Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

When Love and Hugs Are the Cure, But You Don’t Know How to Ask For Them

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One of my favorite interviews is with psychologist Michael Cornwall. He also writes for the mental health blog Mad in America. He inspired me with his recent post “The Elusive Emotional Wounds of Omission That Our Culture Inflicts On Us-and the Healing Balm of Love That Can Heal Them.” It’s about how love and care can treat people in emotional and mental health crisis. Yet our culture’s idea of competition and equating strength with individualism causes us to suffer.

Cornwall wrote, “Fear, shame, guilt, despair and anger take up so much of the emotional space in the collective and solitary rooms we live in. Those painful emotions are the emotional currency of a culture that long ago lost its way from the ideals of altruism and justice. “

He later shared how he helped psychiatric patients who were mute open up, by expressing love and compassion for their suffering.

Sometimes the therapy we need is love and affection. After dealing with a number of deaths, betrayal from people once close to me and praying I wouldn’t have a stroke when I walked into my abusive work environment—-counseling wasn’t enough. My therapist is great and she gave me the right tools and support. But I got to a point where I needed someone to hold me. If you grew up in a loving household as a kid, adults were always giving you hugs or consoling you when you fall. Where do you go when you’re a single, grown ass woman with bills and responsibilities? Where do you go when the people who would console you are part of the reason why you need love and affection? Or the people you usually turn to are going through their own problems? I was embarrassed to ask for a healing embrace. When friends greeted me with a hug, I took as much in as I could.

During a peer counseling training at my job, we split up into groups to practice tactics we learned in role plays. My group was in the office’s small, windowless kitchen. It’s funny how God works because two people did a role play scenario that was almost exactly what I was going through. One person needed counseling because she was taking care of her dying grandfather and a family member was being a jerk while she was suffering through the loss. It was like watching myself. I felt the kitchen shrinking. My body temperature rose from struggling not to cry. It triggered the hell out of me. The people who made up the scenario had no idea what I was going through. That’s why I think it was a divine intervention. I jetted out of the kitchen to my office and cried. Who gave me the hug that I was dying for was my younger co-worker. It was a sobbing, snotty, ugly cry with a lot of venting. But my co-worker kept encouraging me to let it out.

My co-workers healing touch and compassion was the emotional remedy I needed. We rock and hold our babies, but we still need to do that for each other in adulthood. Even embracing a pet helps. There are so many people walking around like everything is fine, like everything is under control and they are filled with so much pain. I usually post on my Facebook page to check in with people, even the ones you think have it easy. Most of us are dealing with some kind of challenge in life. But, whether life is storming with problems or bright, we should be getting love on the regular.

I think some of us don’t ask for affection because we fear being seen as pathetic or needy. In the hook to Rihanna’s “Love Song” featuring Future, he says:

I don’t wanna give you the wrong impression 

I need love and affection 

And I hope I’m not sounding too desperate 

I need love and affection 

I was bumping this song in my car after leaving a Prince party, and I questioned why Future thought saying he needs love and affection makes him come off as desperate. Babies die from not being held and loved. And I believe a lot of adults do too. We turn to booze, the pipe, sex, food, violence, etc. to make us feel good. Needing and wanting love and affection is nothing to be ashamed of.

The lesson I learned from my breakdown was to reach out. I know there are people I could’ve called and said, “Hey, I need a hug.” But my pride stopped me. If one of my friends called me and said they needed a hug, I would be right there. I wouldn’t judge them. So I shouldn’t judge myself. I’m human. Lesson learned. Thankfully my life is much better and the storm has passed.

Still my heart goes out to the people who have no one. We have to reach out to each other.


  1. I love this post!! I've been there. Luckily I met my husband and he gives me all the affection and hugs I need and then some. I tell him I'm needy lol, but he doesn't mind. I went through a long period with bouts of depression. It's true what they say about who you associate yourself with affects your mood. I was definitely hanging around some crappy people that didn't help things one bit.
    Anyhow, have a great week lady!

    1. Thank you! That's great you have that type of love and support from your husband. I'm glad you recognized you had to clean house of toxic people.


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