Jennifer Hartwick is a writer based in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is a University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate, mother of two boys and is currently working on publishing her first book about her father’s journey with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. The inspiration for the literary work comes from her personal story as a caregiver to her dad and chronicles each chapter of the experience in a raw, truthful and authentic way. Jennifer’s hope is that her words “helps even just one person not feel alone in their journey.” She encourages everyone to love and enjoy the people around them because life is short. Along with her passion for writing, Jennifer is a full-time video game recruiter for Electronic Arts, a company that develops and delivers games, content and online services for mobile devices, personal computers and more. Read on to learn more about Jennifer and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Jennifer Hartwick
Heritage: “Thai-Rish” Thai and Irish
Military kid, so no real hometown. But my best answer is “I was born on an Air Force base in Japan and we moved every two years until I was in high school.”
Current City: Las Vegas, NV
Full-time video game recruiter (Senior Technical Recruiter for Electronic Arts) while writing my first book about my Dad’s journey with early on-set Alzheimer’s.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
This is my first book and it can seem really daunting getting started. I did a bunch of research to start and that just made it feel even more overwhelming. I finally decided to push all of that out of my way and just sat down and started writing from the heart. It just poured out from that point on. So, my advice is to not overthink it. Just sit down and get started.
How did you get your start?
My dad’s journey with early on-set Alzheimer’s has been incredibly tough for my family. I’ve always been the one to live the closest to my parents, so all the responsibilities have fallen on my shoulders. My dad was 59 when he started showing signs of something being “off.” And he passed away at 70. That was 11 years of trying to figure out what was going on and how to handle every chapter as it hit us. And I was a mom with two young kids and a full-time job. It was a total “sandwich generation” situation. Plus, my mom is from another country and didn’t understand enough on how to take care of things as they came up because my Dad always took care of her, so I really had two parents and two kids I was taking care of. I felt so alone in my journey because most “kids of Alz” are in their 60’s since their parents are usually in their 80’s when they get Alzheimer’s or dementia. They’re not usually working or have kids in the home anymore, so their life demands are a bit different than what I was going through. I was in my late 30’s, early 40’s going through it and had no one who could understand what I was dealing with. So, I’m writing my book in hopes that it helps even just one person not feel alone in their journey.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
I knew I couldn’t be in my house writing my book. I was going to cry like my heart was breaking all over again, so I needed a safe space alone where I could really “go there.” So, I booked myself a room at the Surf and Sand hotel in Laguna Beach, opened up the balcony doors and started my first chapters staring out into the ocean. It was such a peaceful and monumental moment in my heart.
I booked myself back into the hotel this past June and finished my first draft while there. I felt such incredible peace knowing I did it! And then I went to sleep that night in the hotel bed and almost had a panic attack because my mind started racing with “Oh my gosh… what now??” And I knew the real work was about to begin. The editing, the finding a publisher… all the next steps to come.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Right now, since I have a full-time career in recruiting and a new life as a writer, the biggest challenge has been balance and time. It is incredibly hard to find the time to open my heart, open my mind and let the thoughts float onto paper - because I’m usually in the zone of work or kids and a lot of stress. I live for the quick nights I can get away and be alone to write. Nothing against my family, ha!
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I think people are always surprised when they ask, “What are you?” And then I say, “Half Thai, Half Caucasian” and their usual next question is “So were you born in Thailand?” And I say “Nope. I was born in Japan.” And then they’re totally confused! But I lived in four different countries and four different states growing up.
Do you have any organizations or non-profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
Absolutely want to highlight the Alzheimer’s Association. The people involved have usually had some sort of loss to the disease and so they really “get” us. My dad was originally from Brooklyn, so the year after he passed, we all got together as a family and did the Alzheimer’s Walk in Brooklyn and the event coordinator was an awesome woman named Alex and she knew I was flying in. She made sure to have me be a part of the ceremony and stand on stage while they talked about my loss. It was an amazing experience to be standing on that stage in a park my Dad probably went to as a kid. I totally got overwhelmed with emotion. Alex made it such a magical trip for me and my family.
Do you have any mentors?
I have been very lucky to have had many strong female mentors in my lifetime but the first one who absolutely changed my life was Lynn Forese in 1998. Lynn was one of the few female Senior Managers in Information Technology at an airline company. It was rare then and unfortunately it’s still pretty rare now. She had joined a consulting company, hired me as her Assistant and then gave me my first opportunity in recruiting/hiring for her division. She will kill me for saying this, but she was a little bit of a micromanager (I said little bit, Lynn!) but honestly, I needed that then. She groomed me SO tight on recruiting that I learned how to anticipate the next question, the next response, the next need and how to always be one step ahead. I will forever be grateful to her.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self?
I would tell her that life is so much shorter than we realize. The time we have with our loved ones is not guaranteed. So, enjoy the people around you. Give them your time and full attention. Someday all you’ll have are the memories. Think to yourself, if I lost that person tomorrow, would I be ok with how things stand with us? I can thankfully say I have zero regrets with my Dad. We had an awesome relationship. He was my “ride or die” my entire life. I know he was proud of me. And I did everything I could for him in his last years. And I have AMAZING childhood memories that I can thank him for. When he was in his last moments, I whispered in his ear “You are the BEST Dad. THANK YOU!!” and I know he heard me.
Where did you study at?
I first started school at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont but graduated from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I did the ten-year plan. Hey! I finished!
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Taking myself from being someone with no plan (and not really caring that I didn’t have a plan in life) to someone who put themselves back in school, paid for it myself, graduated and grew down an amazing path in recruiting and finally being able to mix in a project of love (writing my book). I hate when people say, “Oh my gosh, you’re so lucky.” This was not luck. This was hard work. I went to school full-time while I worked full-time and never took a summer off from my studies. We also completely lost our shirts during the real estate bust in 2008. We had to rebuild everything. I feel like it diminishes someone’s accomplishments when you tell them how lucky they are.
And of course, my family. I have two boys (age 11 and 14) who say “Thank you” after every meal. Not sure how I pulled that one off, but I’ll take it!
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