By Haley Jakobson.
Imagine you are 22 and freshly graduated and suddenly sucked into the city of New York like a vacuum, dust pounding into your ears and grit clouding your eyes. Imagine that you feel very alone, despite your dad being a ride away on the 6 train and your college friends scattered around Manhattan like bread crumbs. Imagine you are depressed with a heavy coating of anxiety, a strong nail lacquer that you can’t chip off with the underside of your fingernail. And now you are at work, and despite all of these things, or maybe because of them, work still bored you and you find yourself scrolling through the vortex of your Instagram feed.
This is when you find her. Somewhere buried beneath the yoga pictures that intimidate you and the dogma that comes with them that sometimes bites you from inside the screen, somewhere beyond the pictures of Saturday night snapshots that might have been forgotten otherwise, and hungover Sunday brunch photos you were invited to be a part of but were too sad to join – you find her. She says: “girl power you are enough.” She says “fuck.” A lot. She says, “don’t be an asshole.” Well, duh, you think – and then remember how often you forget this. You read on.
She talks about girl power like its the creamer in her coffee. Compassion and self love and acceptance like it is what is draped behind her eyelids. You want to know everything about her. You press that little follow button and even though you’re so depressed that you’re crying even before you wake up in the morning, she gives you hope. She’s been there too.
She’s having a retreat. California. New Years. You can smell the air already. You can hear her voice already. Somewhere underneath the heaviness you find your drive again, just for a long enough moment, to email her. Maybe this is the precipice of your healing.
She emails back. “How did you find out about the retreat???” You say, “Instagram. I just graduated college and I’m wildly depressed and I think this might help.” She says “I can’t wait to meet you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” It’s the excessive exclamations that confirm she is everything you want her to be.
This is October and by the end of November you start to get better and by the time December rolls around you’re ready to take on the New Year, you’re ready to jump the fuck in and manifest all the goodness you deserve. You’re ready to meet Jen.
And then you are there. Surrounded by 30 people who are ready for change, too. And at the bow of the ship is Jen, with her jet black hair and her smile like a crack in her face where all her light comes through. Her voice is better than the videos you’ve seen. It gives you little goosebumps. Not because she’s a saint or a yogi or someone who has a lot of followers on Instagram. It’s because she’s her real, authentic self and you’ve decided at 22 that is the sexiest thing a person could be.
You watch Jen weave through the weekend, sewing threads into holes people didn’t know they had. Ripping open seams that had lost their elastic long ago. And with every stitch she undoes, she shows you one of her own that’s been untangled too. You laugh with her and dance with her and talk about what it’s like to live in New York City and not be okay. She’s been there too.
You write a lot and do enough yoga to make you sweat and feel your whole body. You practice radical listening, which leads to radical empathy. You are listened to, which fills you up in a way that we so often are not. You drink wine and snuggle with new friends by the fire and have really honest conversations. And when you leave you feel really proud of yourself. That you went deep and poured out the gunk and looked at it for a while and everything was okay. You are okay.
You ask yourself what makes this retreat work. And the answer comes quick. Jen holds space for people. The space is not for herself, it is for every single person that shows up with a willingness. They bring the willingness, she makes the space. And that is when people shed their skin and show their translucent veins. That’s where all the beauty and strength and power and vulnerability lies. It’s all mixed in together, in a huge bowl, and when you all get to share it and lick the spoon – that’s truly the most delicious thing.
If you’re wondering if you should go to a workshop or sign up for a retreat, go. Bring yourself, whatever you’ve got and whatever you’re ready to let go of, and let Jen hold space for you. She won’t let you down. Not because she owes anyone some almighty healing or because she’s been graced with godly power, she’s just really good at her job and understands that by being honest and raw you act as a mirror for those who are in the thick of it and think they are alone. We all do this. We look in the mirror and only see ourselves. Jen taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that reflection is a thing you do on the inside, not the outside.
Go if you are happy and go if you are not. If you’re stuck in the mud or the shit or you’ve just climbed out and don’t know what to do with all the lightness you’ve found. Go to celebrate yourself. Go to be held. Go to meet Jen and hear the way her voice wraps around the soft part of your tummy and makes you feel safe. Go to meet friends and eat good food and laugh really hard and maybe scream FUCK just because you can. Just go.
Everyone deserves to be nurtured. Everyone deserves to find their power. Jen gets that, she wants that for you. I want it for you too.
Haley Jakobson is a writer of life and love and plays, an actress, and yoga teacher living in New York City. Haley graduated from Boston University’s School of Theatre this past May, with her BFA in Theatre Arts. She loves kissing and dogs, but not always kissing dogs. Follow her on instagram: @HaleyJakobson. Haley will be assisting Jen at her two NYC workshops (March 15 and March 13.) Click here for info.