And for a moment… I was a carnie.

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There’s two things you need to know about me in order for any of what follows to make sense.

1. I am in sales for Verizon Wireless.

2. I live in Rochester, NY where, every year, we throw a HUGE weeklong shit show called The Lilac Festival. People come from all over the world to see these damn lilacs, eat funnel cake, and participate in general tom foolery. 

 

Yesterday marked the end of this festival. Which normally would have made me sad because I would typically have been one of the festival goers, participating in the tom foolery. Perusing hand made paper lanterns and candles, popping cinnamon and sugar coated nuts in my mouth, a plastic cup of beer in my hand. 

This year, as a Verizon employee, I got to work the festival. And let me say, if you had it twisted, get it straight. Being a vendor at one of these things is like seeing the underbelly of a traveling carnival. Instead of being inspired by blossoming lilacs, you’re losing faith in humanity. And I like to think for that week, I lived the life of a carnie. The bearded lady has got nothing on me. I am a seasoned side show freak now, and I have come to learn a thing or two…

Firstly, using port a potties multiple times a day will put a dark mark on your soul. I don’t consider myself a “germaphobe” by any means, and the first day I actually thought to myself, “hey, this isn’t so bad!”

Let’s roll around to the second day. Remember that scene in Slum Dog Millionaire where the little boys in India have to use the bathroom, which is a hole in the ground over some water. I felt some serious third world problems there in that portable bathroom. In fact, a time or two, I found myself wishing to be transported to that hole in the ground over that water. At least then I would not be in an enclosed space where the hole in the ground just happens to be about two feet deep and never gets emptied out. 

I have often wished for a penis, but never have I wished for a penis just so I could whip it out and pee anywhere. 

Moving on, festival food. Funnel cake was my all time favorite Lilac Fest treat. I only had it once a year when those pretty flowers bloomed, and I looked forward to it like a kid on Christmas morning. Until I had five of them in two days. 

I started sneaking away from the booth to go get funnel cake and strawberry lemonade. I was like a drug addict exhibiting seeking behavior. I would lie to my co-workers when they asked where I was going, AGAIN. 

“Oh, I thought I just saw a little child kidnapped! I have to go investigate…”

Only to return thirty minutes later with guilt in my eyes and powdered sugar on my nose.

Everytime I had to pee I would walk by the candied nut booth. They are giving out FREE samples of these delicious sweet nuts. Before long, you want MORE. After the third time of sneaking a sample, you want your very own bag. The vendor looks at you with knowing eyes. Sure, you can have this medium sized, shaped like a funnel, made out of wax paper bag of Cinnamon Pecans… $11 please.

And you pay it, because this is not real life, you’re living at a carnival.

Some days, it got chilly, and the price of the hot coffee would reflect the current temperature. 

On a particularly cold day I hustled over to the coffee cart and ordered the same small, plain coffee I had ordered the morning before. It is handed to me and I am asked for three dollars in return. Imagine my surprise when I had previously paid one dollar for this same cup of coffee. I take a sip to check the quality, maybe they are using a different roast. Nope, the same watered down, luke warm Folgers instant coffee that I had grown accustomed to. 

I stared at the coffee cart girl in amazement. Where was the solidarity?! I wasn’t some fair weather customer, I was a fellow vendor out here freezing our collective butts off. This was not my first brush with extortion, but it definitely hit me harder than all past experiences. 

Lastly, my all time personal favorite… people.

People watching becomes people judging and eventually people hating. 

Before you know it, that cute family with their cute kids and matching lilac cardigans are the enemy. I yelled “free smart phones!” at them the past three times they’ve walked by with not so much as an eye roll or dismissive hand gesture. 

Next time they stroll by I make a snarky comment, something like, “Oh, you’ve got so much money you don’t want a free phone”, and still they don’t even flinch. 

I’m beginning to think this family is an Al Qaeda terror cell, trained to withstand any and all torture methods. I consider beginning to pelt them with kettle corn, but I know it will be futile. They’ve seen it all, what can my pathetic attempts to get under their skin accomplish?

Only once I had built in my paranoid, strawberry lemon aid soaked brain an entire FX drama centering around these die hard, ninja focused imposters posing as upstanding American citizens….

