<editorsnote> Nerds, meet my buddy Steph. She and I have known each other since the 8th grade and we recently reconnected when she moved to LA not too long ago. She's here today to talk to you all about life, love, and all things told through her four eyes. I only have one more thing left to say ... HIT IT STEPH!! </editorsnote>
3 Weeks ago, I stood on Jen Friel and Julie Wilson’s driveway being interviewed for a documentary about Talk Nerdy To Me, Lover™
I was asked a simple question: What can you tell us about Jen Friel?
Jen Friel is an enigma. We’ve known each other since the 8th grade. In high school, Jen and I ran in different circles – I affectionately refer to my group of friends as the ‘B Squad,’) and I learned only recently that some of my friends used to make fun of her and made her feel like shit. Unfortunately I was oblivious to this crap as I had my own bullshit drama as you do in high school. I had no idea how hurtful kids could be because I never had to experience the alienation and loneliness Jen felt.
We reconnected in New York shortly after college and stayed in touch via social media over the next 2 years. I was working for CollegeHumor at the time, and Jen was starting the site. She had just come from LA and was in town for a meeting with Nintendo for a potential sponsorship. We met for lunch at Cook Shop in Chelsea right by my office and I treated seeing as she had been living in her car. Plus we decided she’d take care of me when I came to Los Angeles. “Yeah right, “ I thought to myself, like most New Yorkers. “Like I’ll ever to move to LA.” We caught up and she shared her adventures of living in Los Angeles and personal growth through an energy worker/shaman, I told her about how I was a workaholic on the verge of alcoholism; you know, life in your 20’s in New York.
Cut to two years later, August 2011. I call her up and let her know I’ve just had my interview with a new startup called Big Frame and I think it went well – “Come meet me at Dillon’s Pub in Hollywood,” and so I did. I’m wearing the same H&M black button down sleeveless dress I would wear to interviews less than a year later. I sit down and she debriefs me: “The site is blowing up, Steph… TV productions, reality shows, it’s making my head spin.” Keep in mind, she had just stepped off a “hippie bus” and reeked of Phish: I no longer questioned the spinning head, but hey whatever it’s California dude. Anyway, joining us was a potential candidate assistant, named Megan, to help her deal with all of this nonsense. Megan didn’t get the job, but ended up working with me at Big Frame shortly there after.
The next time I saw Jen was the first week of starting my new job in Los Angeles at Big Frame – October 25, 2011. She and her roommate Julie were letting me crash on their couch while I was apartment hunting. Never an easy task; even harder if one has just moved across the country. Especially hard once your best friend that committed to moving in with you has just bailed on the lease you were a day away from signing. Three weeks later, I would move into the house I live in today. Noticing a pattern here? I’m a terrible storyteller.
True to her word, Jen took care of me in LA. She introduced me to an incredible group of women who continue to be awesome. She introduced me to the community she had built from the ground up. A digital property that is so much deeper than her sexual conquests. It’s a group of writers, creatives, loyal readers (some who may or may not have fetishes or want to sleep with the site’s founder) and corporate sponsors. It’s also a space where an unwed bride bravely shared her experience and overcame her fears, and an outlet for a suicidal college student to turn to when he had nowhere else to go. It’s a soundboard for things you wish you could say and things you already did. It’s about your journey of self-discovery and the feeling of, “I know exactly what she/he is talking about.” When the live stage show started, she asked me to be a part of it and I instantly became a part of the Talk Nerdy Family.
This past year has been one of the most difficult of my life. I moved across the country leaving my entire support system of all my closest friends and family, started a new job at a startup in a brand new industry, leased a car, started doing yoga regularly, ran my second half marathon, and got laid off from the job that moved me across the country in the first place. There were bad dates, good dates, a live sex show at a fetish club downtown, an all-day shaman coach workshop, and VIP Comicon parties. Most important though, there was growth. Personal growth that I did not realize I was capable of and could not have experienced had I not had the year I did. People come in and out of your life at exactly the moments when they need to. Some will be recurring characters; guiding you through to the end. Some will make memorable cameos and others will die after the first two chapters. I am grateful that Jen turned out to be a recurring character, not just a face in my high school yearbook.
Our 10-year high school reunion rapidly approaching, Jen begged me to go. Not only am I going, I’m planning the whole damn event but that’s mainly because I’m unemployed and love to give myself projects. Also the fact that I am all too aware that we’re going back to West Hartford, Connecticut, a place I both love and hate miserably, and that fear that I might revert back to being sixteen all over again overwhelms me. Many of our classmates will be married, have children, live in the suburbs, and that’s great for them. I used to think because I wasn’t following that same path that I was somehow less than them or that I just wasn’t where I “should” be. Yet at 28 years-old with a renewed sense of self-worth, appreciation for who we are, where we’ve been, our respective roles in the new media landscape, where we’re going, and being proud of the life we’ve created, we will no doubt walk into that reunion (gainfully employed or not) heads held high and proud. Jen of course wants us to show up Romey & Michelle style complete with a helicopter and an eccentric startup co-founder millionaire as her date. And she should. Actually, we both should.
So what can I tell you about Jen Friel? She’s incredibly brave to put herself out there, to follow her passion and turn it into a profitable career. Those that know her best, know the “real” Jen and that for as much detail as she gives to her readers and followers, she leaves a little part of herself to the imagination. She is one of the most creative, smart, entrepreneurial, kind, energetic, supportive, fun, beautiful, and curious women I have had the honor to call ‘friend.’ I am proud of her and all she has accomplished and look forward to the rest of the ride. Starting with a plane ticket from LAX to BDL in November. Let’s go!
Editors note: This post made me cry so so hard. Hilarious considering I was poolside in a bikini at the time in Miami after a date had ditched me. Stephanie, you are a very beautiful soul and I am extremely grateful to have you in my life. Many blessings. xoxoxo