Scott Jarzombek grew up to embrace diversity. As a kid, he was placed in a special education program that changed his life and now his view on the world is one that we all should have.
TAMAR: Hi, everybody. Today I have an amazing guy. He gave me a story, and I purposely forgot it so that he could share it again. Scott Jarzombek, tell me a little bit about yourself. Thank you so much for coming.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: So, I’m the executive director of the Albany Public Library. It’s the largest school district library in the state. We serve the entire city of Albany, which is the capital of New York, I always like to remind people that we have seven branches, staff of around 130, 140. And we have about 65,000 card holders. So, we’re a really well used organization in the city and a really great resource. I’ve been doing that for about six years now, is actually six years in June. I actually started my career with Albany Public Library. I fell into libraries totally, by happenstance and fell upon my job at Albany Public Library kind of the same way. I started as a digital literacy instructor. So, what I did was ran a computer lab and taught computer literacy classes. I was in grad school. That’s the time you need a master’s degree in Information Science to be a librarian. So, I kind of just ended up in the job I was there for about nine years, I worked predominantly at Halle branch, which is a branch in the south end of Albany, which is kind of an area that has struggled in the last 100 years with socio economic issues. So, it was an underserved community that I was really happy to be a part of, did that for about nine years. And then for about five years, I kind of floated around getting managerial and leadership experience kind of around the state. And then I came back six years ago, and I’ve been the executive director ever since. And I definitely have grown into the job.
TAMAR: Awesome. Awesome. So, I have to ask you, maybe I don’t know if I’m challenging. You’re here but you say the largest school district library system in the state? I guess that means New York City is lagging behind there.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: No, no, no. New York City, the New York Public Library is a different type of library. There are multiple types of library systems throughout the state. New York Public is much bigger than ours. And so, it was Queens, and so is Brooklyn. But for the type of library that we are, we’re kind of a quasi-municipal entity. In other words, we have our own board of governance that’s elected and the school district collects separate taxes for us. So, we’re almost like a mini government. And there’s a significant amount of libraries that operate that way across the state of New York.
TAMAR: Okay, cool. Cool. Yeah. I’m in the Westchester County area. So, I guess you’re very likely bigger than we are. I don’t know. I don’t even know what an art quantities are. I can’t imagine. But yeah, tell me, I know you have story and you wanted to share your story. And I would love to talk and learn a little bit about where you come and how, where you are today?
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Sure, yeah . So, I always like to point out I had a very different road to being a librarian and a library director than most people. Librarians are viewed as kind of an academic job. However, I was not a good student. When I was in fourth grade, I was struggling. First I struggled with kind of I was tongue tied, took a few years for my family to figure that out. So, I had some speech impediment early in my life. And then after that, I just was not catching up academically. And this was, fourth grade, I was going to a parochial school, a small school. I was just really lucky that I had a mother who kind of stayed on top of stuff. And she had an IEP done for me, this was in the 80s. And people weren’t really doing IEP, or we’re talking about special education or learning disabilities. That way they talk about them now. And in fourth grade, I was given an IEP and I was found to have a learning disability. And it really changed my viewpoint on the world. And it really changed the way I have to navigate through the world. And even today, some of those things around and some of my disability shows up in my day to day work. But the first thing it really did was I had to be shipped every day. I had to get on a small school bus, a short school bus and ride from the parochial school to the public school. So first, fourth, fifth, sixth grader kid in a Catholic school uniform going into the big bad public schools everybody viewed it, to go to a resource room to go to a special ed class. And that struggled socially with other children, especially in the parochial school because I was an outlier. I was hot and different. And I was doing special ed. And that definitely caused some real issues and made me view the world very differently and then go into public school and being in a Catholic school uniform and experience in public school for like an hour a day. That was really a great experience. And luckily, I convinced my mom to switch me to the public school in eighth grade. But just having my toes in both worlds really made me view life and approach people differently.
