Paradigm Shift

The last time I was verging on writing an entry, likely about two years ago, this is the intro that was penned out from an undated draft:

“Get a life. These three small words form a pretty basic statement, but its meaning can actually be quite impactful. And I’m not talking about its more common sassily-expressed equivalent that is used as a pre-teen taunt; removing all sarcasm out of it, to actually possess a rich, diverse, and fulfilling life is so important, yet it is also something that can be a struggle to obtain.”

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Ironic the timing of this third wave of realizing that I wanted to start writing here again — that is exactly what I have done. Two and a half years of living in a new city, a plane ride away from everything that I’ve ever known, I would have never guessed that I’d be standing – no, leaping – on my own two feet after enduring so many huge life changes in such a condensed stretch of time, and doing so with so much clarity, contentment, even elation, in a way that is so foreign, yet familiar to me all at the same time.

How is all of this possible? I like to look at it as a rebirth into the life that I knew I always wanted to live, but never gave myself the permission to. Though there is a time and a place for everything, and I know it’s simply because I wasn’t ready for it yet. And that’s why we endure, experience and explore, to get to where we are supposed to be.

I’ve been going and going and going nonstop, and after finally being forced to slow down and stop for a week, literally, after getting hit by some form of seasonal sickness, I’ve been given an opportunity to pause and reflect. In this time, there are two confluences of ideas that I found represent my specific transformation, and they fall somewhere on the spectrum of an identity shift and stretch all the way to being a full-fledged paradigm shift.

What do these mean to me?

Identity: Something used to define oneself by; the essence of who a person is, in one’s purest form. Society generally associates this with what you do, whether it’s work, or hobbies, or who and what you surround yourself by, but if you dig a little deeper, that’s where one’s true identity lives. It’s the qualities, beliefs, core of a person. When you walk into a room, it’s what people see, right off the bat; it’s what they feel emitting from every single pore of who you are.

Shift: A central adjustment. To move to a different place or position; to change an opinion or belief. An alteration like this is generally more subtle, that it can oftentimes go unnoticed upon first glance since it usually happens over an extended period of time, both internally and externally. Though, when comparing the full-circle former and current state, it is lucid, robust and undeniable.

I have always been someone who knows exactly what my essence is. I emit energy, and positivity, lightheartedness, laughter, sincerity and warmth. Joy, at the heart of it all. But what I did not see until recently was my sense of adventure, curiosity, and my willingness to take risks, be brave, even do things that terrified me at one point in time. Facing fears, feeling the anxiety, and doing it anyway. Soon enough, this unease becomes exhilaration, even comfort, to the point where any sense of regularity or stability feels abnormal, even bland.

How is this possible? Especially, coming from somebody who had always craved stability, comfort and consistency. Knowing.

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Therein comes the paradigm shift:

A radical change in thinking from an accepted point of view to a new belief. It’s a revolution, a transformation, a full-blown metamorphosis. It does not have the ability to be as subtle and internal as an identity shift, and it does not just happen, out of the blue without lots of rumblings to induce it to be. It is driven by agents of change, propelling particular view points or perspectives towards particular things to completely change in a flash of time.

It’s a funny thing that made me realize that this had happened to me; I mean, besides the fact that I essentially started living a new life, like literally, everything: new relationship status and knowledge of what I foresaw and knew my future to be, new roof over my head, new “work” reality and vision, and new everyday everything in a matter of a month. My mom said something that resonated with me after a night out, way past my former bedtime: “I don’t even know who you are anymore!” It was then when I thought: do I even know who I am anymore?

And then we go back to the concept of identity. Yes, I know who I am, 100%, I’ve actually never been so sure of that. It’s just my paradigm that has flip-flopped, like some sort of magician pulled a rabbit out of a hat and was like, “voila, there she is!” And there I was, a free bird, navigating my new wings with a sense of carefree wonder that I can’t remember the last time that I felt.

*Helen Ready is my personal rockstar. I have memories of my sister and I belting out “I Am Woman” on our in-home karaoke machine. That lady’s got the chops, and she knows what this is all about.

