When I was eight years old, my life was pretty much perfect. I was living in a nice suburb of Denver, Colorado with my parents and older sister. My family and I went on vacations to places like Disneyland and Mount Rushmore. We had neighborhood barbecues, or as we called them, “wing dings”. Life as I knew it was pretty great.
When I was nine, all of that came to an end. My parents decided to get a divorce, which was something totally unimaginable to me. My dad put us in a lot of debt, forcing us to move out of our house and school district. I started fourth grade at a new school full of rich, preppy kids that weren’t really accepting of new kids. My dad started seeing a new woman and I saw less of him. On top of all of this, my grandma Lois was diagnosed with brain cancer. It felt like my life just erupted like a volcano, all out of nowhere. Everything as I knew it was gone.
Which is why when my mom asked if we wanted to move to Iowa, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
July 19th, 2007. I think about this day often — the day that bridged my two lives together. We packed up the little remains of our lives in Colorado, and we drove to Iowa. I don’t remember a lot of my life in Colorado, but I remember this day vividly. I remember looking down at my torn converse, I remember the freshly cut grass, I remember the cool breeze. I remember pulling out of the driveway for the very last time, looking at my old house until it was completely out of view. I remember passing by the park, my elementary school, my friends houses’, everything that I knew until the land flattened as we neared Nebraska.
I snapped a picture of the Iowa sign on my disposable camera as we entered a new chapter of our lives. While that picture may be blurry, my memory of that moment will never be. I left everything I ever knew, and welcomed the unknown.
And now, ten years later, I’m sitting in my apartment reminiscing on the day that singlehandedly changed my life forever.
I’ve officially lived half my life in Colorado, and half my life in Iowa.
I’m so grateful that this is where I ended up. In a time of desperation and depression, I was welcomed with open arms by people who had no idea who I was or where I came from. Thank you to everybody that made me feel welcome, to everybody that made Iowa feel like home, to everybody that helped me grow into the person I was today.
My biggest thank you goes out to my mom. Without her, this life wouldn’t have been possible. Thank you for being brave and courageous in a time that was so difficult for all of us. Thank you for always having our best interests at heart. Thank you for being strong enough to take on the role of being my mom and my dad. Thank you for helping me through one of the hardest times of my life. Thank you for taking me here and making this place my new home.
So today, July 19th, 2017, I’m looking back on this last half of my life with a smile. The only thing 10-year-old Jen wanted was to be happy again, and I’m glad that 20-year-old Jen can truly say that she is happy.