The Culture Collector

One Woman’s Pursuit of Perspective, of the Places She Goes and How She Grows.

I search for the ‘extra’ in the ordinary. When something seemingly mundane can be perceived as extraordinary, day-to-day life is with intense, rich and overwhelmingly full. Every day is a piece of my story. If a week is a phrase, months are paragraphs, while years become chapters, complete with peaks and pointed lessons. This is the jacket cover.

I am not a big nor a little fish. I am who I am, and I am a human. I adapt and grow in the world I am in — all water is connected anyway.

Born into a loving family in suburban Wisconsin and raised with ‘creativity and confidence’ as ideals, I am lucky and grateful to have a solid foundation. While we didn’t own a cow (it really is something people ask), or know anyone who did, I never saw ‘small town’ limits, only grand opportunities to be, do and become more than myself.

“You can’t just be you, you have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.” — Mary Wells Lawrence

My parents lived and worked in Saudi Arabia as young adults, newlyweds seeking adventure and pursuing their own dreams of doing something different. Both architects at a firm serving a Saudi prince, my mother hid in a closet when he would visit — women were/are not allowed to work alongside men. Together, my parents got paid in cash for their long, hard work. Stacks of Arabian cash wound in rubber bands. (And I’ll make a special note to say how I am proud of their honesty and integrity, always declaring their earnings.) As children of the children of the Great Depression, they tediously saved almost all of it. They kept just a bit to travel on a shoe-string around the world before returning to Milwaukee — to have me a year later.

Experience is the truest currency of life. Memories collected preciously earn compounding interest as perspective is added with time.

All of my most meaningful life-transforming moments surprised me, veering off a precisely planned path. Now, I know to flow.

A simply wonderful series of inspired experiences versus some kind of fate? Regardless, my life twisted unexpectedly when my handsome French husband seduced me with his charm — in Singapore of all places. We share an insatiable search for perspective, life and truth. Both living and working in a foreign land, our adventuresome paths crossed at a time in each of our lives when we were actively and individually exploring our authentic selves. Together as we got to know each other, we were able to more deeply reflect.

My life exploded (in a good way) as he welcomed me into his, eventually moving to Paris. As a young couple in love, merging cultures and expectations certainly was not without challenges. But in those challenges, I collected perspective. I adapted to new norms while learning a new language (a necessity, I learned, to truly understand a culture’s nuances) taking strides to make more intentional decisions to transform myself, for myself.

Choosing how I wanted to assimilate within cultures, sifting among conflicting standards was something with which I was already familiar. Independently planting my own roots first in a few states then across continents, my sights were already set on knowing a big world and existing beyond it.

I’m highly sensitive. If I lose focus, I unravel.

As someone with a personality that defaults to create harmony, I am overly agreeable and often at my own detriment. I recently found this quote and I refer to it when I need the courage to dig my heels in:

“You have to really be courageous about your instincts and your ideas. Otherwise you’ll just knuckle under, and things that might have been memorable will be lost.” — Francis Ford Coppola

I do have to practice my right to put my foot down, standing up for what I believe — it sounds silly, obvious even, but for me it took trials, a few dark years, perspective and age, and I’m still not there yet.

All in all, I must be doing something right.
I live a pretty big life and I love most every moment.

I choose to focus on the good and light, on what makes me feel happy and bright. The more I focus on the good, the happy, the lessons of strength and courage, the stronger, more courageous, happier and better I am.

Becoming a mother solidified this concept in me. I changed so suddenly that it felt like magic. There was a tiny being inside my body. How truly spectacular?! The gravity and concept of this creative miracle boggled my mind in ways I had never even thought to grasp before. I felt I had the strength of the whole world behind me, under me, holding me up, shielding me, protecting me and my baby. I found my grounding and I found my voice.

I am a dreamer. I am a doer. A lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and a constant stream of karma, I am my own fairy godmother. At 31, my life is my dream, and it keeps evolving.

Perception is the key to happiness — a dream life starts from within.

Instinctually and perpetually, I reevaluate the facets of myself to consider who I might become. I compile truths to support the unique idea of the person I want to be and the life I want to create, with focus and intention.

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this story, follow me and you’ll receive notices when I publish each new piece of the series I intend to create. Xx, Jennie

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