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My Journey

It's 5:33am EST in the morning on Thursday, March 12th, 2020.

I have decided that today is the day I'm going to look fear in the eyes.

I have decided that enough is enough.

I want to keep the commitment with myself that I am important, I am valued and that anything I set my mind to I can accomplish.

If that means learning to build quality relationships and being consistent on my word, with my day-to-day actions, then that is what I plan to do.

I've always been someone who is strong willed and determined to learn something if I feel less than confident about the topic. Throughout my life, relationships and consistency are two KEY areas that keep coming back to remind me, I have work to do.

This is work to not only be a better person but to have a better relationship with my husband, kids, and close family members. 

We recently moved from the Greater DC Area to the Greater NY Area.

And just like our children, I'm learning the process of building community and making new friends.

It's amazing home adaptable and agile children are to change.

I've always embraced change, new adventures and places. As I've gotten older, it's hard for me to keep routine and schedules. Though I know it's the best for everyone's sanity.

For me, this ALWAYS has seemed like a challenging chore that I didn't really want to do. I have resistance about spending my quality time if the value in the relationship wasn't there. The kind of human being that says, "what's in it for me?" Now that I'm writing this out, it doesn't sound very kind and genuine. But, that's part of my journey.

I met with a new friend from my church yesterday, I recently registered to be part of a Women's Book Club at the local church. She's been such a blessing in my life and we met for coffee. She asked for me to share my journey - I said, okay well let me think about it because I've really never had to walk someone through my journey in a short-and-sweet type of version.

So let me take you back briefly to my childhood. I would say I had a primarily positive childhood but there were some memories, habits, and routines that have stuck with me until my adulthood and I'm ready to release the bad habits and routines.

My first memory is when I was age four.

My parents sat me down to tell me they were planning to get a divorce.

Now as a child, I wasn't sure how to react. I may have laughed or smiled because I really didn't understand the life long affects it could have on me emotionally.

As an adolescent, I was able to spend time with both my mom and dad. I had always craved the attention of my dad (as many girls do over the years). I enjoyed the quality time with him when we would visit on the weekends. I also spent a number of weekends each month with my close girlfriends in both middle school and high school.

As I begin reflecting back, I remember that my love language is quality time but for some reason the relationship piece of the puzzles outside of family relationships continues to be a struggle. I understand if I'm honest and vulnerable - it's much easier to connect with others on an emotional level to better understand who we are as humans and what we have in common with each other.

When it comes to consistency as a child, I remember my parents both being very hard working adults. I know I had to entertain myself and my siblings and I were each others friends when we needed someone to play with. I also had a next door neighbor who I befriended at age two and is my ONE really good friend to this day. When it comes to nurturing relationships, I'm simply not consistent and intentional about sustaining a relationship. I find it interesting and I'm excited to continue to peal back layers to better understand why and how I can work to change this behavior. 

By age 16, I had began to develop back behaviors where I would crave the attention of guys. I had been in an on again off again high school relationship. I didn't really set many expectations or boundaries so he would want to be "on again" Monday through Friday and then "off again" on the weekends. How convenient you might think? I just figured I was being flexible and didn't want to put too much pressure on him at such as young age. I enjoyed the company and figured it would all work out, somehow.

It was definitely a strange way of thinking but this continued on into adulthood. 

At age 18, I had experienced decided it was time to move out on my own and my dad was thoughtful enough to let my step sister and I move into one of his apartments. We started going to community college and were both working full time.

We were trying to navigate our way as young adults and figure out what we wanted to do next in our lives. Within the next two years, I had spoken to my mom about relocating to Tampa, Florida to complete my Bachelor's degree at the University of South Florida.

I was excited and looking forward to a change of pace.

I was also really pumped that I'd be able to move to a new city where I didn't know anyone. I'd go to the grocery story and I wouldn't have to worry about running into someone and sparking up a conversation with a life long friend. It most likely wouldn't happen. Again, now that I'm typing this - it seems a little strange because most people would want to be surrounded by familiar faces and people they know by name. But, let's continue....

