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The Buzz Around Town for March 5
Jason Wood
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Dr. Jason Wood is the new president at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. - photo by Robert Callahan photo
I took the liberty of including Heather Swatek’s story because it was so compelling and much better in her original words. Heather is currently the Disability Services Associate at the college. She has brought such a positive outlook to her work and it is appreciated by faculty, staff, and students alike. I am grateful she was willing to share her story publicly and I hope your readers enjoy her perspective as a wife, mother, employee, cancer survivor, and student advocate. We are proud to have her at the college!
By Heather Swatek
    I really reflected on the how and why I became a positive outlier. The thought of sharing my journey caused nervousness. As people, we all want to be accepted and live a life free of judgement. You see, I am my own worst critic and many of you can relate. Being vulnerable isn’t easy. I wasn’t always a positive outlier, so here is my journey.
    My parents divorced when I was three years old and their relationship is quite bitter to this day. I grew up experiencing a lot of fighting, arguing, and tension. I was filled with self-doubt and low self-esteem. I lived a life embarrassed by my family situation. I yearned for happiness in my life, but didn’t think it was possible.
    I think happiness is best described as being a journey and there are a handful of moments that stand out. One such moment is becoming a mom and then again a second time. My boys, Konner and Sawyer, have brought so much joy and pride into my life. They challenge me every day to be the best person that I can be. It was when I became a mom that I consciously decided to let go of the anger and hurt I was holding onto from my childhood. I want my children to experience lifelong happiness and share it with others.
    While employed at Grant County Social Services I was able to partake in a Leadership Boot Camp. It was a life changing experience for me. The Leadership Boot Camp dissected who we are as an individual and the beliefs we take on from our experiences. I knew I was a natural caregiver, and I learned that it was okay to take care of me first. I learned how to truly love me, all of ME! I learned to open my heart and to fight for connected relationships. This was the first time that I accepted that my husband of seven years could really love me as much as he said. All my self-doubt and limiting belief of not being loveable was squashed. Having a better understanding of who I am, what my inner strengths and “dark side” are, and how to embrace who I am has aided in my growth to becoming a better leader and positive outlier. I can control my own happiness based on my thoughts and attitudes, not what has happened to me.
    Unfortunately in 2017, I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. This is certainly not something I hope to ever experience again, but this was another period of growth in my life. It was the first time that I really allowed others to care for me and I openly accepted that there are so many people in my life that love me. Yes, it took cancer to realize that my life is filled with others who love me.
    Another “aha moment” occurred while sitting in a recent Unconscious Bias training at Southwest Tech. The training made me think about how Southwest Tech brings out the best in me. My job change has aided in my happiness and allows for that happiness to shine.
    Of course I am not happy every day or every moment of my life, but since experiencing so much happiness I don’t ever want to let it go. On a regular basis I practice mindfulness to maintain happiness in my life. Practicing mindfulness has become part of who I am. I simply try to see the joy and beauty all around me and find something positive in every situation. I reflect on what I am thankful for and how I have been blessed. I find joy in sharing happiness. I enjoy building relationships with others. I truly believe that all people are good people. A person’s questionable behavior is often based on their own internal struggles and negative limiting beliefs about themselves. I find that sharing a simple smile spreads kindness.
    Sometimes I have to remind myself that worries are wasted energy. Worries won’t change an outcome, but will steal my happiness. Being angry with someone, something, or a situation takes way more energy than being happy or searching for the positive so I try to define my feelings. I ask myself what I was really feeling—disappointment, sadness, embarrassment and so on since anger is a secondary emotion.
    In addition, I had someone explain that one’s anger with another person as giving up your power and control to the one you are angry with. As someone that felt they had very little control or power growing up I don’t want to feel that anymore. I want to be in control of my own life. During my happiness journey I have found gratitude. I no longer ask why me, but rather am thankful for my life experiences because they have made me who I am. And I love me. I believe that real happiness can be found when you love and accept yourself.

    Finding my happiness and positivity has been a process and I plan to continue to sprinkle it like confetti everywhere!