TAMAR: Yeah, I certainly see that. I’ll give you a little bit of interesting background. I grew up in a predominantly Jewish community. I mean, my surroundings were 100% Jewish day school, Jewish synagogue, Jewish activities. When I was nine, I went to a camp that was a little more diverse for me, but I was bullied. I didn’t get the resection, that I guess I had to basically withdraw socially. And when I was about 16, 17, I spent a summer at Brandeis University doing a diversity Summer Program, which Brandeis is known or was known at that time as being more of a Jewish college. So, I guess my parents, given the upbringing that I had was like, let me send my daughter to college there because she would mostly be among like-minded, religious minded individuals. And fortunately, I would say that the Jews were in the minority. And for me, it was eye opening, it was actually the focus of my college essay, that I was able to grow and become I would say because of my upbringing, not because of in spite of, but just because of where I’ve been. It was close minded, and I don’t want to say judgmental, but all of a sudden, I appreciate it. The word tolerance, I would say is the word I would like to use all of a sudden, we can be tolerant of everybody around me, and it was like, OMG, this is the coolest thing ever. There are a lot of awesome people out there. Yeah, I just became so appreciative of who I was, and who everybody else was, and how I learned from people from different walks of life. I didn’t really have that, I didn’t feel like I had that exposure when I was younger, in a way that I could potentially flourish and grow from.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: One of the best things that happened to me as one of the components of being in the special ed program in the district I grew up in was a summer school. At first I think my mom viewed it as okay, here’s three weeks of free camp. But it was a really great experience because there were some more challenged individuals that went to the camp. And seeing kind of the neurodiversity was eye opening to me and just human, like it just brought a new face to people and what they were dealing with and what adversity they were overcoming in their life. And in the 80s again, you didn’t see that you didn’t experience it. They had especially in a parochial school and being in that summer school just really taught me how to curse. So, I don’t know if my mom would be thrilled with that. But it really just opened my world up to people who came from different races, ethnicities, religions, and socio economic standing. And it really made me kind of again appreciate the world and appreciate our differences more than you know, that I would have been able to, just by reading about other people in a book or an after school program, actually being involved and immersed and being part of a community. And it almost was like a community being in the special ed program, was like being in a community. Some of the few people I still talk to from high school were actually in my resource room. So, there was a great, diverse community that I don’t know, even if I had gone to public school if I hadn’t been in the special ed program. I would not have become friends with some of the people I had if it wasn’t for the fact that I was in a special ed program.
TAMAR: Yeah, same here. These are walks of life that I would never have potentially taken, held hands with and gone down that path if not for the fact that I’ve done this and it’s been an experience. And I will say that I learned how to curse in Jewish day school. So, it sounds to me that you would have been okay. Wherever you were, and it was sort of inevitable. It’s part of its hashtag growing up these days, you just got to hashtag it all.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Yeah.
TAMAR: So, yeah. I wanted to ask you something about that. I know that this is your story and your upbringing. I suspect you don’t define yourself that you’d like us to talk about the disability and how it sometimes you still think about it in your daily work. But do you? Are you cognizant of it.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Oh, Oh, absolutely. Especially being in a leadership position, being an educational spirit, and academics were hired to do a lot of writing. And that’s where the majority of my learning disability comes into play. I actually teach in the Information Science Program at SUNY Albany, the high school and high teaching administration, a class of administration. And I explained to my students, you’re going to see slides, there might be some spelling mistakes, there may be some grammatical errors in some of the emails that I write you. One thing that happens with me is that I have to reread something, three or four times. After I read it, in order to figure out all the grammatical errors and spelling errors and sentence structure, I flip sentence structure around, so I’m very aware of it. I also think it improves my approach to students when it comes to education. And I do kind of identify, myself as someone who grew up in special ed. I do think that’s a part of who I am. And I share the story. And sometimes people are really surprised how willing I am to share the story, but it’s because it defined who I was. I mean, I was made to feel slightly like an outcast at a very early age. So, I gravitated towards things like punk rock and skateboarding. And I think that may not have happened. I grew up very traditional, I grew up on a farm. My dad was a truck driver, I grew up in a very traditional house. I was an altar boy. I actually thought about being a priest. And then once I got my IEP, and once I started going to resource room and being a part of Special Ed, I really started to rebel. And that’s when I got into punk rock because I just felt like an outlier. And it did define me. But instead of taking something and letting it define me in a negative way, I found a really positive subculture that fit in. And I’m really proud of not only taking my learning disability and using it as a strength, but also accepting the fact that I was different and really embracing it by the subcultures that I involve myself in.
