years ago during a time I was in the Army, i wanted to document everything for the future both to remember things and to share it with others. Since then it stuck with me, it helps out a lot and i have a ton of notebooks in boxes with the past 10 years of my life sitting there, everything from journal style stuff to stories and sort of poetry style stuff that has come out of my head in random thoughts.
I think that the unpredictability of life is what makes it so special, because if your name was actually called, the sequence of actions wouldn't lead you to where you are now---expressing yourself freely as a full-fledged, self-sufficient, attractive (definitely!) and happy (hopefully!) lady.
I admire the fact that even now in the face of adversity you keep your composure and release your frustrations and concerns constructively. Even a handful of my colleagues (grad students, mind you) can't even have the civility to do so. I sincerely hope you keep writing blogs, because I've missed reading some true, well-articulated accounts from you!
Jenn, I am wondering where this music thing came from...hmmmmmm. I would love to hear you play the piano. (wink) i loved the blog, you are honest, straight forward and I love the fact that youdon't really care what others think. This is why we, your SP's love you and stand behind you in everything that you want to do in life. I hate that people cannot see the real you,because people would change their "tune" about you. keep doing what you do!!
Another masterpiece, as usual. I tip my cap to you, my dear.
You don't know me and I wouldn't profess to know you as a result of Twitter, The Daily Line, or your blog but I think it wouldn't be much of a leap to simply state you are exceptional. You seem honest and genuine. Most people find those qualities in short supply. Keep setting an example.
I followed your twitter in case you were going to respond to the story from a few weeks back. But what you post is more interesting.
I find your twitter interesting because it seems like you try really hard to gain acceptance, which was sort of surprising. I'm 99% sure you want to be liked as a cool chick, and not a hot chick, if that makes sense. But I'm not convinced you think that's possible, so I think you are still "trying to be comfortable with who you are." If you're not there yet, I think it's better to admit that you're not and then work towards it.
But I could be completely wrong. Either way, I find your thoughts interesting.
You've got a heart of gold Jenn. They'll never take that away from you, another great blog.
Looks like I found a new blog to follow - awesome read! Your honesty and openness is refreshing. Your words toward the end about people loving you for who you are reminded me of a quote from a Roger Ebert review I read once:
"To know me is to love me. This cliche is popular for a reason, because most of us, I imagine, believe deep in our hearts that if anyone truly got to know us, they'd truly get to love us - or at least know why we're the way we are. The problem in life, maybe the central problem, is that so few people ever seem to have sufficient curiosity to do the job on us that we know we deserve."
Just thought I'd share that, as it seemed to fit with what you were saying. Thanks again for your blog. Take care and God bless!
Enjoyed your story/writing as usual, keep up the good work and ignore the nay Sayers.
Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself in this blog
Its truly touching and helps me understand myself better when I read it
I currently subscribe to 32 blogs and every time I see you've written something new I ALWAYS save it so it is the last thing I read before I go to sleep.
Unfortunately, this is the second time I've actually read a post from your Jenn. But I must say that at the end it makes my day. Thoughtful and beautiful writing as the first time. I now plan to read many more as they come.
Jenn I always look forward to reading your posts because you truly speak from the heart and could care less how anyone feels about it. You have a confidence about you that rivals no other. Keep staying true to yourself, and keep up the good work!! GO NOLES!!
I've really enjoyed reading your blogs since I started following them in the beginning of this summer. It's hard to imagine that that things like what happened to you in school can still occur. I was in band and plays and such but I was also kind of a jock, too. Maybe that shielded me from some of the awkwardness some kids feel in school. I wasn't a person who was a big writer though. people that write with their heart, mind and soul seem to come across better and more genuinely that someone who is more worried about how the piece is worded. I can only speak for myself when I say that what you put in these blogs give me a deep perspective into the person you really are. They make you seem really genuine and real. Keep spilling your guts to us and we'll keep reading. Also, keep playing the piano or your flute because you could make your own soundtrack for life. One last thing... love the Dr. Seuss quote.
I read this a second time and when I read it again , I just felt I had to leave another comment on the amazing writing from a golden heart that you have. Life is such an incredible journey. The ups and downs will always face us. But one of the ways you use is a very effective method. Writing. You really poured a lot of your heart into this one. The great thing about this , is that this came directly from you. This a piece of writing that came from your experiences of life.
There is so much about this piece of writing that I respect. I can see that like many of us in life ,you're looking for something. But with the knowledge and passion for living that you have , I know you will find what it is you're looking for. This was another incredible piece of writing Jenn. I just want to thank you for letting me be a small part of your journey the last few months. :)
I think your a natural at writing, and as long you keep posting new blogs, tweeting, and whatever else, I'll keep reading. I find your blend of humor, sports, pop culture references, and ability to provide insightful thoughts on life in general refreshingly authentic. With regards to your take on playing music and writing, you're not alone with finding that both are therapeutic. I know they work for me as well! Also, Great use of a Dr. Seuss quote at the end of this blog. I suspect you learned a lot more from his readings than the jack ass teacher who told you that you shouldn't ever write :)
Thanks for sharing with us..
I love reading your blog because it is genuine and comes straight from the heart. It's like I tell my friends when I go to their house and they apologize for the smallest thing they believe to be out of place or some small perceived mess. I say "I'm not here for a white glove inspection, I'm just here to enjoy your company." That's how it is when I come here to read your blog.
Keep up the blogging and the good work on tv. I'm sure your ecstatic about the start of college football season as I am. My team looked pretty good, but we'll find out in 3 weeks how good they are. Good luck to the Noles.