I went to the University of South Florida, from August 2005 - December 2007. 

I had changed my major three times, from Marketing >> Journalism >> Advertising.

At the time, Accounting Classes were kicking me in the butt and I decided to try and take the easy route.

I had prayed over the years but wasn't really faithful with attending church "consistently." I decided God was on-demand and I could build a relationship, as needed. What I didn't realize at that time was that had I invested the time consistently, I would be able to better relate and connect with humans at a deeper level. With God's unconditional love, I wouldn't be craving the love elsewhere. It's important to release shame and understand we're all human. The story each of us have teaches us lessons along our journey.

I had always had 2-3 jobs throughout college. I was typically working on the weekends and would hang out during and/or after my fun brand ambassador work. I figured, why not work, make money and hang out all at the same time?!?!

I met my husband PJ back in January 2007. I was 22 and he was 33.

We initially ran into each other at the local gym but formally met through mutual work friends the same week. We hit it off and really enjoyed spending time with each other.

We had gone through out own set of challenges and obstacles early on.

By August 2007, I was pregnant with our son - at age 22.

I was excited, scared, nervous, thrilled all at the same time. At first we weren't sure how that would all turn out in the long run but I/we were committed to making it work together.

By December 2007, I was four month pregnant and graduating from college with a Bachelors degree in Advertising.

During this time, I had decided I really wanted to begin working from home so I decided to start my first business, a Nationwide Staffing Agency.

In May 2008, we were blessed with our handsome baby boy - Jaevin. I was 23 years old.

Imagine, a new baby and a new business.

For someone who isn't very consistent - somehow I / we made this work for about a year and a half. It was tough, I struggled with baby blues and managing to be present between the attention our son needed and the support the businesses needed.

Within that time frame - I was tired, overwhelmed, isolated and drained.

As an extroverted introvert, I knew it was time to officially make my way into the workforce to learn what real people and real departments actually do, day-to-day.

I worked as an Assistant Property Manager with one of my favorite bosses of all time. I was hired by my previous property manager from back in college. She was my manager from one of my college apartment living jobs. She's always been great to work with!

This was the first time I put our son into daycare right down the road.

During this time, the economy took a hit for the worst, and my husband was laid off.

He had a home he owned before we met and at the time he wasn't able to refinance.

By the summer of 2010, he had decided it was time to short sell his beautiful home.

We decided it was time to relocate to south Florida, live with his mom, go back to school and save up for our future. And that is the exact thing we did.

By August 2010, we packed up and relocated to south Florida to live with family and our son was two years old at this time. The good news was, he was still young enough to not miss any friends in Tampa and we were able to be flexible with our schedules at this point.

At some point in this process, we both thought it was a good idea to go back to school at the same time. My husband wanted to finish his Associates and Bachelors degrees and I wanted to begin working on my Masters of Business Administration (MBA).

We both were very focused on what we wanted to accomplish it took the time and energy away from our son. As I look back, I understand it was an investment in our family's future but I also know it's the daily struggle of being present and spending quality time with our young child that also was a main priority for us.

We weren't perfect but we made the best decision based upon the information we had.

I began a new job and school in October 2010.

Between school and work, we had began planning a wedding for ourselves in November 2011. It was an additional financial and time pressure that was less than exciting.

Fast forward to February 2012, we both were extremely committed to school and hadn't invested quality time in each other and our relationship.

We weren't sure if we should post pone the wedding or keep working towards the wedding date.

I decided it was time to relocate by myself and our son back to Pennsylvania with family to gain a fresh perspective of our situation. I left the day after Valentine's Day.

I didn't communicate with my boyfriend, PJ, at the time (now husband) and needed some space and time away for him to realize how valuable and important we were. I considered this my personal sabbatical. Thankfully, I was able to continue working my full time position virtually.