TAMAR: Right, right. Yeah, I think that’s amazing. I love that you’re turning what most people would perceive as a fatal flaw, if you will, but you’re making it approachable, especially when you go to your students, they’re like, hey, I might make mistakes. I think we as a human culture, we’re very perfectionist minded. And until just a few years ago, that’s exactly where I wanted to be. I always wanted to be perfectionist, but I was depressed, and yet being perfect. It didn’t even go in tandem. And then like, as I’m coming out of my depression I remember my daughter’s first grade teacher saying, we’re not perfect. And I said to myself, the fact that she’s saying that she’s trying to teach perfectionism and all of a sudden, I started embracing that. And I’m like, wait a minute, you know what? I don’t care. Like, you’re right. I’m not perfect. And I’m going to start embodying that. Because, yeah, sure, I could be somebody I aspire to. I would like to also think that there’s growth opportunity in terms of the fact that I’m making myself humanly accessible.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Well, this is what I teach my students. And this is what I talk about in my organization. When I’m talking to people who work with me, that report to me, is just the idea of not about being perfect. It’s about trying to improve. And what’s perfect today is not perfect tomorrow. So, this concept of perfect that I’m going to, I’m perfect at this. No one stays perfect at anything. Athletes pitchers in baseball, don’t say they don’t pitch. They don’t pitch one perfect game. And then after every game after that they pitch a perfect game. So, I’ve never thought about perfection. I’ve just always wanted to improve and be better than I was. And I think it’s because I was taught coping mechanisms. And the idea behind those mechanisms is this will get you to be better. Better and better every day. And perfection is just its death. Perfection is the depth of desire. It’s if you want to be better, you can’t necessarily look for perfection, you can’t accept that perfection even exists. And I don’t think it’s fair to people to expect things to be perfect. And also, what’s perfect in my mind is not necessarily perfect in somebody else’s mind. So, I always kind of stay away from saying, oh, my God, you did that perfectly. It’s like, wow, you did that really? Well, I’m really impressed. And it’s because what I think may be perfect is not necessarily what really is perfect, or perfect, and that perfect in that person’s mind. So, you just have to really come at life to saying, I want to improve, I want to be better, I want to do the best I can. And going for perfection is just black and white. We can’t live in a black and white.
TAMAR: Right. There are so many things I can say to that. So first of all, you know that Angela Duckworth talks about grit. And she talks about, this is not the church, the commentaries that she has here in isolation here. They talk about how you’re not supposed to say, excellent work, you’re supposed to be like, you did a really good job because that encourages the mindset, the growth mindset. They should continue working toward that. So that’s exactly like what you were saying. And then the other thing that I was thinking about, I’m reading currently The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson. And it’s an old book he actually came out probably about eight years ago, but I don’t think I was mentally ready for it. And earlier last week, actually, last Friday, I found it on my shelf. But I was like, let me just read it. And I have to say it was like perfect timing. Could have been like maybe two months earlier, but it was perfect timing. But she was talking about how sports athletes the way you were describing, they’re not you think of it, they’re actually not even perfect. Think about, first of all, they talked about how expertise usually requires 10,000 hours of practice. But even so, I mean, can you imagine how many failures they had before they became successful, how many foul balls and how many penalties, and how many all these things and how many injuries they’ve had to endure before they got to that point. And I think that’s an awareness that most of us don’t have, we look at them when we idolize them, and we don’t realize that there’s the journey, and the destination, and even when they hit the destination, you’re still never going to be 100% perfect. You’re never going to have 100%, you might have a baseball game where there’s all these strikeouts, you might not even get a hit or no hitter game, all those things, you’ll always have those shortcomings. And yeah, I start realizing the other thing that I have an awareness of is that at the end of the day, no one really cares, like they’re focused on themselves and so much focused on you. So, you got to recognize that making yourself more accessible and more. approachable is incredibly more valuable, then. I mean, I think what you’re doing right now is really giving people faith, that they don’t have to be perfect, but they can still be amazing, they can still make a tremendous impact. So, thank you.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: So, I mean, you think about a baseball player, a good hitter in baseball, has a 300 average, that means they hit the ball less than a third of the time.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: And that’s something I always think about when I’m approaching things. And of course, it varies. And there are some things we do in life that we should be able to do 99 out of 100%. And often we do and it’s also the amount of hours that need to be put into practice and the different ways of thinking about things, the different ways baseball players need to think about the game, they need to do a lot of subconscious thinking, and that has to do with hitting and reading pitches. But simultaneously, they have to do big picture thinking about okay, if I do this, then how is this going to affect the game later on? So, I mean, I don’t really think there’s anyone in sports who is perfect. I mean, you might have a couple of people out there, some outliers, but the majority of people who are really good are really great at what they do. They’re not perfect, they’re never going to be perfect, and then don’t get mired down in the idea of perfection because they understand that it’s fleeting. If you do reach perfection, it’s only a moment in time, and that you’re going to go back to being imperfect, right after that.