I was recently made aware of and instructed to reflect on my defenses (thanks Dan Lewis), which are essentially, those traits that block our essence from radiating into every room that we step into. For me, these blocks are made up of timidity, unassuredness, inflexibility, stubbornness, insecurity, internalization, overthinking, overanalyzing, – essentially, completely the opposite of just being present, and not getting stuck in a ball of words that were happening somewhere up in my non-stop, overzealous mind. We as humans are constantly evolving, and I will not at all claim to be an expert in, well anything really, but I will say that once I truly identified that the source of my being stuck was living somewhere up in my head, ultimately, I started getting a life. And then life actually happened.

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*Smile Tip #10:* When you have a fundamental change in thinking, leading to a whole new way of behaving, a smile feels like a brand new experience. Like the first time you learn to walk (if I even really remember what that would have felt like) it’s totally different. It’s amazing. Don’t believe me? You should try it. But you’ve got to dig deep, and be willing to do a lot of soul-searching. It won’t be easy – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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You’ve Got to Let it Go…

Clarity.  It’s ironic how the idea of feeling so sure about something can also be clouded in vacuity.  I recently made a decision, and although it’s not life-changing, it is certainly something that will make its own impact in the present and in the long run.  Although right now I feel sort of stoic about it all, I’m hoping to gain a resurgence of energy and really appreciate that it’s for the better in the end—in fact, I know it will be for the better, it’s now all just contingent on timing.

Since this writing canvass is meant for positive thoughts and ideas, I’m not going to place too much emphasis on the negative, but I will say that for an extended length of time, I haven’t been feeling quite right about all of these changes happening in my life, particularly the one focused on finding what I am meant to do with my “career path” (whatever that silly phrase really means anyway).  I guess I’ve been a pretty good actress, painting the face of someone who is content and fulfilled with the day-to-day, mulling over the prospect of what those days might foretell, when really I come home in confusion and sulk, wishing I had the energy and mental thrill I had before.

I’m no expert in decision-making, but what I do know is that if something is feeling off, you’ve got to let it go…

I’m young, and albeit, still learning, I am sure that I have so much to offer, and despite what others may think/say, I am certain that the idea of being stuck somewhere at this point in my life that isn’t quite clicking in my heart of hearts just isn’t worth it.

Scream it to the rooftops: IT”S JUST NOT WORTH IT!!!

You’ve got to be happy, that’s the number one priority.

Everything happens for a reason?  Maybe.  They’re all just stepping stones, guiding me on the path to where I’m meant to be and what I’m supposed to be a part of.  Thankfully, I have a handful of different options already within my reach, and although they may not all entail money-in-the-bank, there is at least the potential for that to develop.  For now, I’ll thank my great Jew-raising genes that I’ve got ample savings to hold me over, and in the meantime, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief, and smile.

*Smile Tip #9:*
Do not ever take advantage of the feeling you get when you experience true happiness with what you are doing.  It’s super easy to feign this feeling in appearance, but it’s truly something special whenit’s real—when you’re smiling for yourself, and nobody else.

Everything Happens for a Reason

I know it’s debatable, but that’s the motto I’ve lived by for quite a long time now, and for me, it has proven to be pretty foolproof.  I mean, no doubt that there are long bouts where I think to myself, “What is the lesson here?  How can I get anything beneficial out of this process/experience/struggle?”  But whenever I look back at these times, I always find the answer.

Just a couple months ago, I was on a mission of resurrection.  I was ready to dive head-first into my future, without really knowing what that was actually going to entail.  Specifically, I was desperately hunting for my ideal career path, one that would set off excitement and curiosity and dedication in every part of me.  Well unsurprisingly, this goal was a lot easier said than done.

While I did end up finding a focus fairly quickly, the attainment of it proved to be full of too-close close-calls, and near-celebrations met with disappointments.  I always thought I had a keen sixth-sense when it came to reading people, getting good vibes about situations, and feeling positive about an outcome considering the prior circumstances leading up to the result; but amid this process, I encountered successive unexpected letdowns, whether it was pure unresponsiveness or plain old rejection.  Just when I thought my searching stresses were about to cease and I was on the path towards professional success, I would get smacked in the face with personal defeat.

Of course, with all of these micro-focused imperfections, negativity began leaking out and permeating other orifices of the hours, days, and weeks, infiltrating elements that were going completely well, but became tainted by my search-for-a-calling fixation.