I relocated to Pennsylvania from February 2012 to April 2013. During this time, I tried to make new friends; had our son enrolled in a preschool program from age 3-4 and also bought a home within the first six months of relocating with money I had saved over the years by living with family. During this time, I we had to go through the courts and figure out a visitation schedule between PJ and I. This reminded me a bit of my childhood when the court house had my family's file still in their system. I knew this isn't the type of life I had imagined and I figured all relationships come with their own set of challenges. 

I had officially graduated from Nova Southeastern University in December 2012.

I felt happy and relieved to have the pressure off of my plate.

During this time, I also drew closer to the Lord than ever before. I knew I needed a better relationship with Him. Whenever I needed God, He was available. I joined the worship team at church and began making a few new friends.

By April 2013, I sat down with my Dad and family to let them know I've decided to try to make it work with PJ. My family wasn't sure the timing was right since it was only a year and two months but said they supported my decisions.

In July 2013, PJ and I found out we were expecting our second child - a beautiful daughter whom we named Peyton Jolie. In March 2014, we found our own beautiful condo to rent down the road from my mother in laws house.

Between both of our children, we had been asked many of times when we were planning to get married. We didn't want the pressure of rushing the marriage process.

August 2014, we decided to tie the knot at the court house. I never really imagined a grand wedding or large event. It was low key, anxiety free and Peyton was our witness.

While PJ was going to school full time, I had been the breadwinner and working full time while managing the schedule of two small children, ages 11 months and 6.

In February 2015, I was laid off from my job after investing about 4.11 years.

I had grown personally and professionally during this time. 

I came home on the last day of the month, on a Friday to let my husband know I received a severance but I was no longer employed. Thank God for always having a plan B.

By March 2015, I needed to decide if I would go back to work full time or try to build a Coaching and Consulting business again from my home office. I was determined to spend as much time with my family as possible and was ALL IN on the business idea. I began to network and build up my client base. Within 6-months, I had already began making three times what I was being paid in the corporate world, plus I had more time with my family. WIN-WIN!

The next big milestone was my husband PJ graduating with his Bachelors Degree as a Cardio Vascular Perfustionist. Yay!

He had gone back to school to change careers. Based upon the medical degree field PJ select, there were limited opportunities in Florida. Prior to this point, he had began interviewing at different hospitals on the east coast.

He landed an opportunity in Enola, Pennsylvania (very small town!) right outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We packed up and relocated altogether after graduation.

 We rented a town home in Enola from a sweet Indian family.

The challenge with PJ's new career was he needed to pass a math and science exam to become a licensed CVP. Every state has different laws and regulations surrounding this topic. Unfortunately, he hadn't passed the required exams in this window of time. The exam is only available in March and October every year.

Within six months of being in Enola - he was required to transfer to another hospital nearby. It was between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA. We decided we could use a little city fun and action compared to the small town so we broke our lease, packed up once again and relocated to Arlington, Virginia.

We spent the next two and a half years in Arlington, Virginia. There was plenty of people, free activities and great schools nearby. We were living a two bedroom two bathroom apartment. We had to take an elevator and park our car in a public parking garage. It worked well for the time being but we definitely knew we needed to save up and plant our roots in a peaceful community closer to friends and family. 

We both found really great jobs. The ONE priority for me was the ability to work from home, between our personal and professional schedules it made the most sense.

So we began to save money and plan ahead.

I had continued to build my coaching + consulting business around my full time work schedule. I was determined to make our move happen no matter how much energy it took from me. My husband was working crazy hours and didn't have the time, energy or strength for any additional jobs based upon how demanding it was on him mentally, e emotionally and physically.

We decided on Connecticut would be our place to call home and plant our roots for the next 10-15+ years. We found a beautiful community over the boarder of New York. PJ and I have always loved New York City as children and knew one day we'd want to make our way back to the area. 

We needed for one of us to establish residency in the state of Connecticut at least 30+ days before closing. PJ gave notice in DC with his employer at the time and transferred to his new job in the CT/NY area.