TAMAR: Right. Right. Yeah. Like you were saying, everybody’s saying, I’m so happy that they’re glad that you’re coming out and you’re being very open about your past. And it’s also something that I’ve been getting because I’ve been using LinkedIn lately, and I haven’t really been active on LinkedIn, but LinkedIn is a network of professionals. It’s really an echo chamber, I’m sorry to say of people who are like, oh, yeah, but to work really hard, and it’s really amazing. But they don’t talk about that struggles while you’re working really hard. And I decided I’m going to start talking about my vulnerabilities and the fact that I was depressed. And my depression was an impetus to start a whole business, a business and a lifestyle businesses that focus on mental health. Well, not so much a focus on mental health. The thing is that when I first started, it wasn’t even about mental health. But everybody’s telling me you’re telling your story in the context of mental health, maybe it should be. And lately, just being as vulnerable as I’ve been, people have been coming up to me and saying, thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for being open. Thank you for that. You’re really inspiring. And it’s similar, you’re doing the same exact thing. There are very few people who want to do that. But it’s such a weird place. It’s a weird place to be, I would say that they’re like, it’s important for us to start sharing our shortcomings. I think it’s really, really valuable. But I don’t know, if you consider them shortcomings in the context of the rest of the world. Yeah, maybe it is. But it’s like, wow, let’s be human again, people don’t think about that.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: As you know, there are things that happened to me when I lost my father, when I was 11. I mean, there are definitely other traumas in my life and things that went wrong. But you learn from them. I mean, that is, they will affect you, and it will be adverse, and you need to find ways to kind of heal. But at the same time, as you heal, and you find ways to heal, you also grow as a person. And I wouldn’t be who I was, again if I was not, if I had not been in that special ed program. I would not be the person very comfortable in a diverse group. I’m very comfortable in a neuro diverse group. And it all just came down to just having this relationship and being a part of a community that was of people who are very different than who I grew up around or with. And my viewpoint on the world, maybe it changed, but it also helped me understand that my viewpoint is going to be different than others’ viewpoints. And neither of our viewpoints are wrong. We just experience the world differently at either different elevations or from different angles. And we have to figure out what’s the common place. And then just my experience in life helped me get there much sooner than I think most people.
TAMAR: Yeah, yeah.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Why do you think the original attendance of your podcast changed?
TAMAR: Okay, so the original intent of my business was watching a fragrance.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: That I read. That I saw.