Did I realize this entire family was deaf. Had not heard anything I had said, and had I begun to throw kettle corn at them, that would probably have been an effective way to get their attention.

Essentially, leaving my cushy, indoor plumbing life did not bring out the best of me. But I’ll always remember my carnie days, if only to avoid them in the future. 

 

 

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What is a “good man”?

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I have friends, women friends, who are single or with someone but unhappy. The general consensus between all these women seems to be that they want a “good man”.

Don’t ask them to have a general consensus about what a good man is, though, because obviously like anything else that definition is going to vary from person to person.

So, the dictionary of Stephanie comes into play. The most accurate definition of what a good man is. You asked for it, and here it is.

A Good Man:

A good man is someone who tells you that you’re beautiful every day. He looks at you with wide eyes when he says it, so you know he means it. A good man tells you this while not being able to keep his hands off of you. Loving, touching, squeezing; all that jazz.

A good man doesn’t JUST tell you that you look beautiful. He specifies what about you is beautiful, so you know it’s true. He tells you that you have flawless skin, or that you’re ass looks AHMAZING! (yea, ahmazing with an h, say it like this… ahhhhh mazing)

A good man cups his hands around your face and tells you that he loves you, he tells you that he’ll love you forever, and he believes it… so you believe it.

A good man looks like a homeless person, his hair is getting so long, yet when he has a chance to get it cut he stays home to pay the bills.

A good man rocks his son to sleep at night and listens to the same YouTube video over and over again because the two year old commands it. Even though he says, “only one more time”, he listens to this YouTube video an additional three times before tucking the little one snugly and warmly into bed and saying goodnight.

A good man gives you a back rub at night, even though he worked all day, even though his back probably hurts, too. But he doesn’t ask for one in return, he just gives.

A good man doesn’t want you to spend so much money on Starbucks coffee, it really drives him crazy, yet he has come to terms with the fact that it makes you happy, so he doesn’t say anything.

A good man cries when he sees you walking down the aisle at your wedding. He takes your hand, and even though he knows he is wearing a mic, tells you a plethora of emotional and loving things.

A good man stays with you through millions of hours of pregnancy, what feels like millions of hours of labor, and millions of hours of sleepless nights. He doesn’t understand what it is to carry and birth a child, but he really thinks it’s cool and amazing and recognizes the sacrifice on your part to do it.

A good man tells you that he loves that you have a strong personality, he laughs at your jokes and he listens to your rants. He knows who you were, accepts who you are, and sees who you could be.

This man does laundry, vacuums and makes sure you have a clean pillow to lay your head on at night. When you cook for him he always tells you it was good, and then he washes the dishes. He kills spiders, chases away bees, hangs pictures, washes cars, kisses away bruises and tears, pushes little bodies on swings and down slides, checks homework, makes beds, and shampoos carpets. He is tireless, and selfless, and maybe still looks homeless…

But he’s beautiful to you…

Because he’s strong, and sweet. Because his smile still makes you feel like the world is a good place, and his arms are still the safest place in the world for you. Because no matter what you do or what you say, what kind of evil witch or sulky little girl you turn into, he still sees you as his soul mate.

This is a good husband, a good father, a good person. A man who once told me that if all he left behind was the legacy that his children and his family viewed him as a “good man”, that this would be more than enough for him. Who could ask more from their partner in life? He doesn’t want riches or notoriety, he doesn’t need a high flying career or fast cars (although he would like them)…

All he needs in this life is to give himself to his family, to show them that he loves them and that he is there; every gray hair, every wrinkle, every puffy eye is because he is out there giving it his all for US. All he needs, all he wants, is to be the best for the people he loves…

And all I need is him.

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“He fills me up, he gives me love, more love than I’ve ever seen. He’s all I got, he’s all I got in this world, but he’s all the man that I need.” -Whitney Houston

31 Things To Tell A Daughter

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“A daughter is just a little girl who grows up to be your best friend”


1. See yourself through your own eyes, it’s too easy to get caught up in a vicious cycle of how others view you. The only acceptance that is important is your own.

