Jocelyn Nelson

At 19 her life changed. She loves the outdoors and hopes kids would travel more before thinking about college. 

As a kid what do you remember the most? I grew up in a cul-de-sac, and almost every house on the street had kids my age. I remember growing up in that neighborhood playing games like Pickle, Walkie-Talkie Tag, and Hockey. We would have block parties and slumber parties. It was seriously one of the greatest neighborhoods on Earth, and I will never forget the people I grew up with.

Why do you call Des Moines home? You know, if you would have asked me this a few years ago I would have said because I have to be here, but now that I’m a little older and Des Moines has grown a little “hipper”, I call it home because it is a great city. The people here are so down to Earth, the arts culture is growing tremendously, and “Iowa Nice” is really a thing.

"I will never forget the people I grew up with."

What’s currently keeping you busy? I’m kind of one of those people that have got their hand in a bunch of pots all at the same time. So one of the things I’ve been working on is creating my own business called BrokenTree. We specialize in handmade wood products. We make customized coasters, photo prints on wood, etc. We also make these really cool bracelets made out of recycled rock climbing rope! The other thing that is keeping me busy has been a novel that I’m working on getting published. I’m on my third manuscript and am really excited to start getting it into the hands of some publishers!

What are you most proud of and why? I think I am most proud of the ability to achieve whatever I set my mind to. I can be a pretty hard headed person when it comes to things I want to do in life, whether that be traveling goals, life goals, or finishing that last slice of pizza ;-)

Talk us through one of your difficult times and how you overcame it. When I was 19, I found out I had a condition called Chiari Malformation. It’s a condition that causes your brain to start growing outside of your skull. Needless to say, it was the hardest and scariest moment in my entire life when I had to undergo surgery to fix it. I was bedridden for over a month after surgery and vowed to myself at that point to never stop moving. I never wanted to feel that way ever again, and I also learned never to take my ability to simply move for granted, and from then on I became an avid runner and a self-proclaimed adventure-ist. It literally changed my entire way of life.

From one maker to another what is your tip or advice? Don’t wait around for the right time to do whatever it is your heart is calling you to do. We only live this life once, and while that seems cliche, it is so unbelievably true. There is no better time to pursue your dream than right now.

Who is someone you admire that others may know in the Des Moines area and why do admire them? This one is tough, but the first person(s) that came to mind are the Bairds. Matt is the lead singer of a local band called Spoken and him and his wife are two people I would want to model my life after. They are unapologetically Jesus people but in an untraditional way, and I think that is what I truly appreciate about them. Between expressing themselves in their tattoos, or being in a heavy metal band, to even the way they raise their kids, they are so true to themselves and what they believe in. They combine the edgy lifestyle with Jesus in such a way that it’s powerful.

"Don’t wait around for the right time to do whatever it is your heart is calling you to do."

Walk us through your typical weekend? Most Saturdays you’ll find me at Climb Iowa. When I’m not tackling my book or BrokenTree I’m working there. I love the atmosphere there and the community of people that belong to the gym. When I’m not working, I’m usually spending time with my boyfriend, working on my next novel, or painting.

Convince us to visit one of your favorite places in the Des Moines area. Ledges State Park for sure. It is the best place in the Des Moines area to get some nature time. Outdoorsy activities became really important to me after my surgery and Ledges is the place to be to get your outdoorsy on. Between the beautiful hikes, to the fall colors, to the camping, you’ll really feel like you left flatland Iowa for a slice of a great escape.

"I have a big heart for being environmentally friendly and sustainable."

If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why? I don’t know if this is specific to Des Moines, but I wish that we would get away from the stigma of making our kids know what college they’re going to in high school. I wish that we would start encouraging our children to take a gap year between high school and college to explore the world. Whether that be in another country or here in the USA, there is so much to learn outside of “home” that it’s a chance you just shouldn't waste. I wish I would have done it. And I hope more kids will too. So I would grant every senior the ability to travel to their dream destination!

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? I am a very outdoorsy person, which means I like to spend a lot of time outside in our beautiful world. It also means I have a big heart for being environmentally friendly and sustainable. I care a lot about making sure that I’m doing things that help keep the Earth clean. One of the cool things about BrokenTree is that most of our stuff we sell is found items or reclaimed items. We are keeping climbing rope out of landfills by creating with it and finding our wood pieces out on our hikes. So my goal to be sustainable in my own life also shows through in our company which I take pride in!

Derek Jensen