TAMAR: Yes, the podcast hasn’t changed the mental, the focus that I used to say it’s fragrance for wellness. And now it’s fragrance for mental health. And people are like, maybe we should start focusing on postpartum depression and depression world. I don’t know if that’s the right way to go. But the fact that it was just supposed to be a wellness brand. It wasn’t supposed to be mental health wellness, it’s like everybody, mental health becomes a little more niche and isolated. And is it even the right direction, I’m not entirely sure. So, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how I’m responding to it, but I am going to do the best I can to figure it all out.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Okay when I was young, I used music for mental health. And I think a lot of people do, right. And it’s not something I do anymore. I might pick up a guitar every once in a while and strum it. But for a long period of time, it was that sensation of this loud and obnoxious music. It was that sensation that really helped me cope and treat some of the things that I was going through and some issues with my wellness and my mental health. And it’s always interesting how the senses play a part. And I am always triggered by smells. There are particular smells in my life that bring me back to a time in my life where an individual in my life had lost one of my best friends about seven years ago, and he was a heavy smoker and he and I were bouncers together, and whenever I smell if I’m walking down the street, and I smell his particular cigarette, I smile and I’m not big on smoking. I don’t really like public smoking. I think it’s gross. But I can’t help but smile if I walk past somebody who smokes Marlboro reds because it reminds me of being in front of a bar in the morning and joking around about Star Wars and all those things. So, all of our senses are tied into our mental health and our wellness. I smell delivery oil, and if I smell diesel, on something, I automatically am back to my child. So yeah, it’s there. All of those senses are important sounds, smells, food. So important. Yeah, taste is all ties to our mental health. It ties us to times in our life that we’re both positive and negative
TAMAR: One hundred percent. And it’s funny because it’s true, also it can have the negative adverse effects here. It could be something that’s very traumatizing. So, yes, be mindful of that too. But at the same time, like most times when you start thinking about it in the way that I’m trying to create it, I want people to kind of create memory based on their revisiting it in the morning. For example, I want you to put on perfume in the morning. And I want you to revisit that throughout the day. You have an intention, you putting it on a morning, probably because you want to have a great day. But the thing is that most people put it on the morning, and then they forget about it throughout the day. But the fact is people, when they come into contact with other people, all of a sudden those other people are like, oh, you smell great. And that’s really what most of the world, it’s all about the outward acceptance versus the inward acceptance. If you were to put it on, feel good for yourself, and then revisit that throughout the day. It’s life changing, I have to say it’s life changing, I put on perfume and like, I have some right now. And I’m trying to normalize the act of risk sniffing which is very weird. But at the same time, we put up for free when you put on Cologne, you put whatever it is on hoarding and lift the spirits throughout the day, and it brings you back to that moment, that hopefully you had good intentions, like they talk about gratitude, and they talk about the worlds of morning rituals, they talk about wake up and you say, today is going to be a great day. This is how you bring yourself back to that mindset. Because when you put it on, today’s going to be a great day. Earlier when we were talking you said that the experience that you had worked in a diverse world and in the public schools, and everywhere else. You didn’t use the word but I want to use the word regret. We look back at it, it’s a shaping experience for you. And I went through, I would say, like, hell for a while I even hit a rock bottom that I talked about, the nine years of postpartum depression, but I don’t talk about the two years within the last nine years where I was basically exploited by somebody who saw that vulnerability and use that. And I look at it, I’m still completely in control of my experience, I have no regrets about what happened. Certainly, I’m sad, and I’m angry. But looking back, I’m just like, this needed to happen. And people always say, oh, I’m so sorry, that this happened to you. And I’m like, I’m not. It’s something I’m very proud of. Something that helps me become a better version of myself.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Exactly.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: I mean, that is I think the best way we need to teach people. We need to teach people to accept the trauma that they’ve had in their life and understand that there could have adverse effects on them and their emotions, but at the same time to build and have it. Also, be a source of strength that they can help others with, and also simultaneously build on as they move forward in the future, and not look back with regret on things. We talked about constant improvement. It’s never going to get better. It’s never going to change. So why look back at it in such a negative way to avoid them to say, okay, so you look back at something in a negative way. You should look at it and go, okay, I made that mistake. I did that. I should never do that again. And this is what I should do instead. So, you shouldn’t really look back and regret at all. And then another thing I want to touch on when you’re talking about just putting on perfume in the morning, I think it’s a part of ritual. And I think ritual is really, really important for all of us. Perfect example is I was a regular goer to Starbucks. Do I think Starbucks Coffee is great? No, but it was just a ritual in my morning, I would get up early, I would drive to a Starbucks on the opposite direction of my job. I would go through the drive thru, they knew me and the drive thru, would then park in the parking lot for about 15 minutes. I would just sit in the car and I would drink a little bit of my iced coffee. And that was my ritual when the pandemic came and I stopped going out to get coffee because we really followed the lockdown very seriously in my household. That was something that I missed and actually I joined a coffee subscription service and I’ve been getting all these wonderful blends of Coffee from all over the place. It’s been really great. And I’ve been enjoying making myself coffee and experiencing that. But every once in a while, like this morning when I’m down or I’m feeling anxiety, I have to do that ritual of driving to that particular Starbucks and getting a coffee, spending 15 minutes in the parking lot and then going home. And it’s just a ritual that I need to have. And I think rituals are important for people. And no matter what they are, it’s how they put on perfume in the morning, how they comb their hair, how, walking their dog at a particular time. I think those rituals are really helpful for us, because it’s order in our life. And it just reminds us that there are things that are solid in our life.
