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Regina’s Life Lesson #25: No one is in charge of your happiness except you

Continuing our series on Regina’s Life Lessons, development director Amber Recker, finance manager Kathy Ryan, and board member Janet Stephenson share their thoughts on “taking charge of your happiness.”

Amber Recker, development director

“Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve spent a lot of time blaming others or unfortunate circumstances for my (insert yucky feeling here). When I felt down, I always searched for an external cause for my discontent – from my family and friends to my diet or the weather. It is, after all, easier in the short term to make excuses and focus outside of yourself.

Then one day, I am not sure why – perhaps because I turned 30 and finally grew up a bit or because my husband, family and friends dished out some tough love… I can’t put a finger on the exact cause; I realized that I have a choice. Each day, when I wake up, I have a choice how I will allow things to affect me. Each day, I have a choice whether or not I will be happy. And I choose happy. Of course, I know that this shift from being a part-time pessimist to full-time optimist didn’t happen overnight – it’s the culmination of years of growing, but a perfect storm of circumstances a few years ago helped push me in this direction. And I don’t regret one moment of this new outlook on life because as you may have guessed, I am happy… and not just generally, but to the very core of my being.”

~ Amber Recker, development director

Kathy, Michael and Tim Ryan on Michael's graduation day

“My eighteen year old son taught me recently that no one is in charge of your happiness except you. When he was 16, he began talking about joining the Navy. My husband and I listened, but did not really think he was serious – how can a sixteen year old boy know what he wants from life? He was serious, and despite our early efforts to steer him other directions, he has never wavered from his decision. At 17, and with our permission, he entered the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program. Throughout his senior year in high school, in conjunction with football and wrestling and maintaining his grades, he honored all of the requirements of his Navy program, including rigorous training to pass physical screening tests every 45 days. He leaves in a few weeks for boot camp and then further training to be an Aviation Rescue Swimmer as part of the Navy Special Operations. He’s happy – I’m proud.”

~ Kathy Ryan, Finance manager

“This statement packs a punch, hitting me occasionally as a knock out—right between the eyes. However, I would substitute ‘contentment’ for the word ‘happiness’, because happiness by definition for me involves something happening to me. This or that makes me happy and as such is a temporal state dependent upon something happening to me. Contentment, on the the other hand, is from the inside-out and unaffected by external happenings. This may be semantics— happiness or contentment. Whatever, the point is that happiness or contentment is a personal choice for each of us to make no matter our circumstance. It reminds me of Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ beautiful metaphor that captures the opportunity for each of us: People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

~Janet Stephenson, board member