New Year, Same (Wonderful) You

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With the changing of the calendar promising a fresh start, it’s natural for us to feel an immense pressure to suddenly morph into a better version of ourselves. It’s as though at the stroke of midnight, we’re all supposed to drop 15 pounds, land that new business idea and strengthen ties with everyone we ever knew. Then once that first guy cuts us off in traffic, our resolution to practice more patience goes flying out our angrily rolled down window, and instead of giving ourselves another chance, we wait for a clean slate again next January.

The way I see it is no matter what day of the year it is, I always strive for one thing: to be the very best person I can be, and to recognize that on a regular basis most people are trying to do the very same. Let me share why that’s so important to me.

When I was younger, I often wanted to be like other people. I looked up to everyone from older family members to babysitters to celebrities, hoping to emulate various aspects about who they were and what they looked like. It was more of an admiration and desire to grow up than anything else, but I vividly remember taking inventory in my big cousin’s room, writing down what I titled ‘Ways to be more like Ilene’. The list included getting a treadmill in my bedroom, a floral-cloth covered heart-shaped box for my dresser and her signature perfume, Design (which I eventually received as a 12th birthday gift.)

As a fifth grader I went to see the movie Clueless with my childhood friend Melissa. My mom drove us there, but kindly sat in a different row by herself so we could be ‘cool’. After watching Cher and all her fabulousness, I went home and jotted down how I could be more like her. I admit, my closet is still color coded and organized by categories.

Then one time I was in the car with my mom, heading to campus for my junior year of college. A JLo song came on the radio as we were crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge and I stated, “I want to be like Jennifer Lopez.” My mom turned to me and said, “I want to be like Jennifer Press.”

It made me stop and think. Her words reminded me of what my dad always told me when someone was unkind, “Every day you get to wake up and be you.”

I realized while it was nice to admire others and pull from their positive qualities, I wanted to focus my energy on being the best person I was capable of being.

Ten years later, I’ve become really comfortable in my own skin. Last weekend when my little cousin Maddie was visiting she turned to me lovingly and said, “Jenn, you’re my role model. When I grow up, I want to be just like you.”

It melted my heart, but I knew what I had to say. I took her in my arms, smiled back and said, “That’s so sweet Maddie, but when you grow up, I think you should want to be just like you.”

Have a wonderful new year everybody. Continue to learn and grow every day, be kind to one another, feel grateful for your blessings, cherish your family and friends and do what makes for a VERY. HAPPY. YOU.

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