We made it!

By we I mean you and I both because honestly this blog is years of self-doubt (and procrastination) in the making.

First of all, I am so happy you’re here. It means we just became reeeeally close because you’re about to know some of the most vulnerable parts of me. Jean Unseen… get it? ;)

Even if you just stumbled upon this blog, which is something I myself so often do with blogs, my hope is that you’ll find something beneficial while you’re here that sparks your motivation and positively affects you for this moment.

Hi! I’m Tina Jean. I’m a mama. I’m 32 years old and I’m Congolese-American. I’m a commercial model, a lifestyle blogger, a widow, a survivor, a mental health volunteer and advocate, a mentor and a totally free spirit. Don’t try to put me in a box because I won’t fit 😉 I believe compassion is the cure but doesn’t have to come at the expense of your self-worth. I also believe that giving-back and sharing our most defining experiences with one another is what makes the world go ‘round. 

I was born in the countryside of Upstate, New York but raised in various places. I never lived in one place growing up long enough to identify that place as home but for the majority of my life we lived overseas in Africa and have since settled back in the US. I am what they call a “third-culture-kid.” I am biracial, my mother is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and my father is from Upstate, NY. My parents met when my dad was living and working in Congo. He is one of the most African Mendele (“white men”) in the world-LOL. He and my mother are by far the most interesting and influential people I know.

Because of my dads job my family was fortunate to live in some amazing places. We got to see and experience incredible parts of the world but at the same time, as a young girl it was a life of constant and extreme changes to my environment and that was hard to adjust to. In the beginning, I hated that life and struggled for stability and belonging both in my personal life— having to constantly change my identity to fit in with my peers and in my environment. Eventually, in high school things got a little better because I played sports at my international school in Morocco and thus, was able to find some sort of identity in that.

My teams traveled around Europe and North Africa and stayed with host families for weeks at a time. Having the (crazy) experiences that came with being a teenager let loose around the world also opened my eyes to so many diverse cultures and people at a really young age. Growing older, I appreciated being able to adapt to new environments, new people and new situations. After all, I had done so my whole life.

When I was nineteen I moved back to the US and was eager to just go to college, live my dreams, settle down and get back to the life of a “normal” American teen. I had already missed those cool milestones teenagers talk about like homecoming, prom and Friday night football games with friends. Instead, my life changed fast and dramatically when I added mama, military wife, survivor, and widow to my journey over the next four years when I was barely legal to even drink in the US.

Once a very naive, anxious, but very bubbly and free spirited teen who just wanted to fit in— in the blink of an eye I grew up extremely fast and in such a short amount of time. How the heck did I go from traveling around the world as a kid; hanging with local friends trying to figure out ways to buy beer in America with no fake IDs and then suddenly becoming the sole decision maker for a funeral and estate? What even is an estate? I had no idea there were so many different types of responsibility.

Nevertheless here we are, I am who I am now because of it all. Everything good, bad and extremely ugly over these years has lead me here to this moment in time. I am the mother of a beautiful baby girl (OK, she’s actually 7) and I’m passionate about being an example to her and other young girls who will inevitably face their own challenges in life.

One of the most important lessons I learned from my parents is that life isn’t about simply being self serving and then dying. If you have a purpose or a passion, if you have experience and/or background in any area: life is about sharing that knowledge with those who may benefit from hearing your voice or your story. Growing up, my dad would say to us “…if you teach a man how to fish you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” You know that quote, right? As an avid-fisherman/scientist/agriculture specialist in the Peace Corps, I watched him take something he loved and had plenty of experience in and use it for a greater good for places and people less fortunate. My entire life has been shaped by this example.

At 29, I now have my own sense of purpose, passion and joy and its mostly because of the challenges, adversities and mental health battles I’ve faced in the past and work towards overcoming each and every day. My goal is to share such reality with you— I am a woman, I am a mother, I am a millennial, I am a dreamer, I am a survivor, I am grateful for my life, but I am also somebody who struggles in the pursuit of that courage and strength often and I am not afraid to say that.

It pains me that too often in our current society we are hyper focused on all of the rainbows and butterflies in our neighbors lives so much so that many of us are unhappy or have forgotten whats real in our own. This is such a dangerous trend because in recent years, we’ve seen a huge spark in mental health issues like depression, anxiety and suicide: all of which have affected my life in one way or another for different reasons.

One-thousand percent life is full of obstacles and lessons. No matter what you’ve been through, are going through, no matter what stage of life you’re currently in or whatever emotions you’re currently wrestling with; let that be your purpose, let that be your motivation, let that be the reason you grow in consciousness and improve your life. Many of us just choose to show the good things in our lives. But its the things that go mostly unseen to the world; the real challenges we face that shape us and allow us to grow and become more of who we want to be.

It’s scary to be vulnerable to the world and it’s no wonder people don’t like to share the things closest to their hearts in fear of judgment and/or public persecution. I’ve definitely been there before. As I said, creating this blog took a long time. Developing it seriously took about two years because I’m technologically unsavvy but mustering up the courage and strength to speak my voice? It’s taken me a lot longer than that. As I sit here though, sweaty armpits, sticky palms and all; completing this ‘start here’ page months after having actually started it. I feel a great sense of joy and finally, a great sense of direction.

I am now living out some of my biggest dreams! I am a commercial model in NYC, I am a Mental Health advocate for AFSP (America’s Foundation for Suicide Prevention), a mentor with TAPS for my fellow widows, and now A WRITER/BLOGGER! 

Finding our purpose in life is hard but often it does comes from pain. It’s ultimately up to us and us alone to begin to put that pain into perspective and decide whether or not we are going to let it consume us or help us refocus and re-examine the things that are important in our lives. Over the years I’ve gained tools through my experiences, through traditional and non-traditional therapy, through classes, etc and it’s my intention to share some of the things I’ve learned about coping and living-well with you.

Wherever you are in your lives, whatever age or stage, whatever your background is: I hope you find something in here that is useful to you and helps you to make the best of whatever cards you’ve been dealt at this moment in your life. Something that encourages you to KEEP GOING. I hope it motivates you to live in your truth, spread or keep spreading your voice and motivates you to continue to face your fears and go after your dreams no matter what.

Start now, start with whatever you have in you. Because when you do… you never know who else you might be inspiring along the process to also find their purpose through their passions and/or pain too.

I credit my family, a few good friends, so many random but inspiring blogs, and everything else I’ve mentioned previously for having gotten me to this point. Hopefully I can inspire you to do the same.

The Best Is Yet to Come

Start now, start with whatever you have in you. Because when you do… you never know who else you might be inspiring along the process to also find their purpose through their passions and/or pain too. 


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