Jennifer Jordan - Re-written Hope

“I think I’ve typed and deleted about 72 openers for this story. The truth: this is my third re-write. I think this is why dating profiles are so cringe-worthy and hilarious.  It’s tough to write about yourself, especially in moments when you need to step forward and be vulnerable. You end up saying basic blah… like “I can rock yoga pants like the best of ‘em and love (insert ten million hobbies you don’t really enjoy like camping); instead of, I’m a multi-faceted human who doesn’t like to put real pants on.  Anyway, I’m trying hard to keep it real here. This is honest chatter, after all. So here we are on draft three. My first story was watered down in an attempt to make everyone comfortable (I have a PhD in people pleasing). The second was filled with ego and anger. And the third, well...let’s just say that I have a co-writer for this round. More on that later.

First, I want to share my story with you. A story that up until a few weeks ago, I thought I was chained to forever.

In 1997 I was a bright-eyed, SUPER passionate, fitness obsessed, overly ambitious college freshman. (In other words, I was really annoying and didn’t have any friends.) If you knew me prior to November, 1997, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I was on a mission to change lives, one aerobics class at a time.

Nothing and no one was going to stop me, until... something and someone did.

It was the first holiday weekend of the school year, and I was one of few students who stayed behind in the dorm. I was disappointed at first, but then realized that the tuna can I’d been crammed into with three other humans would be all mine for 4 days. I had the entire mini-fridge to myself, every Dave Matthews CD on the planet, and about four feet of living space to do whatever the hell I wanted in. I was stoked. So stoked that I passed out one night without changing my clothes, turning off the music, or locking the door.  It was around midnight when the sound of the door handle woke me and sent shivers down my spine. It was the most intense, and indescribable moment in my life (and one that has haunted me since). The door opened and closed so quickly, that for a brief moment I thought someone had the wrong room.  And then I heard the footsteps. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness, but clearly his had not. He was reaching around, searching for something. And then I realized, he was searching for me.

I greatly respect and admire women who have been able to fight, scream, and escape sexual assault. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I had to remind myself to breathe, and quite frankly, focusing on that was probably the only thing that kept me alive. When he was finished destroying my body, he walked out the door, taking my soul + every ounce of my self-worth and self-love. He left me with a shell.  

A rollercoaster ride would ensue. Ups, downs, and all arounds. Never-ending self-abuse and sabotage.  The complete abandonment of my career (I gained 80 pounds in the attempt to make myself invisible) and the loss of every dream I had once held onto with such unwavering conviction. It would take nearly ten years to put the pieces back together, but I finally did. I reclaimed my life, I reignited my career, and I opened my heart to love.

And then, it happened again. This time with someone I trusted and had been dating for a few weeks.  The trauma from my past had definitely made me a slow mover in the intimacy department, and for him, it was too slow. So he took matters into his own hands and slipped a sedative into my drink. When he was finished destroying my body, he walked out the door, taking my soul + every ounce of my self-worth and self-love. He left me with a shell.

Once again, a rollercoaster ride would ensue. But this time, the ups were few and far between. The downs would take me into a depression so dark, that my demons would take over every decision, every breath, and every thought. The shame. Oh, the shame. The shame of experiencing sexual assault for a second time was something I couldn’t wrap my brain around, or see my way out of. I was the common denominator, and I felt (for lack of a better word) so dirty. Who would ever accept me, let alone love me?

I was at fault. I was worthless. I was alone.

I was also wrong. Very, very wrong.

I came to that conclusion on New Year’s day of 2016, by way of a failed suicide attempt and an
outpouring of love and support from friends, family and my For the Glow community. It’s been one year, four months and about 22 days since that light-bulb moment. For approximately one year and four months of that journey, it has felt like the most intense uphill climb of my life. For the last 22 days, it’s felt like the greatest gift of my life. You see, for the first and very sucky/when-will- I-ever- feel-like-a-human-again part, I was focused on making a comeback to prove my worth to the world and critics (see: people who don’t know a damn thing about you). For the last 22 days, I was focused on coming home to God. 

I was raised Catholic, but will be forthright in saying I was just there for the ability to drink underage (communion wine, yo!) and the cute boys. A few years ago I converted to Judaism for another cute boy.  Spirituality has been somewhat present in my life (wherever/whenever there’s a cute boy, obviously), but I’ve never really connected to Jesus. In fact, I’d typically roll my eyes at the people who were jumping up and down for JC. I just didn’t get it. Until a few weeks ago.  In the midst of a stressful moment I found myself dissecting the situation, out loud. I figured since I was already being a complete weirdo by talking to myself, I might as well one up it and try that whole praying thing. I didn’t even know who I was addressing my speech to, but I went ahead with it anyway. I stated my case and ended with a question that had been on my mind since that night in 1997:

Are you even there?

I wasn’t expecting to get a response so quickly, but there it was. And no, the clouds didn’t part. But God made his presence known (and in my mind He does in fact sound like Morgan Freeman). The answer was a resounding YES, and instantly my eyes filled with tears. And because I have never been good at knowing when to hold-em/fold-em/walk away...I decided to press my luck and ask another:

Will you help me find my way?

I still tear up when I think about what happened next (um, literally sobbing in Starbucks as I type this). If you can imagine my life, my body, and my heart in a million, multi-colored pieces, being lifted off of the ground and put back together – that’s what it felt like. I felt it in my soul, and I felt it physically. I had struggled with shortness of breath for nearly ten years, and within an instant my lungs were filled with life. I fell to my knees and wept while He stripped away the weight I had been carrying for twenty years.  It was the greatest moment of my life. With a simple question, by surrendering my life to Him...

The chains had been broken.

I will never deny my story out of shame, but I will never let it define me either. Sexual assault is not my story.  Abuse is not my reality. Chaos is not my comfort zone. That was my past, but I will decide my future. And while I was once consumed with proving my worth to the world, I no longer see myself through the eyes of others -- I see myself through the eyes of my Creator. And I will devote every breath I’m blessed with, to living up to that potential.  I wrote the first draft of this story before my spiritual homecoming, and as I mentioned in the beginning -- there was still so much anger, ego, and doubt in those words. When I compare the drafts side by side, I’m overwhelmed by the healing that has occurred in my heart. I joked with Melody that Jesus was my editor (I hope He spell checks + likes sarcasm), and that’s so beautifully true. On the pages and in my life, He helps to reveal the best and brightest version of myself. You can definitely say, hashtag BLESSED.

Whenever I’m given any kind of platform, it’s placed on my heart to share an important PSA. Two
important nuggets of information/love, and then I’ll close. 1) If you’ve experienced sexual assault, it was not your fault. 2) You are NEVER alone.  

You are love.... you are loved.

Thank you for reading my story, and now if you'll excuse me...I'm off to LIVE, LOVE, and change the world, one aerobics class at a time.”


Jenn Rowland 1.jpg

Jenn is a fitness instructor and nutritionist and creator of For the glow.  I met Jenn through a For the Glow challenge she hosted for the new year in 2016.  Her vivacious spunk, love for all things 80s/90s, spot-on humor and sarcasm, and desire to make the whole world love kale smoothies had me connecting with this girl right away!  I'm so appreciative of Jenn for her willingness to open her heart to the Honest Chatter readers and for being an advocate to women to stop sexual assault and end the shame that it bares!  

need help?  If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, talk to someone you can trust and/or seek out help HERE