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“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” -C.S. Lewis

I always find friends in the most unlikely places at the most unexpected times. I left a job in NYC to come back to school to get my master’s in Syracuse, but I didn’t really anticipate wanting to socialize or live it up like a student again. After all, I got through that in college and felt confident with the relationships I’d built over my lifetime. 

For some reason, I was so sure that I’d maxed out on friendship, that no one could possibly come into my life and offer a relationship worth the extra effort. 

Well, I was in for a big surprise. A year after starting my program at SU, I find it so unbelievably hard to fathom that so many wonderful people have entered my life and made a lasting impact over such a short period of time. I can’t even count how many times I’ve said, “You too? I thought I was the only one.” 

Thanks, Syracuse friends. I thought I was the only one.

-SJ

“The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep.” -Edgar Watson Howe

Secrets can stir inside a person forever, and it’s not until that secret is released that you feel some sort of relief. Sometimes they’re our own secrets, or we may be keeping the secrets of others. Getting a secret off your chest feels great, but it ends up becoming someone else’s secret to keep.

Then there’s PostSecret, a site that started out as a social experiment by a guy named Frank. Strangers sent him their secrets on a postcard, and he published them anonymously on a blog. People around the globe began submitting secrets to Frank, allowing everyone the chance to air their dirty laundry without jeopardizing their identities. And best of all, we (the web-goers) can read those secrets and laugh/cry/sympathize with the creators of those mysterious cards.

PostSecret is now a traveling roadshow of sorts, with museums and cultural centers hosting exhibits worldwide. This weekend, I attended the PostSecret exhibit at Syracuse’s Everson Museum of Art with a fellow Untied journalist. As we walked among the walls of postcards, we took note of the many themes repeating throughout. We couldn’t help but notice the universal nature of heartbreak. Divorce came up quite a few times, specifically. I thought you’d appreciate some of the “secrets” we read about love lost:

“You broke up with me. I pissed in your sauces.”

“I think I would feel better if I shoved his clubs up his ASS.” [Photo of golf clubs in the background.]

“I don’t love you anymore. I’m sorry.”

“You promised never to do what my ex did… he would go online and cyber with women… you’ve never done that, you go online and cyber with men.”

“I knew it was a mistake on our honeymoon. I don’t think I’ll ever have the courage to leave. 9 yrs later (+2 kids) we’re still together.”

“Johnny Depp is the name of my vibrator!”

“I feel trapped in my perfect relationship.”

Have a secret you’d like to share? Tell Frank–quite possibly the world, too–by mailing your postcard to:

PostSecret
13345 Copper Ridge Road
Germantown, Maryland 20874

-SJ

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott

Lately I feel like there’s a figurative storm looming above me, and I should feel threatened by these gray clouds and mumbled thunder in the distance.

Guess what? Not scared.

There’s no point in fearing for the future if you know you’re prepared–or at least preparing–for the impending storm. I’m confident in my abilities and strengths. And I’m aware of my weaknesses, and I appreciate those people who genuinely want to see me succeed. I’m not too concerned by the downers who want to step in my way.

If you’re questioning your future or your ability to achieve your goals, remind yourself of the steps you’ve taken to get where you are, and continue taking the steps to master your area of expertise.

I referenced the Desiderata in my earliest blog post. There’s another part of this poem/prayer that fits with today’s topic:

“Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

Stick to your goals, know that you’re qualified and only enhancing the quality of your craft. No one can take away your talent or your dreams.

You didn’t get as far as you are by floating on luck alone.

SJ

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” -Dr. Suess

Never apologize for being yourself. Granted, this advice doesn’t warrant unnecessarily rude or extreme behavior.

Be yourself. Cultivate your personality, strengths of character. If you’re genuinely happy with the person you are, the people around you that actually matter will be just as happy with you. If you’re constantly treated with disregard or cynicism, rid your life of the naysayers and cynics.

Negative people are toxic. Make every effort to be on good terms with those around you, but cut out the human diseases who are out to harm you. You’re smart enough to know who your friends are and who’s not worth the time of day.