I just stumbled across this blog while I couldn't sleep. I have no idea who you are (but from the sounds of you blog and the people's comments, I probably should). Either way, I truly enjoy your writing style and look forward to reading more of your work.
As a longtime fan/follower/whatever you call it, I must say your writing has gotten a lot better in the last four years. That's definitely a compliment, too. No sarcasm. I say it a lot, but it's true: after I found your blog the first time, I said to myself "If that Cowgirl chick can write online, I can too." Hence began my afro'ed adventures. Keep doing your thing and making FSU and Tampa proud.
You speak from the heart . . .
Listen, I could imagine what you’re going through now must be incredibly difficult. With paparazzi constantly following you everywhere and seeing your face on the cover of tabloids; it probably gets old after a while. At times I bet it takes a toll on you when all you’re trying to do is live a normal life. Unfortunately, this is the price of being famous when taking the good with the bad.
I’m not going to lie to say it has been strange seeing your name in the news for all the wrong reasons. Quite frankly, I don’t really care about what happened because at this point it’s all mental masturbation. The media is blowing up a story that might not even be real. I can’t make an opinion on it because there aren’t enough facts available to the public. What ultimately concerned me was the fallout from it.
It’s a shame to learn the fate of The Daily Line. I enjoyed the show. I know ratings had been an issue with the network, but I don’t believe for a second it was the primary culprit for cancellation. In all honesty, if I was one of the executives at Versus I would have made a similar decision. The reason being is damage control. It’s unfortunate you’ve been caught up in a scandal that may have been out of your hands, but at the same time you have to look at it from a business perspective. It was a public relations nightmare. In their eyes you became more of liability than an asset. Nobody wants to lose a job, but it happens. It’s the nature of the beast. Look on the bright side, if it turns out that was the case you could fire back with a lawsuit.
I genuinely believe you’re a good person, but sometimes we make decisions were not necessarily proud of. I don’t think you want to be known as the woman who took down a professional athlete, but if what really happened to you is true, then good for you in sticking up for yourself. Not many women out there would have the courage to do that. I understand you want to be taken more seriously as a sports reporter, but with recent events making headlines your credibility has hit a road bump.
It amazes me how the American public perceives you. I’ve seen it all. Slut, attention-whore, & gold-digger tend to be the most popular. Heck if people started calling me that I’d tell them to hit me up on Craigslist hah! All kidding aside, I would keep a low profile while this plays out. Spend time with those your close with and know you best. You’ll get through it, but with everything in life it takes time.
For now I’d focus really hard on building back your credibility. It’s not an easy thing to do especially from being involved in a high profile event, but if you handle things in the right manner it’s not impossible. Then again where would we be in life if we didn’t take chances? Ultimately, the decision is yours alone to make and you control your destiny. Life will always throw you curve-balls, but it’s how you handle them that set you apart from the rest. Keep your head up and stay positive. I'm confident you'll bounce back from this.
- J Dubs
On my last message I knew I threw in a joke in there that may have not been the most appropriate. What I meant by it is that the public will likely scrutinize you from being in this predicament, but you can't let it get to you. Just brush your shoulders off and not give a damn. It'll help you get through the day. Be strong.
- J Dubs
i only pop in randomly, but i always enjoy reading your blog. :)
i'm sure these last few months have been very trying for you, but you should know there are people who support you and stand behind you because they have gotten to "know" you through these blogs. hang in there...everything ends evebtually and what doesn't killl you does make you stronger. peace.
Hang tough, Jenn. You will be fine when everything is all said and done. The hard part is just getting through it. You're a strong woman.
Perfectly done, this blogged touched me, i feel your emotions just by reading it. Only great writers has the ability to connect through people's heart just by using words, and you are one of them.
You are one of a kind, people like you should serve as an inspiration not only to the one's who read your blog, but also to those kids that need reaching out. Look what you've become now despite what you've been through, your spirit is unbreakable and america's youth right now need to follow you as an example.
Life is unfair, be nice and people will take advantage of you, however that shouldn't stop us from being who we are because at the end of the day, we won't be judged on what they see outside, but on what we are inside as a person.
I hope that you will continue on writing heartfelt and inspirational blogs and also, may you serve as an inspiration to our youth and your outlook towards life won't change despite all the obstacles you've been going through, because i know in the end, Jenn Sterger will still be the one standing up proud.
Have a great 2011 ahead!
Ian Emerson Udani
"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you". Im glad you didnt give up on writing.
I don't follow sports much, so I haven't had the pleasure of seeing you on TV before, until this morning on GMA. You seem so bright and "lights on" and very well-spoken! I was curious to see more, and found your blog here.
You so richly describe your thoughts and what you went through -- and I'd like to tell whoever said you shouldn't take up writing that he's a dunderhead! You have a talent there -- not just the ability to throw words together, but to do so with what looks like ease and presence.
You shouldn't have to be defined by what other people do to you. "Fandom" creates a blind trust of sorts that puts anyone who dares challenge their subject at the bad end of a sharp stick. But it's good that you could be heard, even if you must face that stick. I know that so many women are faced with that type of thing so regularly and feel defenseless to do anything about it -- so hearing from someone speaking out publicly as you have, can give them some of their power back, too.
As I've read through your blog and see what a firm relationship you seem to have with your own inner thought processes, I find great admiration in this -- but also, a sense of wishing for you that you didn't have to dwell in the darker sections at all. Our minds should serve us, not daunt us, and we should be able to find consolation and self-assurance there. It should be our best source of respite. We need to be able to meditate and find calm there.
Please do get out there and expand on that wonderfully-started career, and I hope to see you using your talents as a commentator -- hopefully in other areas so we non-sports fans can enjoy you too!
Continued strength and best wishes,
-- Rob Baker
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