TAMAR: Yeah, and I’m hoping for myself in my perfume story. And the fact that I can communicate this value proposition of potentially changing the world with your mental health and through the application of scent in the morning, is that people can create new rituals. For me, this ritual actually was an impetus to literally a domino effect for future rituals. My perfume excitement got me to start using my voice again. So, then it brought me to karaoke. And I was feeling confident around people. And then the next thing I started, I said, I’m going to start reading. Well, first, it was starting to journal then I started to read every single day, then I started to run every single day, then it became like a little bit of an infatuation with fitness and nutrition. And if not for the fact that I started ahead one thing, and I really stuck to it, the other things wouldn’t have happened. I just read the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. I just talked about this in a previous podcast, I don’t know if I loved it. But I started to think about it now. In The One Thing, he talks about the domino effect about how one little tiny thing could start pushing, pushing other things that are much bigger down. And the more you have that the more strength of whatever it is that like physics, that power that can push things down based on that little thing. So, like a feather can push down eventually, like a pencil and that pencil can push down something that’s twice the size of a pencil. Yeah, I mean, personally, I think that was my one thing. But I don’t know if I love the idea of focusing on one thing now for the rest of my life. I just think you have to think about it in a bigger, bigger picture versus a daily grind, which is how he talks about it. But still, nonetheless, it’s valuable.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Yeah. Maybe it’s because I grew up Catholic, there’s a lot of and was very into my religion at a young age. And there’s a lot of churches like the Jewish religion, there’s a lot of tradition, and there’s beauty in that tradition. And I just think it’s important to have that ritual. It’s almost like meditation, I got very into meditation when I first got into administration because that was the big thing first for C suite, it’s get into meditation, mindfulness, all leaders need to be mindful. And it was funny because I got into meditation, and I started doing it, and I got really into it. And then I realized, oh, my God, this is just saying Hail Marys. This is just getting a rosary and saying, I had beads and I would go to a Buddhist monastery that was down the street from where we lived in how we listen to chanting, and I really got into it. And then I just one day woke up and I went, oh, my God, this is no different than going to confession and then going and sitting in the church after confession in doing 20 Hail Marys for stealing gum from the gas station. It’s again, those rituals, it’s tradition, but it’s those rituals that just kind of become an everyday part of our life. And maybe what they do is they reset our brain to be a little bit more of, I don’t have to think the big picture. Let me just think the small picture. And that gives the rest of my brain room to think, to just relax and not think at all. Yeah,
TAMAR: So yeah, I was just listening to a podcast about meditation. I tried to focus on it. Kind of deviate from the norm on those things. But I have to reflect back on that later. Maybe I have to listen to it again. But let’s talk about that. We talked about self-care. You talked about meditation, being part of that you talked about your Starbucks ritual. Tell me a little bit about what your self-care looks like.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Right now. My self-care is on pause, which is kind of sad. I got into martial arts late in life. I got into martial arts about a decade ago. So, I was in my mid-30s. We had just moved to Dutchess County, New York, which isn’t far from Westchester, very, very different than Albany County, more rural, more like where I grew up, but not what I was used to living, not the environment I was used to living in. I had lived in Albany for 10 years in Hartford before that. So, I was on adjustment, I was kind of lost, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. And I had just stepped into my first leadership position. And I was also becoming a parent for the first time. And so, I was really struggling with what can I do. I was working as many jobs as possible, I didn’t leave, I didn’t believe in self-care. But I had reached a point where I was just like, well, I’m going to break mentally, if I don’t find something. And I had music for a long time. But I couldn’t really do that. So, I got into Muay Thai and boxing, and that was my self-care for a while. And then when I moved back to Albany, I got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu. And right now, I can’t do any of those things, those gyms are closed. And my self-care is pretty much exercise. So, like I said, my self-care was martial arts, and maybe go into the gym and lifting weights and thrown around kettlebells every once in a while. Now my self-care is walking my dog. Yeah, my dog and I do two walks every day, we do a two-mile walk in the morning. And we do a three to four mile walk at night. Sometimes the boys come with me, like last night, they got on their bicycles, and they rode with me a little more stressful, a little less self-care, because I’m worried about them not paying attention and riding their bike dangerously. But that’s right now where I’m at, and it’s good. It’s like meditation, I just keep walking step after step. And I come out of it feeling much better and come out of