And then, it happened.

On a typical job-seeking afternoon, I came across an ad for a position that consisted of everything I desired in a potential role, and more.  After sending out my specifically thought-out application, I hoped for the best, expected the worst, and waited with bated breath (all at the same time) for a response.  Fortuitously, I endured less than three days of this triple action discomfort before hearing back from the Vice President of my dream-job, and we scheduled an interview date for a day soon after.  Following the long Labor Day weekend and an immediate additional meeting with the CEO, I was offered the position(!!!)

So now, I would like to formally introduce my(professional)self:

My name is Jenny Smith and I am the Marketing Coordinator for—

It’s a pleasure to meet you 🙂

Conclusion/lesson learned:  Sometimes it takes a little bit of patience and a lot of perseverance, but in the end, it’s all worth it.

*Smile Tip #8:* Being relatable to a potential employer is essential, and you appear so much less desirable with a stoic, lackluster demeanor.  By brightening up your appearance, the likelihood of scoring the position will increase tenfold, cause really, who wants to work with a Debbie downer (or Barry bummer)?

I’ll Give You a Megaphone…

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.  Have you ever been suffering from a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and then just as it hits the apex of dreadfulness when your heavy Trader Joe’s bag bursts open at the bottom, and your groceries crash onto the pavement, a kind man comes over to help gather the mound, and suddenly everything seems okay?

We’ve all been there, and we all appreciate it when there’s some spark of hope to allay the bad, or even just blah, spells.  This is why I absolutely love Improv Everywhere’s “Say Something Nice” campaign.

Created as a part of Guggenheim Museum’s stillspotting nyc exhibition, “the project [that] takes the museum’s Architecture and Urban Studies programming out into the streets of the city’s five boroughs…using ‘stillspots,’ which are identified, created, or transformed by architects, artists, designers, composers, and philosophers into public tours, events, or installations.”

Though the hustle-and-bustle of city-living can be exciting, it can also take its toll on both sightseers and natives alike.  This particular crusade offers a small yet curious release from the typical hullabaloo, and if nothing more, gets people talking:

Side note: if anyone can tell what the little boy is saying from 1:44-1:51, please let me know.  That’s probably my favorite part just because it’s so funny and cute, but I keep replaying it and still for the life of me cannot make out his little yelp!

*Smile Tip #7:* You don’t need a megaphone to announce your message – if you pass a stranger on the street, someone in class, or a fellow employee that looks (or even doesn’t look) like they could use a little pick-me-up, shoot them a thoughtful compliment.  You’ll have them smiling in no time.

Half-Baked, without the Spoon

My boyfriend makes me smile (most of the time).  He’s a big reason why Chicago was our current destination of choice.  Having lived here twice before with persistent dreams of making it big in the world of improvisational comedy, the second city continued to beckon his name way out in the Colorado Rockies.  With a little extra push from me, he was able to return to the Midwestern metropolitan, but this time, he had a sidekick to support him on the journey.

While the improv world is very much centered on performance, there are also other avenues that supplement this ultimate ambition.  One of these paths involves exploring the writing side of comedic expression.  Aptly, my poetic beau has been known to woo me with his words on many occasions, so this pursuit was completely second-nature for him.  With a degree in History, my creative aspirer found a way to merge his thrill for the Civil War and world antiquity with his passion for acerbic absurdity, and what emerged was a self-published book titled Half-Baked History.

I’ve kind of turned into his editor/PR rep, not only because I love him, but because it’s really that good!  If you own a Kindle and enjoy the likes of Colbert with a touch of scholarly satire thrown into the mix, then you have no excuse not to check out his first endeavor as an Amazon-accredited author.  The gist is this: there are “myths,” which, for the not-as-quick readers such as myself, are actually historical truths; and then there are “facts,” which are essentially a clever hodge-podge of fictional fabrications thought up by the ingeniousness of the self-proclaimed “Professor Bagnall.”

The following is an excerpt from the e-book regarding the highly misunderstood legacy of the prophet we refer to today as “Buddha”:

Fact:  Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha, was in fact one of the most materialistic and shallow false prophets of his day.  Born in Nepal to an upper-middle class family living in the suburbs of Kathmandu, he received a private education at The Tibetan Country Day School – an elite boarding school located in nearby Tibet.  Even at that early age, Buddha’s hypocritical and pedantic nature could be viewed on a day-to-day basis.  