2. Judge other people by what they DO, not what they SAY

3. Music can fix anything… that is all.

4. Like sports, it doesn’t make you less of a lady.

5. Don’t like sports, it doesn’t make you a “girl”.

6. If you’re in a serious relationship, that’s great. If you’re married, that’s fantastic. Keep your own separate bank account, regardless.

7. Life is too short to be with someone who makes you unhappy.

8. Life is not long enough when you’re with someone that makes you truly happy.

9. You don’t have to be with ANYONE to be truly happy.

10. You’ll have dreams and only a very small amount of time to make them happen, don’t waste your time living someone else’s dreams and/or thinking you’ll have infinite chances to chase yours.

11. You should cook and bake. NOT because it makes you a better wife and mother, but because you enjoy it and it’s more fulfilling to bake your own chocolate chip cookies than to buy them.

12. You can still be a very good wife and mother without baking or cooking. Trust me.

13.  There is no reason to feel guilty when taking the long way home on a warm Spring day with the music blasting and the windows rolled down. No one will miss you for that ten minutes, but you will definitely miss that ten minutes of serenity.

14. No matter what “baggage” you bring to the table, if a man makes you feel unworthy because of the places you’ve been in the past, he IS unworthy of you.

15. If you’re going to vote, you should familiarize yourself with the issues.

16. If you’re not going to vote, don’t complain about your government.

17. It’s perfectly okay to go into college without a major. The person you are at 18 is certainly not going to be interested in the same things the 38 year old version of you will be interested in.

18. It’s perfectly okay to play the guitar for nickels in Times Square if that makes you truly happy.

19. Guilt is a form of manipulation which other people use in order to control you for their benefit, or for what they think is your benefit. As long as you’re a good person and you do the right thing by yourself and others, there is no reason to EVER feel guilty.

20. If you do not voice the way you feel about something, you have no one to blame but yourself if your circumstances don’t change.

21. Having a dog is awesome. They will always love you, even when you throw your boot at them because they pooped in the house AGAIN.

22. Cats are cool, too. They kind of do their own thing, but every so often they’ll show you a little affection and it makes you feel important.

23. Having a skill is important. You should know how to do something that contributes to society and helps pay the bills.

24. Having an innate talent is AMAZING. You should find what you were born with that makes you special and different and embrace it. It will be the thing you do that makes you feel free.

25.  Travel. There will always be a reason you can’t, but you CAN. Make it happen.

26. Spend your money on experiences, not only things. Skydiving, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins; all these things will stay in your memories a lot longer than a flat screen television.

27. Know something about EVERYTHING. The most interesting, best liked people are those that can converse about even the most obscure topics.

28. Be someone who stands up for others. Too many people fade into the background when they see an injustice being done to someone else, or worse, take part in it. Be the person that stands up for what is right.

29. Hold onto your beliefs and values that were given to you in childhood, but leave yourself open to other point of views. This makes you complete.

30. Don’t invest yourself in any relationship you can’t fully commit to. This goes for friendships, romantic liaisons and being a parent. All these things take time, effort and patience.

31. Do whatever it takes to be happy everyday. Life is the gift I gave you, and it would be shame to see you waste it.

 

 

 

Why My Sister is Better Than Yours

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1. We got to go to COLLEGE together!

How many siblings get to experience college together, or even want to? We got to sit in the front of our Logic and Inquiry class, passing notes about the cute professor, being the most obnoxiously participating set of people you’ve ever met, and not caring about it AT ALL because we were together. Yeah, the kids sitting behind us probably exercised their eye rolling muscles for the entire hour, but there was not a care to be had by the Vindigni sisters.

In Italian we both forgot to do our homework on a regular basis, so we would spend the four and a half minutes before the professor came in completely making up Italian words. Our reasoning was she couldn’t blame us for being so terrible because this wasn’t our first language. She probably thought we were the biggest American idiots out of all the American idiots she had ever met. It was the best.

We had lunch together, I hit on her very young friends, she pretended to be embarrassed about it but laughed with me privately. She let me watch her play tennis, and I gave shout outs to her on the campus radio station where I dj’ed. The best part of my college experience was becoming closer with her, and since then we have literally been inseparable. Whatever years separate us in age, spending that time together closed the gap. Plus, I’m pretty competent at not acting my age anyways.