it with some really great ideas. And right now, that’s my self-care. I’ve also really embraced some household chores and it sounds crazy, like laundry and washing dishes, almost like a practice. We have a dishwasher, but I want to wash the dishes every morning. And again, that’s my morning ritual, my wife talked about it yesterday . I like to get up in the morning, either make myself coffee, go get coffee, come back and do the dishes. And I think it’s those right now, I think positive to everything we’re currently going through, we’re going to have an appreciation for the simple things in life. And whereas I saw chores as a challenge in the past, I now see it as a really great opportunity to not only be a part of my household and do something positive for everybody around me, but it’s an exercise, it’s a practice, and I do feel better, I’d wash the dishes. As an executive director, I don’t have a lot of fight, things don’t necessarily have a beginning and end for me, almost everything I do is very open ended. There’s not a lot of things where it’s just a simple process. So, if I can do the laundry, do the dishes, there’s a beginning and an end to that. There’s a particular way to do that. And I kind of find comfort in it. So, for people who are thinking about self-care and looking for activities, maybe it’s time to start talking to your partner and seeing what other house things you can do around the household. Maybe it’s time to tell your cleaning person, hey, I want you to do this because I’m going to take on that responsibility. But look for the simple things in life. And make that a practice. And you’ll find that there’s a method. There’s almost a meditative quality to it.
TAMAR: Yeah. So, for me personally, I actually really struggled in the beginning. I’m glad you were able to. You say you put your self-care on pause. I don’t know if I agree with that. You just displaced your self-care and made it the way it works under circumstances. Like you were talking about how the pandemic changed your ritual to go to Starbucks, but you still found a way to practice that ritual and in a different way. And it’s sort of the same thing for me, I struggled in the beginning. Also, I was a member of three gyms and I don’t know when the gyms are going to be reopened. I mean, to some degree they are, but I don’t know if I’m ready not because of the fact that I’m worried about Coronavirus because I already had the virus in March. But I’m actually worried about going to the gym because I brought the gym to my house. So, that would have been part of my self-care, but okay, so my self-care is a little different. Now my self-care is in my basement with a television and some streaming videos and a couple of ways. And today I’ve been wobbling because I did such strength training that I literally my legs have been on fire for the last two days. But I guess I’m getting it done. And I’m getting it done in a way that doing some of the exercises would have normally happens in the gym, haven’t been able to do that. So, I’ve been able to kind of find alternatives that actually might even challenge me even more. And it’s sort of saying hey, you found something that’s not martial arts, but you’re taking your walk and you’re walking, it’s meditation. So, you’re finding some ways to squeeze other things in, but also making it work I think is amazing. And I feel you were sort of apologetic in the beginning, you’re like, well, it’s kind of my boss. But it’s not quite as you’re doing a pretty great job and don’t like that.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: The positive from all this is it made us appreciate home much more.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: We ate dinner all around the table last night, that was not the norm in my household before that, because I work the job that I did. And I was always working before I got into administration. I was always working a night job. And because of that I rarely sat down the four of us and almost never sat down to dinner until all this happened. And now, at first it was every night now, it’s probably three or four nights a week, the four of us sit around the table. And it’s just bringing us back to someone who necessarily thinks tradition is important. But I do think there’s a reason why some things were established in tradition. And I think that’s one of those things. So, I think it’s good that we’re going back to enjoying our homes. And being in our homes, I grew up where you didn’t, I didn’t leave the farm I grew up on. I mean, there was two or three houses that visit. But I never left the property and we went downtown, we ran errands once or twice, once every week or two weeks. And now I live a life where I feel like I’m constantly running errands, constantly running to target or the store or running around. And now I’m looking back. And I’m like, that was kind of pointless, and I wasn’t spending enough time home. And I wasn’t spending enough time with my family. But I also wasn’t spending enough time with myself.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: So, I do miss them running around. But at the same time, it’s like, I think we’ve slowed down a little bit in this, I think that’s going to be good for all of our mental health. And I know that there was a study that came out recently that teens say they’ve been less anxious the last six months or more. Adults are very anxious. We’re all worried about getting sick in the economy. And having young kids are anxious, because this is a really weird change, and they miss their friends. But I think in my neighborhood, there’s a lot of people who are just out and about and just kind of living life, it’s simpler. And I think they might be on to something.