One fellow student remarked about an incident during their senior year: “I was carrying numerous books to class and had to rid myself of a Luna Bar wrapper, so like any sane person, I threw the wrapper in a nearby trash can.  All of a sudden, I noticed the roar of a Range Rover engine as Buddha skidded to a stop in front of me.  He began screaming at me about the fact that a local recycling bin was located some 45 miles from where I was standing, and grilled me as to why I hadn’t walked there to dispose of my Luna Bar wrapper.  I tried to point out the fact that he was driving a Range Rover, but Buddha quickly changed subjects and made a remark about the sweatshop-made Target shirt I was wearing.  He then promptly told me to ‘F**k off,’ flicked a burning joint into my face, and drove off.  I was simply in awe.” 

*censored due to the innocuously wholesome nature of *Simply Smile*—but do know that all of the stories are no holds barred through and through.

*Smile Tip #6:* Hands-down, once you get your hands on some half-baked humor, you will have a permanent grin on your face through even the most mundane of days.  Additionally, for less than it costs to buy a grande latte at Starbucks that merely gives you a caffeine kick for a few hours, you can buy an everlasting outlet to hilarity; and better yet, you’ll feel good knowing that you’re supporting a starving (and deserving) artist—there’s really nothing more smile-inducing than that!

A Journey of Empowerment

My big sister is one of the most incredible people I know.  On top of being extremely down-to-earth, talented, and bright, she is also a real-life superwoman.  When we were younger, there were a number of tell-tale signs disclosing this destiny; some of which included playing “teacher” with me using the huge chalkboard in our basement (which, by the way, made it all the more legitimate), staying awake until ridiculous hours of the night/morning to relentlessly study for whatever class or AP exam was imminent, and juggling being Student Council Vice President while also dancing and teaching dance classes on nearly full-time hours, five days a week.  As she sunk her
feet into her adult years, this drive and energy for meaningful success did not cease, and what it sparked was her very own charitable organization: Storybuilding Foundation.

After years of brainstorming while working in the non-profit world and also dancing for a well-known sports team, the timing, impetus, and intention finally felt right.  Since the arts had always been significant part of her life (at one point during her teenage years she even pondered pursuing dance therapy as a career path), the idea for StoryBuilding Foundation took flight naturally.  Essentially, the charity facilitates a personal journey through the arts, empowering young individuals in underserved areas of each city, state, or country by fusing together community, spirit, and life.

Through conducting workshops that explore tools and techniques around action planning, creative thinking, and journaling, participants are provided with an outlet to begin taking control of their unwritten future.  As people learn more about themselves, build confidence to express who they are, conquer fear, challenge the norm – and do it in their own way – they are better positioned to help others do the same.  The goal of the organization is to help individuals discover the voice of their character, the setting of their plot, and that our beliefs, choices, and actions lead to experiences that fill a new page in our storybook.

Right now, my sister is in Haiti marking the launch of StoryBuilding Foundation’s oversees program, bringing it to orphanages and tent cities greatly impacted by the earthquake.  I have yet to get a full report, but the following is a taste of the experience thus far:

“There are no words to describe what has happened on this trip. The pictures will provide a glimpse of a moment, our blogs will recount a memory, our hearts will hold the experiences – to allow our future words and actions to carry the energy and love of our individual and collective story.”

*Smile Tip #5:* Pictures are worth a thousand words…

Visit Storybuilding Foundation’s Facebook and Twitter pages to learn more about how you can help, or feel free to make a direct donation – any little bit helps keep those smiles alive!

Breaking the Bubble

I am generally the type who prefers to keep to myself.  Although I am palpably outgoing and bubbly, deep down inside, the introverted self that hovers always feels most comfortable in its own company.  Even as a child, I remember being painfully shy.  Throughout my youth and into adulthood, I pretty much kept enough close friends to count on one hand, though I usually entertained about two handfuls of noteworthy acquaintances.  A lot of these characteristics are innate – my mom’s side of the genes – though I also believe that a measurable amount of it is simply habit-forming.  If you start doing/knowing one way of experiencing life, these ingrained notions form a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The more you get stuck in the box, the more it’s hard to break free.