2. We love/hate our family… together.

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We’re Italian, and we’re passionate people. Italians like to do TWO things very often. 1) Get together and eat good food and drink good wine, and 2) Scream at each other through out the entire meal.

Every Sunday night you would find 15-20 people crammed inside our mothers house, trying to find places to sit, trying to find glasses to drink out of, being very affectionate and jovial. Within minutes someone is telling someone else that they’re politics are garbage, and this one is telling that one that her son is lazy and useless, not to mention the conversation that will start when someone thinks someone else’s kids aren’t well behaved. Forget about the violence that goes down when the euchre cards get dealt.

Very rarely, if ever, do Sam and I let that hostility affect each other. We’ll pick a side, right or wrong, and join in on the verbal abuse. Then we’ll pour a glass of red wine and watch the aftermath. And we are ALWAYS on the same euchre team… and unbeatable.

3. We watch STUPID movies together and tirelessly quote them at each other.

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It doesn’t matter how many dirty, glaring looks we get over dinner, we never stop. Anchorman, Zoolander, Knocked Up… the more offensive, the better. In fact I think we eventually measured the success of our quote off but how long it would take for our mother to slam her glass down and leave the room.

It’s not healthy, but it’s good.

And the giggles and gasping laughs that ensued can never be replaced by anything else in the world. We get such a kick out of each other, who needs anything else to be happy.

4. We borrow… and steal… each other’s clothes

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Being basically the same size (although she says my chest is going to stretch out her clothes)  it is convenient to sneak into her room and steal her shirts, shoes, socks, whatever. I especially like taking something without her knowledge because I can then send her a picture of my feet in fuzzy pink socks once I have the contraband safe and sound at home, and there’s nothing she can do about it!

This also works for hair products, perfumes, lotions, whatever can be picked up and walked off with. The best part is, she only shows slight outrage and then shrugs it off.  This is a HUGE reason why my sister is better than yours.

 

5. She’s a GREAT aunt.

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Pretty self explanatory. Girl loves her niece and nephews. Can’t wait to see how much she loves her own, future kids…

Or maybe mine will be enough for her.

6. We DRINK together, and it’s FUN!

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Singing Florence and the Machines at the top of our lungs, shouting out slightly slurred but very clever insults from the safety of an upper deck as other intoxicated individuals wander by, there’s never a dull moment when the two of us get together and share a few beverages.

Judge if you will, but don’t walk by us on one of those nights where we may have had a drink or two. You can’t handle the truth.

 

30 is just…30.

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I’ve spent the majority of my 20’s being afraid to turn 30.

I remember being 19 years old and watching my older brother preparing to hit the big 3-0. I thought to myself then, “damn, that is SO old”. Now, I find myself just past that point and I haven’t reached an evolved stand point on it. I still think, “damn, I am SO old”.

There are a plethora of people out there in their thirties who will insist that this is the best time of their life; they’ve never felt better, they’ve never been more aware of who they really are! 

It’s true, I don’t think I’ve ever known myself better. That comes with age. So does being sore when you wake up in the morning, little lines around your eyes, an increased sense of mortality salience… I’ll go back to not knowing myself that well if this is the trade off I get. 

On a more positive note, I think I am aging gracefully if it’s possible to be graceful whilst kicking and screaming. I keep holding out hope that some handsome vampire will approach me before I get old and saggy and ask me to join him in the world of immortality and night. I’m not naive, I don’t think I am actually OLD at this point, but I do know it’s coming and to be blunt…

It scares the shit out of me.

So as I live in a world where thirty is old and death is right around the corner, you can imagine the level of anxiety I feel on a regular basis. Here is the positive side of the recognition that each of us won’t live forever. 

1. YOLO! You only live once. I am very aware of this. So from time to time I act impulsively, I rarely act my age, I laugh hard and loud at every opportunity and I give everyone a chance to come into my life and change it. 