In yesterday’s Essence of Essjay, I referenced the concept of “home,” the place where you’re understood and accepted for who you are. Recreate a sense of home wherever you go by seeking the company of supportive and loving individuals who sincerely appreciate your company and every aspect of your rich personality.

-sj

“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.” -Christian Morganstern

Dorothy wanted nothing more than to ditch Kansas. And when she did, she wanted nothing more than to get back home.

Buffalo, NY is my Kansas. I grew up in B-lo and wanted to bust out of that dinky city. I spent a good chunk of my late teens and 20s wandering the world, trying to find a place where I fit in. Buffalo’s a pretty tightly knit community where everyone is a friend of a friend, and the rule of six degrees of separation doesn’t apply. The only way to escape the grip of my hometown was to run away and fall in love with some other place.

A summer in Central America, semester in Europe, and a healthy stint as a Manhattanite later, I knew where home was. It’s said that home is where the heart is, and my heart’s in Buffalo.

Last weekend, a friend and I took a roadtrip to my hometown. I showed her the house where I grew up and the church I attended as a youngster, introduced her to friends, even brought her to classic Buffalo eateries (Buffalonians, I’m talking Jim’s Steakout, Pano’s and Anchor Bar).

Buffalo is the “city of good neighbors,” and it’s no wonder why. Everyone is smiling, making small talk, basking in mutual hometown pride. There’s no other city where a total stranger at a restaurant bar becomes a new friend instantly, where an otherwise obnoxious accent is as comforting as a lullaby, where you never have to pay cover charges at a bar because you took high school algebra with the bouncer’s third cousin. Only in Buffalo does my frumpy eclectic sense of style warrant compliments instead of sneers. I love my city, where chicken wings with bleu cheese sauce and doughy pizza is our soul food. Where we grew up watching American and Canadian news and children’s shows.

There’s no place like home.

-SJ

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bad days are hard to not carry on to the next day. But why let something in the past grate on your energy, happiness and mood when all is said and done? Letting go of yesterday doesn’t mean you’ve given up or given in. It means you’re above all the bologna that life and other people have thrown at you.

If you’ve made some terrible, unforgivable mistake, then concentrate on making a positive effort to fix the wrongs tomorrow. If you can’t make things right, you’ll have to let time take its course. It hurts, and it can cause seemingly endless anxiety. Just know that the universe has a mysterious, serendipitous way of untangling the inevitable knots in our lives. Be proactive if and when you can. Be patient otherwise.

When tomorrow comes, concern yourself with something so positive that yesterday is but an afterthought. Take a few moments to remind yourself what is important in life, and try to count your blessings. Let yourself smile. Send out positive vibes and acknowledge every ray of sunshine, kind word and opportunity to laugh. To take these things for granted would be a waste of chances to feel better.

To a happy today and a happier tomorrow,

–SJ

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains…” Diane Ackerman

Remember how every first day of school always smelled the same? I used to describe it as the small of dirt and worms, only because it reminded me of the aroma of a rainy day, which displeased me greatly. Even now, I’ll wake up early and get a quick whiff of dew, grass and dirt just as the sun is rising. Chills tickle my spine and a mini anxiety attack sneaks up.

Then there are the smells that remind me of home, Sunday mornings, Christmas snow storms and people I love. Though I don’t eat most types of meat, the smell of chorizo, scrambled eggs and tortillas draws me out of my bed and to the breakfast table when I’m home visiting my family. 

A light chlorine smell reminds me of summer and cleanliness, sending a jolt of energy and enthusiasm over me.

Scents trigger all sorts of memories and moods, both good and bad. Decide what puts you in a happy place rather than one full of anxiety or sadness. I know that,  for me, there will never be boiled cabbage or Polish sausage cooked in my house because I once caught a case of food poisoning from this pungent dish. And saffron rice gives me headaches, so paella is something I try to avoid. But jasmine rice? Whole different ball game.

Actually, I dislike the smell of most flowers, save for roses. I could sniff those all day long.

