My name was Jenny.

Jenny © Jen Norton

“When I was 4, my name was Jenny”

When I was little, my name was Jenny. If I could type it correctly on a computer, the “J” would appear backwards the way I used to write it. Although it’s been almost four decades since anyone besides a few family members has called me by that name, it has taken me a lot longer to drop those two last letters and become just “Jen” than you might think.

Not that people haven’t called me “Jennifer” or “Jen” for some time. But inside, I was still very much “Jenny” for years. Jenny was terrified of the world and debilitatingly shy. She believed you could only be loved if you were perfect in every way. She never asked for help. Even when she fractured her back at the age of 13, she never told anyone, which gives you a clue to her strength. Unfortunately for a long time, that strength was only used to hold up her safety walls. Fortunately, her mom gave her lots of crayons and paper behind those walls, which allowed her imagination to fly where she couldn’t. Eventually, she started venturing out…

Today I started a 10-week online class called Hello Soul, Hello Business* run by licensed artist Kelly Rae Roberts and Do What you Love for Life coach Beth Nicholls. About 200 other creative women and I are beginning by exploring the “Why” of what we do. We were encouraged to give our business a name, which is how I ended up back in my childhood. I would be willing to bet if we really could do what we love, it would involve doing what brought us joy way back before paychecks and taxes were part of our lives. It would include a willingness to share the adult wisdom gained from overcoming our biggest life challenges. I know that’s true for me.

I may be a very different person today, but if I am to move forward and do anything of value, I cannot leave Jenny behind. To forget her or lock her away would be to toss away the seed God planted in my heart as I came to this life. Together, we are on a journey to find the other “Jennies” out there and encourage them on their way to finding their true names. The next ten weeks for me will provide a roadmap. I can’t wait to see where we’re going!

(I dug this painting out of a pile of work done at workshops. This was from a painting workshop by artist Katherine Chang Liu** where we were encouraged in a different way to find out the “why” behind our art. There I am, hiding behind my mom’s leg (yes, she really had those horn-rimmed glasses), peeking up at the scary chaos of possibilities out there. I had forgotten about this painting until today!

*Follow #HSHB on twitter or find out more on Kelly Rae’s website.

*If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Katherine is going to be doing an Artist Mentoring workshop through the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society in June.

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4 Responses to My name was Jenny.

  1. I <3 this and adore your painting!! xo

  2. Connie Rawlins January 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    Such a touching story. Thank you for sharing. And yes, this is going to be a very exciting 10 weeks!

  3. Wendy Sullivan - a.k.a. Wind Gypsy January 31, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Jenny & Jen – I adore your work. I have greedily taken in everything on your website and now I am looking for more here on your blog. I am a fellow participant in the Hello Soul – Hello Business class. Though I am not a visual artist, I have a distinct attraction to beautiful things. Your work/play speaks to my own 5 year old artist self on a very deep level. I was born and raised on a working farm where strawberries were our passion…….the earth runs through my veins and I have never quite let go of my farmers’s daughter roots. My art is in my hands through bodywork. Molding and releasing the human body, mind, soul, spirit through a variety of modalities. I am not a photographer either, but I do take photos! A lot of them are of my garden, and food!

    About the fifth day of our HsHb course, I realized that I still had the paint smock that my incredible grandmother had made for me in Kindergarten. I pulled it out and a flood of tears ensued….and they are now again after seeing your work.

    I am taking a break from the Facebook HSHB Tribal connection to go deeper inside and hear my little girl artist voice more clearly. Somehow, I was led to you. Your soul has touched mine today and taken me somewhere I wasn’t expecting.

    Thank you for being true to your gift, the seed that was planted in you upon your arrival here.

    Bless, Bless, Bless.

    Wendy (Wind Gypsy)

    • Jen February 2, 2012 at 8:01 am #

      Thanks Wendy (glad to finally know your real name!). I had the same reaction to my grandfather’s hat…he was very creative, entrepreneurial, and always believed in me. I hear you on taking a FB break. That group is a project on it’s own!