Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…



As we get older it’s not unusual to still dream about getting tested in school. Running late for class. Fears of not knowing the subject. All those nightmares of feeling vulnerable and unprepared. I just never expected to be living them. 

To obtain my long-term visa in France, I had to be tested on my language skills. (Remember, I had none when I arrived.) I took the first test, and passed. (I’ll skip over the tears and fears here.) I thought that would be the last time. I was wrong. I needed to take the next level test this year. It sounds a little silly, even as I type this, but I was terrified. In my head I had passing and failing all tangled up with being loved, accepted, included…worthy. The logical part of my brain (which doesn’t often win out) whispered that wasn’t true, but I couldn’t hear it over the fear. Now some might say, that’s ridiculous…nothing to be afraid of, and that may be the sane thing to say, but the fact is, I was afraid. It took all the courage I could summon up to study every day, three times a day. Study and cry, and study some more. 

I put on my favorite dress and prayed it would be lucky. I took the four part, full day exam, and spoiler alert, I survived. I waited five weeks to get the results, which came in an email yesterday. I saw the tag line. My heart was pounding. If I didn’t open it, I still had a chance. My brain said open it, but the blood pounding in my ears said no! I opened it. Scanned the first line – and there it was – “Felicitations” (Congratulations) — I passed. 

In the afternoon, I painted a picture. Nothing in my life had really changed. I was still loved. But maybe I quieted the voices of fear, just a little. I smiled with each stroke. Knowing, I had been brave. And in telling you, maybe, with whatever it is you’re facing, you can read these words, look at the painting, and quiet your own voices of fear…just a little.

Before writing this today, I studied my French lesson, as I do every day. It’s not over, there is so much to learn. And the world will continue to test. But I made it to this day! We made it to this day! And this is a reason to celebrate. Felicitations, my brave friends! Felicitations!

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The audacity to just enjoy!

We went to Margaux’s dance recital. The young girls clearly ranged from elegant to stumbling. It was easy to tell them apart, but not if you looked at the parents and grandparents in the audience. Everyone beamed and clapped – to them, us, there was no difference, only the beauty of the dance. 

During my college summer vacations, I worked for the Recreation Department. In the mornings at the high school gym, I helped teach gymnastics to very young girls. Some were there because they had potential, and others maybe just to get a grip on a slight weight problem. Either way, I spent the summer getting kicked in the head spotting wayward aerials. Just as with dance, we held an exhibition (and I use the term loosely) at the end of the summer. Some had improved. Others still barely fit into their pink leotards, but again, everyone beamed. They were a part of something bigger than themselves. 

Children have it right. This daring to be imperfect. This courage to attempt. This audacity to just enjoy!  I don’t want to lose this. I don’t want anyone to lose this. I suppose to make this happen we have to continue to see the world with our hearts. To see others, strangers, in the same light as we do these misstepping young dancers, these fumbling gymnasts. What if we saw each other in this way?  Wouldn’t that be something to applaud! Something to make us all beam!  

Maybe today, we can all try a little harder to find our way to this light. Enjoy!

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The word essay comes from the french word “essayer” which means to try. I guess that’s what I am doing each morning, when I write these essays, I’m just trying, trying to learn more, love bigger, see further, live better. Maybe that’s what we are all doing. I hope so. There is so much beauty in the attempt.

But that’s not to say it’s easy.

Each day before I write, I do my French lessons with Duolingo. Some days, (not many at all), I breeze through the daily goal and get on with my writing. Other days, (a lot of them), I feel like I’m losing weight with each word typed. Nearly every day there is a piece of my brain that says, just quit. Quit already. But then there is a piece of my heart, the one that loves the man that lives in a country that speaks this weight-loss language, and I try — J’essaie.

And every once in a while, I’m rewarded, like when the clerk understands, when I say bicarbonate de soude, that I need baking soda.  My husband claps in the grocery aisle. We take our victories where we can. And we wake up and we try once again. Maybe this time with a little more courage, strength, and even more important, a little more empathy for all those who are making the attempt.  For all those who are struggling for the tiniest break. For those longing for a round of applause in the grocery store.  

Life is a beautiful journey. I think the doctors and lawyers get it right when they say they are “practicing.” Aren’t we all. Today, I wish you the most success in your attempt to learn, to love, to see, to live.  “Bonne journée !”