(I’m the lucky lil’ rascal holding the sign)

Life in-the-bubble really isn’t that bad since, overall, I am pretty content with myself and the close few that fill my pint-sized world.  I tend to be a particular person when it comes to finding and embracing those I care about; it’s truly about quality over quantity.  Nevertheless, with this whole starting anew sentiment that the lively Chicago air has sprung upon me, it turns out that I’ve really been making strides to disentangle myself from this typical staying-in-the bubble cycle.  And oddly enough, it’s kind of come naturally.

I guess that’s a funny thing about getting older—your personality and priorities are constantly shifting, developing a new and improved you in a gradual and comfortable way, every single day.  I am so grateful to have opened up my barriers enough to begin forming some amazing friendships out here, bonds that I can envision growing to be invaluable and everlasting.  And for a self-proclaimed hermit, that certainly speaks volumes.

*Smile Tip #4:* When meeting someone for the very first time, it is really incredible how a warm smile goes a long way.  Upon initial encounter with some of the girls I make reference to above, their approachable nature is very much what drew me to them—the first trait that stood out was an authentically earnest smile, and from there, I knew we’d become fast friends 🙂

Resurrection

After exactly 3 years and 2 months, I’ve decided to breathe life back into this neglected little creation.  So much has happened since its inception, and with my newfound stimulation, now seems like the perfect time to find little bits of inspiration to further me (and others) on the path of growth and discovery.

I guess this entry calls for a little update; an official introduction, even.  When I first approached the idea of having some sort of online written identity, I was an aspiring magazine editor.  I was obsessed with the idea of one day having a byline in an Oprah’s magazine (or the likes of), and thanks to tons of networking within the field and various internship experiences, I was on an effective path to one day reaching my goal.  However, somewhere along the way—okay, I can pretty much pinpoint that it was between the time I graduated and the time I met my now roomie/boyfriend of 3+ years a few weeks later,  my path sort of took a detour.  I fell out of dreams of freelancing from my bedroom and fell into concocting fun flavor twists for bejeweled walls of frozen yogurt.

Yes, self-serve fro-yo shops became the center of my existence.  I mean, it was pretty perfect – I got to cut up deliciously fresh fruit all day, be around some ridiculously awesome people, and delay growing up for little while more.  Really, I wouldn’t take any of it back for the world.  Though, after three years of being in food management, and even considering the idea of birthing my own “Simple Sweetness for the Soul” yogurt shop, I realized I was finally ready to dig back into my bag of passions and move on.

Actually, that’s been the trend for a little bit now—in addition to acquiring a male sidekick, I have apparently developed the ability to become a world traveler—or even just a national wanderer.  I’ve moved more than halfway across the country from my comfortable little bubble in New Jersey, and after a semi-short stint near the Rocky Mountains, journeyed a bit back east, now residing in the Windy City.  I suppose I’ve really adapted to this whole “change”  thing fairly seamlessly, with only a handful of bumps and scrapes along the way (which, of course, is inevitable).

So what now?  I guess we shall soon find out.  I came back to this because it felt right, just like the search for happiness should be!  And now, being just a bit older and wiser (at least I’d like to think so), I’ll probably be adding a bit more dimension to the simplicity of this blog’s theme—while still keeping it filled with positivity and butterflies and flowers, naturally 😉

I look forward to the journey ahead, and hope you will join me!

*Smile Tip #3:* This might be TMI and slightly off-topic, but I am finally becoming accustomed to, and oddly sort of enjoying, my newly fitted mouthguard.  I’m a gum chewer – it helps me focus, though I realize it could be a not-so-great habit – so I’ve started substituting it with some daytime molded plastic clenching instead—I know, I told you it was weird.

Apparently I may grind my teeth while I’m asleep, according to the dentist I acquired while living in Boulder, which is why I had a succession of fillings (whose cost could have easily gone towards a used craigslist car, if I needed one), and he suggested I get a mouth guard to prevent my teeth from developing any more holes/grinding-related erosion that may happen overnight.  Just the idea of that freaks me out, since I literally have nightmares about my teeth falling out; so I invested in a really expensive plastic molding of my teeth, even though I thought the whole thing was kind of ridiculous (mind you, this is coming from a girl who never had to wear braces, or a retainer, or any sort of foreign metal in my mouth through my awkward pre-teen years).

