BufBloPoFo 09 DayTen (March 23, 2009)

For BufBloPoFoMonique day, tell me who inspires you. Who is your hero?

Finally, an answer to a prompt that will come as easy for me as shooting fish in a barrel. The most inspirational figure in my life is none other than my sister and fellow partner-in-blogging, Jen. For those out there that don’t already know the scoop, Jen is a successful traffic reporter for several high profile Chicago radio stations. She is also married to an awesome guy, is the mother of two beautiful girls, and, no crap here fellas, ol’ Jen is also quite fetching (see post below regarding Jen’s attention grabbing booty). Her beauty is made all the more shiny by her witty and intelligent personality and her ability to have a laugh at herself. But objectively, even without these things, she’d a be a 10. She makes all of this look so easy and is one of the most approachable and accessible people you’ll ever meet. These end results instill great admiration in me for my little sister. But the reason she is my hero is because of all the years of slogging through mud to get to where she is now.

Growing up, I was the typical big sister, alternately protective and annoyed, but always enamored of the kid I introduced shortly after her birth as “MY baby sister Jennifer.” We are two years and three days apart, and not many people find this credible, but God as my witness, I remember everything about the day this child was born. I was that excited. Fine, I was a little reluctant to leave the slamming toddler pool party I was attending when my Dad came to pick me up to pay my first visit to the hospital, so as we can see I haven’t changed much. However, I recovered quickly when I got my first glimpse of MY baby. She was sickly and spent her first few weeks in the hospital, but Baby Jennifer was never out of my sights for long. It didn’t take many years before it was widely accepted that this stubborn little blonde thing with the super fine hair was really ever only going to listen to me. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

From grade school, to high school, to college, I was the pacesetter. Jen had to endure years of teachers confusing her with me and my nerdy achievements, auditioning for sports, plays and other activities because I encouraged her to take part in the same things I loved. One would never know it now, but back then, Jen was quite shy, reserving her hilarious personality for the inner circle in our home. I will readily admit that I had my moments of concern that my kid might never break out of her shell.

But though I always knew her better than anyone, I was as nonetheless suprised when the student became the teacher. I stumbled in college – big time. I have come to refer to my years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as my “lost years.” Those of you who knew the depressed, overweight, underfunctioning mess I was then know exactly what I am talking about. Those who got hurt by me due to the chaos and confusion going on in my head for half a decade, I still owe some apologies. It was at this time that Jen began to demonstrate a confidence and self-assuredness that I not only didn’t know she had at the young age of 18, but it also contrasted in such a way with my post-adolescent floundering, that I appeared all the more ridiculous to myself.

One semester into her pre-med freshman year, Jen fell in love, became preganant and got married. Goodbye U. of I. Goodbye Chicago. Goodbye perpetually confused older sister. Jen was moving out of state, about to be a first time mother and wife. These were grown-up situations I could not even begin to relate to, especially out of it as I was. I readily admit that when Jen completely changed her life to be a stay-at-home, very young mom, I wondered where it would all end up.

As marriages between two very young people sometimes do, this one fizzled quickly. But do you think my sister had the time or the inclination to give into self-pity and start wailing? No way. She was going to be a single mom. She packed up her baby (the famous KK), her car and her posessions and came back to Chicago. By this time I had graduated and was working my first “real” job downtown. Jen and KK came to stay with me. Within a few weeks, and without the benefit of a college degree, Jen landed herself a solid job, and even registered herself for night classes to boot. Not for the first time, I wondered who this confident woman was and how could I be more like her?

About a year later, Jen met her husband and my brother-in-law through the company where they both worked. They knew they were the real deal almost right away and sadly (for me), I was waving goodbye to Jen and KK as they started another new chapter of their lives in the suburbs. Not long after they married, Jen and the brother-in-law bought a nice house. Jen had earned several promotions at work, and the story could have ended there. But this is my formidable sister we are talking about, and it didn’t.

Jenny didn’t really care for her job, nor was she that into the classes she was taking. By now, she was no longer the shy blondie who hid behind her sister at other people’s birthday parties. She called me one day to announce she was going to broadcasting school. Ok, fine, let’s see how that goes. She entered into a 10 month program, still holding down her full-time gig, and keeping up as wife and mother. Again, she made all of this look easy while she attended classes, hosted an internet radio show through her program, etc. Later the next spring, I watched my baby sister get her diploma.

The school she attended did their due diligence. Chicago is the #3 media market in the nation. People just don’t walk into jobs fresh out of broadcasting school in this town. She was told she’d have to pay her dues elsewhere: Topeka, Kansas or Scranton, Pennsylvania anyone? Pshaw! Jen was having none of that. Her husband, family and life were in Chicago and she wasn’t going anyplace. Those of us who loved and supported her wondered if she had put all this hard work into learning the broadcasting trade, only to have the door shut on her before her career ever started. But here’s the thing I have come to admire most about my sister: Jen doesn’t let doors shut on her. Girl kicks them down with aplomb. For my sister, “No,” only means, “Won’t be easy,” and she isn’t afraid of that.

Still working her day job, still a wife and mother, Jen worked one payless, thankless internship after another, sacrificing her weekends, her valuable time with her family, because she knew she was building something – herself. Once again, this tenacity paid major dividends, because as my story began, there it ends. Jen is a fairly well-known radio personality in the #3 market – at the ripe old age of 28. I can only imagine where she will go next. I pity the fool who gets in her way.

And now of course, Jen is the mother of two. Rosebud joined the family in 2007. I could not imagine how Jen would find more room on her plate and love in her heart, and yet she did. Standing next to my sister, I often feel lazy and shallow, but not because of anything she says. In fact she is my greatest cheerleader, the one who has encouraged me to get my off my ass and give this writing thing a real shot before I end up looking back with regret. With all she has to do, she is the one who actually got this blog off the ground. If you have become sick of my blogging voice, it is only because Jen unleashed it on you. Blame her.

I broke the news to Jen today that I was planning to take my career mission a step further by resigning from the job that makes me miserable, and going after the career in writing and editing that I really want. Even in this horribly weakened economy, I received nothing but supportive feedback from my best pal and sister. Why? Because it’s no risk she hasn’t taken before, and with a lot more to lose. Jen of All Trades? You are my inspiration.


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