There are things I am wary of. T-shirts with political candidates faces on them worn either sincerely or ironically, any sort of celebrity endorsing products because it’s insidious and plays on our most base instincts. Endorsements and advertisements themselves just strike me as odd because they appear very extrinsically motivated and kind of dishonest and I really want nothing to do with them. As the late author David Foster Wallace puts it, ads and or endorsements or testimonials, “create an anxiety relievable by purchase.” But all of that principled, not going to be a sucker for somebody’s product or like stump for their campaign, I didn’t even register that when Jenn asked me to write a testimonial for the site. It seemed obvious that everyone should know about Jenn Marshall and the thing she does.
Really, I think you ought to read all of the other testimonials on this page before you read mine that way you can get some sense of what other people who know Jenn think of her. If she were a book or a movie, all of the reviews would be simply glowing. You would go see this movie, it would sucker punch you in the gut, make you laugh, cry, and walk away from the theatre with something that you would unironically call hope and it would win all of the awards come awards season. It would please adult audiences (ones who dig authentic movies and aren’t overwhelmed by art because it makes them feel and describes too many things going on inside that they would just rather not think about, you know, too hard, too many memories, that sort of person) and be the kind of film that kids are sneaking into, telling their youngest friend to hide their damn braces because we’re all gonna caught if you so much as smirk. And that’s how she gets away with it. She appeals to all audiences and remains so real and truthful and so endlessly compelling that you wonder how she did it in the first place. Sometimes I get glimpses. Inspiring, outrageous glimpses of what it looks like when instead of guffawing at your potential, or even words like potential, which cynical old me can kind of get real fed up with because I’ve heard too many people I felt let down by say them, you think, oh man, I can do this. And I’m going to.
I had been going through what some might call an ordeal. Coming off my sophomore year in college I was riding pretty sweet. Around April I got together with a beautiful girl that I was pretty sure was the one; I had plans set in place to begin writing my novel over the summer; It was spring and then it would be summer and everything, I swore, was going to be unimaginably beautiful and unique. And then depression inserted itself into my life in a grotesque way. Like a full-blown comorbidity of massive anxiety and depression. The real chemical stuff. Words like imbalance and serotonin-reuptake inhibitor were involved. Waking up in the night with electricity running through my body and my head feeling like it might explode all over the wall. Days spent without courage to even leave the bed. I lost 35 pounds in a matter of about a month and a half. Depression has this very impressive way of steam-rolling everything you know and love about yourself and the life that surrounds you and this lasted for months and months and into the new school year and all of my plans were disrupted by this bad thing. And I don’t know when my dad started telling my about this woman he knew. Early on. Before I think he even knew how sick I was. He talked about how she was kind of his go-to brain organizer. I didn’t think much of that. I thought, I can do that for myself. I’m a reader, I’m a perspicacious guy, definitely smarter than your smarter than average guy, I can do this on my own, through sheer will and the power of love. I’ll white knuckle it. Well, I’m really lazy even when not depressed. I got some books from my girlfriend’s dad about depression and read a whole one of them. I read it the week she went on vacation and in that week started running, eating healthier, meditating, real road to recovery sort of material. My girlfriend returned and it all went to hell in a hand basket again. All of this time I had Jenn’s card in a box on my dresser with a bunch of miscellaneous crap. It sat there buzzing. And I sat there buzzing with anxiety and tension going deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of depression. Having this severely broken and fragmented sense of identity that had no cast, no structure to help rebuild it, growing back together, fusing into an ugly and confusing shape.
It took me eight months to call Jenn Marshall. I called her finally in February of 2015. The phone conversation was short. She was in Idaho for her father’s funeral. Any other person would have said, “Hey, major life tragedy. Gonna have to call you back at a time when I’m not emotionally devastated.” Not her. She took my call. She also had some nasty flu or cold on top of this new grief, so she sounded like a lifelong smoker. She took my call. She asked me about myself and my problems. I told her. She listened. I felt listened to. Have you felt that? I hadn’t in a long time. We met a week later at Panera Bread on 16th Street in Denver. Jenn’s big on the Panera Bread. She has a membership card and everything. It was snowing and cold. My girlfriend waited for me at the Tattered Cover. Jenn looked like nothing I had expected. She looked alarmingly kind and perceptive. Maybe three or four other times in my life I’ve met folks and thought that maybe, if I’ve had past lives, that I knew them before. I get the feeling Jenn’s been hanging around for awhile doing this sort of thing.
I think people might be sad because we are not animals and we cannot live with the frivolity of being that encompasses all of the other creatures, and we are not angels who can still speak to God in the foreign tongue of the heavens which I believe may be wisdom incarnate. We are in the middle, kind of somehow forever seeking some model of truth that never really quite fits. We are simply put, too smart and yet too dumb for our own good. Jenn Marshall knows this. She knows we’re just imperfect brains in a very imperfect world but beyond the mystery and confusion, she has this really wild idea that we can be whole. Or something that feels and looks that way.
I hope someday to be able to keep her on a retainer of some sort. On some statement that comes across my desk in the future it will say Jenn Marshall- Personal Maecenas– she is triply advisor, ally, and confidante. A real emotionally savvy person.
Perhaps I sound like a zealot. Whatever. Make me a martyr for the cause. You don’t have to strap a bomb to your chest or wear some chalice on your leg or get a tattoo to signify your allegiance to the cause to do it, you just have to do you in the blatant miracle that is being. I can do that. All I really know is that this is a person who drives an hour and thirty minutes each way to see me on Sundays. She texts me little pictures and sayings that are so unequivocally mawkish and full of go-get-em that it would make a cynic howl with ironic pleasure. And sometimes I shake my head too. But there was this one time, the time I mentioned, that I wanted to die and then I met Jenn and now, often times, I live so wildly good that I know, never has anyone been this much on my side and given me so much.