Making Choices That Make Me Smile

Christopher Swiecki - San Antonio, Texas
Entered on February 22, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe you should smile going to work and smile coming home from work. I clearly remember learning this lesson from my father when I was a young boy, not yet considering a career or a family. He doesn’t remember giving me this advice, but I have seen him live it.

Smiling on the way to work shows that you enjoy your job. You feel satisfied, appreciated, and, despite the inevitable daily grind, you’re having fun. Work is not always what you do to make a living. It can be staying home with the children, a retirement passion, or any daily endeavor. Having a goal keeps you engaged in life.

Smiling on the way home from work is evidence that you enjoy your family. You are excited to see your spouse, your children, the pets. You enjoy hearing the day’s events, helping with homework, eating dinner together, and settling into the rhythm of life at home.

My father worked as a large- and small-animal veterinarian in a small Wisconsin town. He enjoyed the characters he met on the dairy farms. He would smirk telling us stories of odd pets and their owners. It was clear he enjoyed his job.

In my teenage years, he gave up the large-animal half of his practice. It was hard to see all my basketball games with emergency calls early in the morning and late in the evening, which is when the farmers checked on the cattle. He said it was time to scale back. I know better; he was not smiling as much, so he made a change.

When he retired, his daily “work” was gone. He’s not a golfer or a tennis player. He didn’t have a daily activity to make him smile. Over the next few years, he talked my mother into joining the Peace Corps, took care of his ailing father, took up woodcarving, decided to learn Spanish, and took part in short medical mission trips. It took a few years, but he is back to smiling when going to work.

I have always tried to live by his example. I chose the rigorous road of attending a military academy. The challenge made me smile. I chose to be a surgeon, a career I enjoy despite the long hours, the late night calls, and the heartaches. And I also smile on my way back home. I found the love of my life, have three beautiful daughters, and can’t wait each day to get home to them. Just the thought of the three bouncy blonde girls running up to hug me, yelling “Daddy, you’re home!” makes me smile.

I believe that making choices that make me smile on the way to work and smile on the way home creates a life that is rich, full, meaningful, and—most of all—fun.

Christopher (Kit) Swiecki is a general surgeon who recently left the Army after fifteen years and moved back to Wisconsin. His wife of eleven years, Dee Dee, and his three daughters, Mackenzie, Brooke, and Claire, are always on the hunt for new adventures to make them smile.