It was super uncomfortable at first, and I really thought I didn’t even need it (wouldn’t the guy who sleeps next to me every night notice a funny noise coming from my side of the bed?  I mean, I know he’s practically a brick when he’s asleep, but still…).  Though, I was told it needed to be broken in like a new shoe, so I wore it around our Colorado home while reading, watching TV, and packing for our second move.  In between departing and settling more into or colorful Lincoln Square apartment, I took my first visit back to New Jersey since leaving in the winter.  It was then that my rigid mouth contraption had a little tune-up by my childhood dentist.  Soon after, it finally felt right, and I was hooked.

In conclusion, if you cherish your teeth as much as I do, make sure you see a dentist before a small problem gets significantly worse and much more exorbitantly priced.  Your smile is precious—make sure it stays brilliant and strong for a lifetime!

Embrace change

Change can be scary.  Yes, I know, I am stating the obvious, but for someone who thrives off of order and stability, this scariness is maximized to the nth degree (depending on my frame of mind on the chosen day and what subcategory the particular change falls under).

I will consciously admit that sometimes (okay, often times) my meticulousness can be overkill, but it provides a certain comfort, a safety, that nothing else can guarantee.  Any sort of diversion from the confines of the “known” creeps into the realm of the “unknown,” and that is where things begin to get nebulous.  If I had to choose between the clearest of clear-blue skies and a hazy, mysterious twilight, I’d pick the former any day.

Now don’t get me wrong, a little mystery can be fun, even exciting; though I prefer my fun and excitement in small quantities (boring much?).  Despite this obsession with certainty, I have recently been guilty of overdosing on the not-so-certain—but only because it just happens to be unavoidable.

I’m a graduate.  I have officially moved onto the next stage in life.  My life; my choice…but how do I choose?

On 43 Things a community-based site dedicated to making lists of goals and getting inspiration from others to find the best way to achieve them, 225 people want to “change” and only 2 people want to “stay the same.”  I know that going through change is very different than changing who we are, but the question is: doesn’t being in a state of flux eventually lead to this anyway?

That proposition is probably the scariest part of all.  I know myself to be who I am right now, this second.  Of course, over the years the Jen in me has gradually metamorphosed into more of a Jenny, and the girl behind the name will always continue to do so.  But being at this current juncture on the journey in this thing called life, I feel like I’m at my last bout of the cocoon stage, and soon enough, I’m going to be this colorful creature with wings, except I have nowhere in particular to fly.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
      
Then I think to myself: embrace it—no expectations necessary, and suddenly, all (alright, maybe 75%) of the worries melt away.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          *Smile Tip #2:* “Change is the elixir of life.  Stating a simple truth, happiness is ours when we respond and adapt with enthusiasm to change when they appear.”

Express yourself

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Growing up a dancer, my body was trained to breathe life into emotions.  Even though we were expected to strive for technical perfection, the punctuating effect always rested on the power of passion.  Movement was an interpretation of a song’s energy.  Expression was a reflection of movement.  Each year when it was time to perform for audiences of judges (at competitions) and family/friends (at recitals), we had the opportunity to spread the spirit of our dance symphony.  The feelings and emotions that we developed a connection to over the months were finally able to be passed on to others.

The bulk of these dancing days have slowly faded away, but my interest in the impact of emotion has not.  Since so much of who we are rests on what we feel – or what I like to call “vibes” – I wanted to find an outlet where I could explore these positive vibes, and find out how they can be strengthened.  Whether emerging in planned special moments or random acts of kindness, by reactions to others or through self-reflection, these emotional spurts of cheer are both infectious and addicting.  There’s that old saying, “Frown and you frown alone, but smile and whole world smiles with you.”

To kick off this blog, I’ll get down to the crux of what it’s all about: simply smile.  Seek optimism.  Laugh—a lot.  Find your joy.

*Smile Tip #1:* Show that you’re genuine—don’t just smile with your mouth; smile with your eyes.