I saw my first show at age 9. I sat on the cafeteria floor mesmerized. It was the first spark among many that would alter the course of my life and – ultimately – change, transform and save lives.

I’ve often thought about the title of my memoir…those few words that would sum up my life. For me, it will be, “If you’re going to jump, you might as well leap”. Several years ago, I was laying on a bunk with one of my campers, Katie Fasano. I was sharing with her a struggle that was consuming my thoughts: should I leave the Children’s Theatre to become the Executive Director of Playing for Others? After I talked through all the pros and cons, Katie rolled over to face me and said the most powerful words…

“You know what I say, Jen?  …if you’re going to jump, you might as well leap.”

Since then, I have lived by that philosophy… It’s not always easy, and, oftentimes, it feels dangerous. It feels like that scene in Shrek, where Shrek and Donkey are crossing the rickety wooden swinging bridge over the moat, trying to save the Princess. Shrek is fearless; he moves without hesitation. But Donkey is scared the whole way. He’s not sure about his footing; he doesn’t know if the next thin piece of wood is going to hold him – he’s afraid for his life! Sometimes, I think I’m supposed to be Shrek… Show no weakness. Don’t let them see you sweat; power your way through! But oftentimes, I’m actually Donkey. And I feel like a fraud, inauthentic, and a total ass.

I’m scared… afraid of dreaming too big… afraid of disappointing others… afraid of what people will say and think. “There goes Jen, head in the clouds… visions too big… does she have any sense of reality? ….doesn’t she know that’s not how it’s done? …why did they even hire her in the first place?”

And sometimes it takes a good cry and some Burger King, but eventually I remember… I would rather live a life of, ‘what if’s and ‘how can we’s, instead of ‘good enough’s and ‘play it safe’s… I just would.

When I lay my head on my pillow at night, I want to fall asleep knowing that it was another day where I chose to expand instead of retract, another day of excellence over mediocrity – another day of living a life that is driven by meaning and purpose and filled with AWESOME.

So during this leap year, when I’ll be turning 9, I’ve decided to recommit myself to leaping. I’ve set a huge goal: ask people to collectively donate 500 tickets to Playing for Others’ Arts Festival, so 500 kids can experience live theatre who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, and then celebrate all those AWESOME people with an AWESOME party on March 5th complete with sno-cones, cotton candy, face painting, beauty bar, massage chairs, games, giveaways, and dance parties.

How AWESOME?!?! I was 9 years old when I had my first theatre experience, this will be my 9th birthday and 500 kids will have the opportunity to experience live theatre!  I can barely contain the awesomeness in my head! And then my Donkey starts talking…

“Whoah, waaaay too big Jen! 500 is a lot of tickets… You should take the number down to somewhere around 100…  Oh no. What if no one comes to your party?  You’ll be the kid who tries to throw the big party only to sit there by yourself, surrounded by uneaten cotton candy, face painting smeared by tears, holding a sno-cone that just fell on the floor, staining your pretty new party dress on the way down.”

Clearly, my Donkey is kicking into high gear.

So now I get to choose.  I can choose to believe those thoughts, or I can pull my inner Shrek out and believe that anything is possible. Sorry Donkey, but I’m going with Shrek.

It’s time to live up to that memoir title and leap. Because the truth is, maybe I won’t get there, but maybe I will. Maybe just one kid out of the 500 kids who comes to see the show will be transformed. But maybe that one is enough. Maybe that one kid will have a moment that 26 years later they will be writing about at their desk, for their blog, getting ready to start a day where they get to change, transform and save lives. And when that happens, I sure am going to be glad that I chose to leap. After all, I’m a big girl now and big girls have big goals.

And that, my friends, is AWESOME.

To help Jen’s bday wish come true, click here!