2. Kicking ass and taking names: At work, I don’t mess around. I want to be the best, I want to spend every second giving every effort and when I take a pause to breathe at the end of the day I can look back and feel accomplished and productive. I don’t want to waste any day. Do I necessarily want to be spending my short life at work? No, I’d rather be traveling the world, sipping espresso in some Venetian cafe. Does that mean I can’t LOVE what I do? I do love what I do, because it’s what I have and shouldn’t we love the one we’re with?

3. Being incredibly and unapologetically vain: Who are these people who think looks don’t matter? They absolutely matter! Whether or not it’s right is a debate for another time and culture. We live and love here and now, we judge people based on what they look like immediately. Later they might charm us with their sense of humor or kindness, but we will always have that first impression of what they looked like. So I make sure my first impression will be a good one. My husband has made a joke (or maybe it’s not a joke) about how I can spend two hours a day at the gym and two hours a day getting ready but I can’t find the time to put the laundry away. 

4. Speaking the truth: Maybe you think that if you’re going to die tomorrow the last thing on your tongue should be kind words, or whatever. If what you have to say is kind, then by all means SPEAK IT. But if you feel a certain kind of way, if you really want to let your boss know that you notice his favoritism or let the barista at Starbucks know that you’re sick and tired of ordering a peppermint mocha and getting just a plain old mocha, SPEAK IT!

 

In conclusion… oh, conclusion seems so final. 

Lets just end this. 

7 Ways To Be Instantly Happier

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1. Get up earlier

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I know to you night owls, this seems counterproductive. It almost seems torturous. But try to ignore your initial gag reflex and listen…

It’s been called the “heroic minute” because becoming an early riser takes huge sacrifice and dedication. Especially in the Winter when you’re getting up before the sun, to stretch your legs out into a cold and dark abyss seems something a person out of their mind would do. Staying cuddled under the covers for just one more minute seems such a better option…

But people who get up earlier are more productive, feel better, and get more done. They perform better at work and school, they have more time in the morning to “ease” into the day before rushing off to wherever they have to be.  Do you usually skip breakfast or grab a bagel because you just don’t have the time for anything else? Take it easy tomorrow morning. Make yourself some eggs, read the paper or that magazine article you haven’t gotten around to, take a long shower or get an endorphin filled work out in. By the time 8am rolls around and others are just starting their day, you’ll already have so much under your belt. And it will feel amazing.

2. Take A Bath

Get your water temperature right, for me the hotter the better. Light some candles, if that’s your thing. Put the right playlist on and slide in. Nothing  puts a bad or long day behind you faster then soaking in some bubbly water. Glass of wine (or your preferred alcoholic beverage) optional, but highly recommended. Don’t drink too much, or you’ll drown.

3. Sing Out Loud

In the shower, in the car, on the treadmill at the gym… if the mood strikes you, you hear a song you LOVE… don’t hold back. There is nothing wrong with belting out the lyrics from a Journey song at the top of your lungs.  A couple songs I that put me in a great mood…

*Butterfly by Jason Mraz

* When I Get You Alone by Robin Thicke

*Anything by Bruno Mars….

You get the point. Music makes us happy, singing makes us even happier. It doesn’t matter if you can carry a tune, ignore the dirty looks from the other shoppers in the grocery line. Be joyous, be loud.

4.  Have A Cup of Tea

Pick one to fit your mood. I don’t know if it’s the delicious warmth, the aromatic herbs, or just the sassiness you feel when lifting your pinky finger..

I like Earl Grey in the morning. It makes me feel important, smells and tastes fantastic. Green tea is great for any time of day, and amazing for your health. My new one is raspberry tea, it’s herbal but just right for watching a movie at night.

Not only does tea make you feel happy and relaxed, but ALL tea is great for you. Studies have seen positive correlations between tea drinking and preventing heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, you name it. So if drinking that cup of tea doesn’t immediately make you feel happy, the thought of the benefit you’re doing for your body should.

5. Have… Sex

I’m certainly not trying to be crass here, but if you’ve ever done IT you know what I’m talking about!

Physical contact between yourself and another human being is necessary for life. Studies have shown that babies who don’t get touched are sickly, and sometimes don’t make it. So, touching is great. Skin on skin contact, even better.

Not to mention how great it feels. Sex, that is. I guarantee you’ll be happier during and after. Give it a try… like now.