Today, be aware of the feelings you get when you inhale. Do you feel happy? Anxious? Nervous? Sexy? Calm? Smart? Energized? Recreate positive memories by surrounding yourself with those scents that draw from a happier place and time. I recommend spending an entire day in the Yankee Candle Co. or sniffing bottles of body wash and lotion at Bath and Body Works. Or, even better, pick wild flowers or introduce fresh, natural scents to your home. Who doesn’t think of summer weekends when she gets a hint of freshly cut grass tickling her nose?

Need some suggestions? Vanilla and lavender have a calming effect. Citrus and minty smells enhance alertness. 

For more research about the effects of scents, visit www.senseofsmell.org.

-sj

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” -Boris Pasternak

Life is an endless bucket of surprises. Some are the kind of surprises that you don’t want:

“I’m leaving you for a pool boy.”

“Ms. X, I have bad news about your health.”

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you…”

AHHHHHH!

But life has a pleasant way of throwing quirky and serendipitous surprises your way. Be thankful for them when they come, and make sure you thank the person responsible for the surprise if applicable. For example, your boss lets you out early and you have just enough time to make it to your nephew’s birthday party. (That happened to me yesterday!) Or a friend sends you an e-mail to let you know she misses you and wants a coffee date this weekend.

Surprises are the sprinkles on the ice cream cone that is life.

SJ

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we took so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened up for us.” Helen Keller

You didn’t get the job you thought was in the bag. Your ex got the kids on Halloween–your favorite night to spend with the family. You stepped on the scale only to see a spike in pounds.

These are the downers in life that can irk you ’til no end, leaving you wallowing in self pity, skeptical of the world and irritated by positive people. 

Life seems to be crumbling, but trust me on this: There’s a silver lining to every cloud. Find the positives for every negative. 

When you don’t get the job, keep your head up. Look around some more. Chances are you’ll find  bigger and better opportunities. It won’t be clear to you right away, so be patient. Take action where you can and let the flow of the universe guide the rest.

Kid-less on Halloween? Look at the bright side. This is your first opp in a while to have an spooky party with just adults. Heck, stay up past midnight for once. Gather some grownups and spike the punch. 😉 It won’t be the same as chasing the little gremlins from house to house, but it will be fun experiencing a different side to the bewitching night.

Everyone fears gaining a few pounds. But this could be a wake-up call. You’re not paying enough attention to yourself and your own habits and well being lately. Start loving yourself and caring for your body. A few miles of walking or jogging will help you shed the added weight, but it will also get your lungs clearer and your mind off recent downers. While getting your body in shape, you’re engaging a therapy of sorts. Consider this the beginning of a new, independent you–body and soul.

You’re responsible for your own happiness. Don’t let others determine your positive attitude. Look for the best in others and daily life. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling chipper and inspiring to others relax on the cynicism.

SJ

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I’ve been on this smoothie kick lately, and I feel great about it. I bought a blender-smoothie maker combo about a month ago, and it’s pretty much my new best friend. It was surprisingly easy to kick my bagel and cream cheese addiction by replacing the carb-cream disaster with a much healthier option that gives me enough energy to get through the morning.

I think Brillat-Savarin was on to something. My friend Cindia calls it “The Sadness” when you have way too much of a good food. Afterwards, the guilt kicks in, along with the weighed-down feeling of having a brick of fat and oil sitting in your stomach. So just avoid “The Sadness” and embrace “The Gladness”–the feeling you get when you’ve had a delightfully fruity, nutritious, refreshing smoothie.

I wake up a few minutes early and throw the following ingredients in the blender for a spin:

– Half cup fat-free vanilla yogurt.

– Frozen melon cubes (I’ve read that melon stays good in the freezer for up to a month)

– Crystal Light lemonade (as much as you like, depending on the consistency you prefer)

– Three ice cubes

– Optional: berries, fruits, juices, frozen mixers. Remember, the more you add, the higher the caloric content of the drink.

Smoothies at restaurants and ice cream shops can be deceiving. Just because it’s a smoothie doesn’t mean it’s healthier than a milkshake. Opt for skim milk instead of cream, 2% or ice cream. Try Splenda over sugar. You’re better off making your own at home where you have total control over the ingredients.

Mix up your morning routine with all sorts of flavors. Try to use fruits that are in season. This web site is a great place to browse recipes and read user feedback.

-sj