Jennifer Pastiloff’s book, On Being Human, resonated with me so much that I could hear parts of it repeating in my head. At one point, she recounts her mother saying to her, “If you keep doing what Jenny Jen P has always done, you’ll keep getting what Jenny Jen P has always gotten.” If you want something different, the big question is “now what?” Her book is about finding the ways to be ready to see where you are stuck and being inspired to make the changes for your challenges.

My senior year of high school, I remember being asked to write my obituary and it felt odd. We were meant to imagine if we met our future goals by the time we died. I had never been to a funeral and it seemed like that would only happen so far in my future.

But for Jennifer Pastiloff, it was not foreign. She spent much of her young life thinking about death and obituaries. Her father died when he was 38 years old, and ten years later her step-father, Frank, died when he was 39 years old, days before she was meant to graduate from high school. She never expected to live long enough to make it past 38.

It would be decades before she opened herself to her grief, and along the way she struggled with depression, anorexia, chronic ear infections, distorted hearing and hearing loss. She was constantly told to “pay attention,” but no one asked why she wasn’t. 

She shares this journey in her book explaining, “I have spent my whole life trying to hide who I was, trying to hide my clinical depression and my hearing loss and my swallowed grief and the fact that I was a college dropout and that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.” In her workshops, there is no hiding. She asks everyone to show up, be fall-in-loveable and be themselves. She questions at every session: “How do we find light when we think we belong to darkness?”

I loved when she said: “We are not our bullshit stories, we are not the size of our thighs, we are not things we spoke as a child, we are not our depression, we are not our disabilities, we are not the lies other people have told us about ourselves. We are love.” In order to move forward, we have to stop listening to our fear.

I remember when I showed up to go sky diving as part of 50 challenges I did before I was 50 and talking to my tandem-instructor about scuba diving with sharks. He told me that was far too scary and he would never ever do that. I looked at him in shock. I said, “You get paid every day to jump out of a perfectly well-maintained airplane.” It was the first time I realized what Pastiloff talks about “how we’re all scared of something… How so many of us can do what we thought was impossible. We can start over. We can heal. We can feel. We can live with heartbreak.” Depending on what is familiar to us and our experiences, different things are scary to different people.

Through her personal stories of years of awful jobs and terrible relationships, hearing loss and food issues, Pastiloff shows her bravery to want something more. She asks for help and starts a yoga teacher training class. She is willing to take a risk and leads a yoga retreat in Mexico. She sees a therapist and starts to take anti-depressants.

Pastiloff draws from other cultures including Japan, where “there is a custom for repairing broken pottery called kintsugi. The method emphasizes fractures and breaks instead of hiding them. I began to think of myself as that pottery. Maybe I wasn’t ruined.” As she realizes she has value and can take up space, she thinks about “Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? Because no one is just a mom, just a waitress, just a girl, just a yoga teacher.”

Pastiloff asks each of us to imagine that we are already whole and believe that our dreams can come true. I loved when she talked about how “the moon is never missing any of itself. We just can’t see it. People are like that, too.” It appears throughout the month that the moon disappears but it is always still there.

Whether she was teaching at Canyon Ranch or on Good Morning America, she often had to be fearless-ish. She did not know if she could do something new but she felt scared and did it anyway.

My favorite thing that she talked about was to “Give Yourself a Fucking Medal (No One Will Do It for You).” As Pastiloff explains, “My whole life I had been waiting for permission, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be acknowledged, chosen, given permission to take up space. All my life I had been waiting for someone to tell me I was enough. But you have to do all the hard work of loving yourself yourself. What will you give yourself a fucking medal for?” 

We all want to be fall-in-love-able and fearless-ish. We want more. The way to have courage is to ask for help and to allow yourself to receive it.

Pastiloff recounts a story of a yoga teacher who did not understand her hearing issues and says, “I knew that you could never know what’s going on with someone. How many times had people judged me because they thought I simply was not listening when really I had an invisible disability? How many times had I judged someone in the past? I promised myself to not shame anyone for looking around too much and “not being present” when in reality they might be deaf. I wish I had said to the teacher, “Will you help show me the way? Or shame me for looking?

What will you choose in your relations with yourself and others? Will you give yourself a medal or hide? Will you stay stuck refusing to recognize your limitations or find ways to shoot for the stars?

During COVID19, mask wearing presents new challenges for Jen Pastiloff, so now her mask says, “I read lips.” What if we all wore masks that showed the help we need. What would your mask say?

Learn more about Jen Pastiloff‘s upcoming two-hour “On Being Human” workshop. You will write, listen, move, and open your heart. You will not only find your voice but also use it! What will happen? There will be gentle movement, inspiring writing prompts, meditation, illuminating conversation with a little bit of magic, and a lot of humor. 


  • Lisa Niver

    Lisa Niver is a travel journalist and on-camera host who has explored 101 countries. Find her on KTLA TV or her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views

    We Said Go Travel

    Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. You can find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views on her YouTube channel. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed an Olympic swimmer and numerous bestselling authors and has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. She was named both a Top 10 Travel Influencer and a Top 50 Female Influencer for 2021 by Afluencer and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club.  She has been nominated for the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50/Know Your Value list due out in Summer 2021. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best and has more than 150,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and has also run 15 travel competitions publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on We Said Go Travel. 

    For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded two Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. From 2017 to 2021 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won four times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won in 2021 as Book Critic and in 2019 for one of her KTLA TV segments NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards and a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal.

    Niver has written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave(ish): It's All About Perspective 50 Adventures Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. When she's not SCUBA diving or in her art studio making ceramics, she's helping people find their next dream trip.