6. BE ACTIVE!

For me, it’s working out. I know that’s not everyone’s “thing”. Even if you’re getting outside to take a walk, or  going sledding with your kids, any activity is better than the strenuous effort of lifting your television remote.

Every day I get to the gym is better than one where I do not. I’m in better spirits, I’m more alert, I feel better about myself.  Not to mention the results you will eventually see. The goal is to make physical activity a part of your day to day, this way you feel off if you aren’t getting a move on. Once this happens, once it’s integrated into your routine, I promise your overall mood will change for the better and for good.

7. Get a Pet

Some days, nothing makes me happier than walking through my door to have my two Havanese pups run to me and greet me. They are so pumped to see me, and in response I am pumped to see them. They cuddle me without asking for anything, they are quiet when told to be quiet, and my relationship with them is one of the most fulfilling in my life.

That sounds bad. But, relationships with people can be full of land mines and side roads. They can be exhausting. Pets just love you because you’re there and you feed them, and you love them because they don’t expect you to stop at the store on your way home from work for a gallon of milk.

 

My brain on music

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Anyone whose driven with me knows I have music ADD. I’m going to flip through my Spotify playlists randomly and manically, I’m going to listen to thirty seconds of one song and appear to be enjoying it before changing it to the next. It’s not necessarily true that I can’t find something I like, because it’s my music and I like it all! I’m waiting for, and hoping for, something to stick to me… to make me feel differently than I had a moment before it stuck to me.

And that is why music gets my vote as the coolest thing ever invented.. ever. Because on some days when you feel like you can’t feel, when you’re on autopilot and you don’t remember the last time you felt that tightening in your stomach they call excitement… the right song can make you feel alive again; especially if you sing along, LOUD.

Is music actually making an imprint on us as human beings; Physically, emotionally, mentally?

The answer to that is a resounding YES.

Music is born in and speaks to the most primal part of our brains. We know the beats in songs, the rise and fall of tempo, the expected and unexpected turns a certain song will take because it’s within each and every one of us. The beating of our hearts, the nervous tapping of fingers, breath cycling through our lungs. When trying to calm a crying baby, we bounce him up and down or make humming noises knowing these motions will soothe the baby. Knowing this because it’s what soothes us.

I’ve never felt so bipolar as when I’m listening to music for an extended period of time. In my thirty years on this Earth, I’ve had a lot of experiences. These experiences are all tied to a song or two, and when I hear that song I can be transported back within an instant. Back to my parents house when it was still my parents house and not the house we lived in after my father left. Watching my Dad work on the deck or plant flowers in the yard and listen to Billy Joel. Back to my high school hallways where I held hands with my first boyfriend and DMB played through the headphones we shared. Back to my first pregnancy where I sang Alicia Keyes to my unborn daughter, back to my second pregnancy where my son heard Adele nonstop.

These songs are stepping stones in my life, and have the power to bring me to my knees or lift me above the clouds. Nothing else, no one else, has that power over me. But since music is not perceived as a threat by my welcoming brain, I allow it to happen. My brain sees each chord, each key, each beautiful note as an old friend.

They didn’t have it wrong when the psychological and medical community stated it would be beneficial for young children to listen to music from a very young age. We know now that melody and language are processed in nearly identical brain regions. On top of all the evidence out there, children are naturally drawn to music from birth. Babies love to be sang to, toddlers are entranced by watching people sing or play instruments. There is something in us all that is innately drawn to music.

These artists have our number, though. There’s a little feeling of being manipulated when you listen to a song and feel that it’s being sung about you. How does John Legend know so much about my past relationship? Is my ex helping him right his songs?!

Nope. Even though you feel the lyrics are speaking directly to you, they are directed at the human experience. The inevitable heartbreaks and happinesses we all go through.

For me, Deep Inside of You by Third Eye Blind gets me every time. I feel like crying and I feel like being loved and I feel like having someone kiss me. I don’t think of anyone in particular, I just feel like the writer of the song intensely knew something about the human experience and every time I hear it I FEEL. I love to feel. Even if it’s crushed.

So play on. Flip through songs until you find one that sticks to you.