November 17, 2010

Interview - Jeanette (Part II)

Continued . . .

Switching gears a bit, would you talk a little about being a single woman and your personal path? I think I always planned to get married at some point or always kind of expected that, but was kind of afraid that that would come up before I did all the things I wanted to do as a single person. I kind of hoped I wouldn’t fall in love right away.

Was that because you wanted to save the world as your wrote in your Young Women’s letter? Yeah, I wanted to join the Peace Corps. I ended up deciding that was a bad idea. I wanted to go to grad school and work for a bit. That would be a little more complicated to fit in if I were married and I think actually the act of getting married was a little bit terrifying, maybe not terrifying but just kind of scary. Even unimaginable to me.

Have you had times since then when you worried about marriage or what your path would be or have you always felt really satisfied? Definitely it’s changed. Now I have a bit of a fear of maybe never being married, I guess. I don’t like going to family reunions, I feel really awkward. It’s nice to come back to Washington, DC where I feel normal again. Now I have a lot stronger desire for a teammate. I like to call it a 'teammate'. To have someone to do all of these fun things with. I love to travel and learn and I’m pretty comfortable doing it by myself but I’d much rather be doing it with other people. I’m fine with that being my friends but it would be fun to have a spouse, someone who is always, always there and to go through life with, to figure things out with.

I was really serious in college and I feel I had a more social time after college. That experience has been really important. . . I wanted to get to the point where I was totally comfortable. I used to be really shy. Really shy. I think that’s one of my greatest accomplishments - to not be shy. It was a concerted effort. I was born and raised in Los Alamos, which is a small town. I grew up with all the same people. I went to BYU and realized I wanted to be a contributing member of society and I recognized if I didn’t learn how to interact with people and be not shy I wouldn’t be able to do that. That it is just a necessary thing to learn.

You know how in college they have Join a Club day? And all the people in booths want you to do is come and talk to them. They want you to talk to them and I was too scared to talk to them. I would walk past and walk past and walk past a club I wanted to join. . . So I made a concerted effort. I would read that scripture in Ether about God giving you weaknesses to be humble and if you bring that to him he’ll make them into strengths - so that is what I did. I prayed about it a lot and I was confident that that could happen. And it took a few years and it was little things, like I would make myself go talk to the booth. Or in Sunday School I would volunteer to read because I was too scared to make a comment. By the end of college I was the one asking all the questions. Even still, coming to DC, I’m still figuring out things like how to not be intimidated by people. But I was really shy and I think that was one of the things I wanted to for sure learn as a single person.

It’s interesting because I don't see you that way, and would really call you a bit of an organizer. Yeah, I’m considered the extrovert in the office. And I forget that people don’t think of me as shy.

I know, that's kind of shocking. On that note – you started Dutch Bike Dutch with friends. Tell us about that. Four of us used to plan all these trips and give them funny names. So we went up to Lancaster, PA and invited everyone we knew. Apparently we weren’t very persuasive because there were only 5 of us who went. But we did it, we kept going out. We would bike 15 – 30 miles and eventually more people started coming. Finally, one year we thought it would be really funny to have a sponsor so we asked my roommate Stephanie’s parents who have Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter and like 80 people came. It was really a pain [laughs], so we decided to make people pay and turned it into a fundraiser. We’ve done it 3 or 4 times as a fundraiser. It’s a beautiful area of the country. We like biking and friends.

Have you been able to raise some money for some good organizations? Not an absurd amount but I think the first one we did was for a friend who was living in El Salvador with nuns in a girls’ school. The first time we raised money for that school we made $1,500. So we took a little trip to deliver the check. We got to meet the girls and the nuns. It was a really great experience. We also earn money for the Somaly Mam Foundation which is a cause I really believe in.

If there was one piece of advice you could give to single women what would it be? I think it’s kind of hard to be single sometimes because it’s a confusing social thing. I do think it’s also something that if possible I don’t like to worry about; I don’t find it productive to worry about. Even though sometimes I do and I think it’s ok. I don’t think it’s bad to worry about. I do think it’s not necessarily productive to worry about. And that there are so many opportunities and so many things you can do as a single person that it should be enjoyable. Maybe not ‘should be’ but there’s so much potential for enjoyment and I really enjoy being single.

Last but not least, what would you say about the causes you believe in? I have a theory, I think most people really want to be making a difference in the world or helping other people in some way. I think it’s really difficult to figure out how you can do that productively but I also think that what’s most important is our sphere of influence. I get really nervous that there is so much hurt and pain in the world and I have such a spectacular life. I get nervous that I’m not doing enough to address that. But I think the way to address that is to identify what need there is in my sphere of influence and to address that.

When I first came to DC I was so frustrated because I didn’t have a job and I had gotten a master’s degree in something I cared so much about. I felt I had learned tools and prepared myself to be a productive member of society and then Bam I couldn’t’ get a job. I realized I needed to look at my sphere of influence and figure out the things I could do right then and do those things. I shouldn’t need to have spectacular outcomes from my efforts. I think that’s important. In the Screwtape Letters one of the devils is teaching another that there is going to be a certain amount of positive feelings and a certain amount of animosity in everyone. He says that the trick is to have the good feelings and care directed to those far away from the [person], and to have the animosity directed to those closest to the [person]. I really like that. I think it’s way more important to be a positive influence with those who are close to you. So now that’s always the goal.


  1. Great, great interview!I love so much about it...particularly the concerted effort to overcome shyness (a personal struggle of my own) and her thoughts on making a difference in our own sphere of influence. Such a great perspective. Thanks!!

  2. Love this interview too. Jeannette, you are awesome and inspiring! Thanks for sharing the story from the Screwtape Letters, also. So true.

    --Mary Ann