This I Believe

Annette - Chandler, Arizona
Entered on February 11, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I believe

There were three big times in my life when what I believe was experienced and created in my heart. The belief became a private trust and comfort. The first time was a few months after I left my parents’ home. I was invited to leave. I was almost 17 years old, and afraid and angry at first. As I began my survival, I realized I was happy. I woke up happy. I looked forward to the day. Of course this wasn’t an hour to hour day to day state of mind. What I am trying to say is that my happiness was not based on my environment, it was in my heart. I was homeless for a few months sleeping in cars on cold nights. I did not have enough food eating once a day if I could. I was alone and hiding the fact I was a teenager on my own. I worked and went to high school. I walked miles to get to school, work and back to my pretty dangerous apartment. I was scared sometimes and lonely too. I didn’t do drugs, or have sexual relationships, or do anything wild. I couldn’t afford to do risky behaviors. I knew I was truly on my own. I lived a hard life between 16 and 21 years of age, but I was still happy. I believe that happiness with ones life is internal.

A second time was several years later when I was briefly married and I had an infant daughter. My husband and I would have terrible fights. I would feel isolated, trapped and sad. Once when arguing, he grabbed our daughter and slid her across the floor into the wall. She wasn’t hurt, but it frightened us both. I realized then, at that moment that I had repeated my childhood life of fear. I took our daughter, $200.00 and a U Haul of books, baby clothes and plants and drove to a town I saw once in California that I liked. I started over. I was happy again. this time I had a GED and experience working in offices. I had a moment of deep fear and panic at a coffee shop in Santa Barbara CA and then I went on to survive, problem solve and make my child and myself comfortable and safe. Again, I realized in the process of jumping from a fear laden but in some way safe environment to open, venerable and new life that I was happier. I had no good reason to be all happy. I had a baby, no job, very little money, and knew no one. My family and I hadn’t talked to each other in years; I had no support system of my own. I managed to meet people, get a great job, live in a beautiful home and make friends. My daughter received a scholarship at a close by Montessori pre-school and day care center. I know that this type of luck was due to my expression of happy thoughts and feelings. I know I attracted my luck by my demeanor.

When I was 28 years old, circumstances presented themselves that I chose to quit my job and go to school, college. I felt this was a huge risk because I was brought up to believe I was not good in school, maybe even a little dumb. I worked my way through junior college as a financial aid helper. I went on to Arizona State University, working, earning many scholarships and becoming involved in helping the community. I graduated Summa Cum Laude and Commencement Speaker for the University. I earned many other gifts of gratitude and regard that year and feel I did accomplish something. Yet, I wasn’t that happy. Internally, putting myself through college was a process and a life that I chose. I gained so much more than I gave. I learned I wasn’t dumb. I leaned that learning was about trying and staying with the task, persistence more than brains. This is a example of a time in my life where one would maybe expect me to feel glee and a sense of self efficacy. It didn’t. It was not a sad time. It was just regular living. Graduating from college with honors did not provide me with happiness. Living a happy life helped me graduate from college with honors.

In times where one would be grasping and desperate and in times where one is safe and accomplished, I realized that my feelings of contentment and joy did not come from my daily living or goals realized, my happy feelings came from within. I believe a person can chose to be happy and then be happy.