TAMAR: Yeah, yeah. There was an article that came out in the New York Times about two or three months ago about how women who are pregnant, they’re not coming to giving birth prematurely, or preterm, which is pretty amazing because I think part of it is the fact that there’s less stress in the world. I don’t know about me, if I was pregnant, I’d be in big trouble. But I think that shows where we are as a culture in the society right now. It’s very interesting.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: I think one thing that will come out of this is the idea of overscheduling our kids. My hope is that something we become pretty much free range parent. And I’m lucky I live in a neighborhood that’s very accepting of free range parenting, and we have a lot of parents who are kind of on the same page as us. We consciously don’t schedule our kids. And it’s interesting to see now how alive our neighborhood is with kids riding their bikes everywhere. And there are classmates of my sons, who I didn’t realize we live two blocks away from Yeah, but they were always scheduled, there was always an activity, there was always something going on. It is nice to walk. When I take the dog for a walk, I’m walking around the neighborhood. It feels like the kind of neighborhood you hear about in fiction. There are kids playing wiffle ball in the middle of the street. And I hope we do find a really good balance that kind of gives kids back that freedom and even gives adults back that freedom. I’m stressed out over my job and stressed out about the future. However, I do feel less stressed because all the small stuff that I’m sweating, I don’t really sweat it anymore, right?
TAMAR: Yeah, I love that. I can’t say we have the idyllic fictional setting that you just described, but I don’t know how it’s going to be for kids, honestly. But I guess if I want that kind of lifestyle, I’m going to Albany, that area. So, keep doing this.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: The Capital Region, I would suggest the capital region in New York to anybody. It’s a really, really great area. But yeah, it was interesting because we moved into a very quiet neighborhood and it’s no longer a quiet neighborhood. We moved into an Emirate. We thought we were the only people with kids in our neighborhood, we slowly met other families. But now since the pandemic happened, especially in the summer, there is always a kid yelling somewhere off in the distance, and I absolutely love it.
TAMAR: Yeah, that’s awesome. Awesome. Cool. Well, let me ask you, if you can give an earlier version of Scott a piece of advice, what would you tell him?
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Do no harm. That’s actually been a big thing. I have for the last three or four years really concentrated on how organizations communicate with their staff, how staff can communicate with their peers, how staff and managers and supervisors and leaders can the land and the leaders can talk to each other. And I think it’s really important, especially in our current environment, the idea of do no harm when you’re communicating with people. We think the internet conversation and discussion is now a battle, if there’s a winner and a loser. And I think that’s really sad. And I think we’ve lost something as a society. So, when I talk to people, want to have conversations, even if they’re hard conversations, even if it’s my neighbor, he had a party way too late last weekend. And I don’t want to hear people yelling in my street four in the morning, how do I approach that conversation in a way where I get them to understand how important it is, and how will benefit them and myself, and not to hurt their feelings and not to come out of the conversation as a winner or a loser, cover the conversation where everybody grew and kind of move towards something better. So, it’s always with that idea of you enter it with doing no harm. And you might still do harm, but as long as your intention is to do no harm. That’s my piece of advice. Take a breath, breathe, don’t be angry, don’t approach it as a win lose situation, just approach it as you need to communicate something, and you want to see an effective change.
TAMAR: All right, awesome. Well, thank you. And where can everybody follow you and find you online?
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: I’m mostly on Twitter. That’s my big kind of communication tool. And that’s @SCJarzombek. Twitter is pretty much the primary way to see me and I’m a blogger for a local newspaper, The Times Union. So, if you go to my Twitter page, you’ll see a link to my blog as well. And you can always check out Albany Public Library. And I always advise people, wherever you live, check out your public library, see what your public library is doing. When public libraries are back open, there are amazing places. But right now, they’re doing fantastic work, helping people virtually and helping people by being out in the community. So, check out Albany Public Library, but really search out your local public library in your community and see the amazing work that they’re doing.
TAMAR: All right. Thank you so much. I really appreciate the time and yeah, yeah, it’s great.
SCOTT JARZOMBEK: Good, I’m glad it worked out.
TAMAR: Yeah. Thank you so much.