We were due to close on our new home in June 20th, 2019. A month prior, I was given my notice at my previous employer that I was being laid off but with a severance package. I was upset, angry and hurt that my manager at the time would be so insensitive. But I began to pray and trust God that if this was his will and his plan for our family's life, then the plan would go as smooth as it possibly could from that point forward.

I remember thinking, "God, you've got jokes don't you! You want to see how faithful we are and how much we trust YOU." I get it. I get it.

I had many sleepless nights and tears.

We had worked SO hard to get to this point that I was struggling between my will and God's will. I wanted to know that we were aligned and meant to move to Connecticut.

Thankfully, we had gotten the phone call from the under writers that they had approved us for our NEW home. During the same conversation, I knew it was time to communicate that I had been laid off but was able to secure a temporary contract opportunity to work full time from home from June - August 2019. Thankfully, it worked!

I had a firm commitment with God that if this was His plan, and we made it into our new home smoothly, I'd promise that we'd always figure it out through hard work and a plan.

We closed on our NEW home in Connecticut on July 31st, 2019.

As of August 2019, I officially went all in on my business as a Coach + Consulting.

Believe it or not, in September 2019, PJ was laid off from him employer. He was exhausted, overwhelmed and not loving the daily commute from Connecticut to New York. We're both very blessed and grateful to be able to work from the home office together, though it's definitely a new dynamic we're both getting used to.

Oh yes, meeting new friends is hard. For the kids and for the adults.

I've learned from my daughter about socializing and stepping outside of my comfort zone. She's even persistently asked for me to sign up as a Co-Leader for Daisy's (Girl Scouts) and I have.

I've committed!

I'm excited about what the future holds for myself and my family.

I want to learn to be a more active listener and present in our day-to-day lives.

My new friend in CT told me yesterday, "Jena, it's time to just BREATHE and BE."

I'm definitely planning to take her advice and learning to build a consistent and stronger relationship with God - so I can be a better wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend.

Plus, I want to plan yummy meals each week, with LOVE, for my family!

Phew, after 1.5 hours of writing this blog - I feel energized and refreshed.

Update: We embraced our time in Bethel, CT - and then the pandemic hit on March 13th, 2020 just days after writing this initial blog post (today is 07.26.2022)

Since writing the original blog post - I wanted to share the updates that have transpired.

Based on demand, I had the opportunity to transition the business from primarily career coaching / recruiting to a more creative side called personal branding. I was receiving notifications daily from LinkedIn that candidates and everyday professionals (and leaders!) were looking for support on the job search. They were trying to figure out how to "stand out" and be found by recruiters. As a recruiter for years - I had the "behind the scene" lens to really help candidates understand the best way to build a brand, communicate their value add, and market / advertise that content to the right audience. And wallah, I began to find more fulfillment by making an impact on these individuals' lives and finding my creative outlet. (10/2019 - 1/2021).

10-months into the pandemic - my dad convinced us it was probably best to transition out of CT based on the coast of living, taxes, and being stuck in the house working + home school our kiddos. We decided it was best to explore a NEW state near one of our families. We considered both PA and FL. I have always loved Florida based on the water, fun, and palm trees. As much as it would have been nice to live close to my family - I knew in my heart + soul I wanted us to move back to Florida.

So, we visited both states/areas and ultimately decided to build a home where we originally met back when I was in college - good ol' Tampa Bay Florida. We spent a full year at my mother-in-law's house (blessing!) and even got pregnant in Feb 2021 with our 3rd child (surprise gender!) now Graysen "Gray" Jace. Fast forward, we closed on our home in Tampa, Florida in December 2021 (6 weeks after giving birth - PHEW!).

We are still working on organizing our home and officially feeling settled. It typically takes about a year as it is let alone with a newborn/infant. So here we are! I had been working with one of my clients on a full-time basis and now I'm excited to get back to work on the creative branding (copy/design) and marketing for employees, employers, and entrepreneurs to help #shareyourstory. 

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