life as a ginger


Life as a ginger is quite unique and no one except another ginger can fully understand it. There is kind of this ginger nod you give one another in passing– like i see you, i feel you. Solidarity and love.

So what is it like to be ginger? Besides uniquely beautiful and rare–only 1-2% of the human population has red hair!

Being ginger means you are hyper sensitive. To everything.

You are sensitive to the sun. Your mother likely carried a bottle of sunblock in her purse to lather you in continuously throughout the day. My mom even bought me blue sunblock as a kid to try and make me feel cool (it worked). I was always the special kid wearing a big foam visor on the beach. One time on a family vacation in the Dominican Republic growing up, my mom made me, my sister, and my brother wear these god-awful safari visors and it made me so happy. Misery loves company.

Gingers are sensitive to medicine. I continue to learn more and more about my body and what it can handle. I can’t handle most pain killers. When I had my wisdom teeth removed, I threw out my painkillers because they made me jittery and nauseous. When I was two, I almost died in the hospital from a reaction to an antibiotic. I am deathly allergic to two antibiotics. Gingers require unique doses of anesthesia different from the general population because we special, yo.

Gingers’ skin will always be some shade of red. No, I don’t have scarlet fever. My face is rosy when I drink alcohol (literally one sip and hello you pretty pink cheeks). My face is rosy when I am cold, when I am hot, when I am laughing, when I am sleepy, when I am mad, when I am embarrassed- it goes on. If my face is not some shade of pink or red you should probably seek medical attention because I am likely about to faint.

Another part of the ginger experience- older people LOVE YOU. I can’t tell you how many times I have been stopped by elderly men and women just for them to make a sweet comment about my hair. When I was younger, it was not trendy or cool to have red hair. But old people made me feel loved and beautiful.

There is no right or wrong way to be ginger. Some are covered in freckles, some have none, or some-like me- sprout some freckles in the summer. There are so many different shades and textures-but a real ginger can always tell if the color is natural. My hair is not really very straight or wavy- a special in-between. And it is red/brown.

No one else in my family has red hair; it goes back generations. My brother does get a little red in his beard and for a brief moment I feel some sense of belonging in the family (hah).

My red hair has become an integral part of my identity. I love it. I didn’t always, but I do cherish it now.

Whoever you are and whatever you look like, love yo self. You are beautifully and uniquely you, my friend.





little jessica, circa ’94 or ’95. rocking the ginger bangs.



why my job is my heart



My job is a blast. I like to think I get paid to make friends. I manage a nonprofit that is home to just under fifty international students and scholars that attend the University of Michigan. Right now we have 25 countries represented at the center. I learn something new every day. There is no typical week on the job.  One day I may be answering emails and phone calls in the office, the next I may be kayaking on the Huron River with residents.

On the surface, it may seem that my job is simply organizing social and cultural events for students. But there is so much more happening. There is a reason I get all jazzed up about my work—and emotional. The work that happens at my nonprofit is invaluable to me and I truly believe it is invaluable to the world. We are working towards peace. We are working towards global harmony. Yes, big, heavy goals. But I see the magic happen every semester. Students from all over the world meet people they may have assumed they have nothing in common with; they may have never been able to relate to one another. Furthermore, there may even be tension between some folks from different cultures for historic reasons. There may be differences present that for years worked to divide people, prevent relationships. We work to bridge those gaps.

Despite rapidly increasing globalization, we live in a world where differences continue to lead to tension, war, and fear.

Just a few weeks ago, an anti-Islam message was chalked on the University of Michigan Diag. “Stop Islam” it read.

A Pew Study released in 2012 that focused on a span of six years (2007-2012) highlights the ever-increasing social hostilities involving religion. Primary finding: countries with religion related terrorist violence doubled during that six year time frame. I cannot confirm this right now with evidence based research, but I predict that hostilities involving religion have increased dramatically since 2012. Just turn on the news. Or take a walk on the Diag. Or take a look at the leading US Republican Presidential Candidate suggesting we ban Muslims and build a wall to block “outsiders.”

We live in a world that teaches us to fear the “other.” There are very few opportunities for folks from different religions, cultures, or political backgrounds to come together in a safe space to get to know one another, break down stereotypes, and build relationships.

That is where my work comes in.

On the surface, it may appear to just be a movie night or community meal. But in reality there is a lot more going on under the surface. People that may have never had a chance to get to know one another before are becoming friends, allies. Cultural and religious differences are being shared and valued. It is a beautiful thing. And it is the very reason I am in love with my job.

Sometimes it is hard because the long-term effects of our work are hard to measure. We hope that the time spent at our center leads to people going into the world and contributing to peace and harmony. We hope it doesn’t stop here. And usually, it doesn’t. Nothing makes my heart skip a beat like seeing pictures of former residents hanging out in different states or countries after they have left the center. I freeze for a moment and think to myself- it’s happening. This is so beautiful. And I tear up and have some ice cream because it’s the little things, right?

I am here to learn too. I learn things every day on the job. How should I greet this resident coming from said country-should I bow, shake hands, hug? Is this challenge occurring because of a cultural reason? What celebrations are native to said country? How can I make this community more inclusive? How can I improve?

I’ve been working at my job for close to 2.5 years and it has felt like home since I stepped in the front door. My job is my heart.

Go spread some peace and love, all.