Happiness Interview: Janella Vasquez


Janella and her daughter, Rissa

I was excited when one of my Mom’s best friends, Janella, agreed to do a happiness interview.  She’s always seemed like a really, consistently happy person, so she seemed like a great person to talk to.  Moms, generally, are wells of wisdom.  But, Janella has that Mom-mojo with extra happy.

How long did you teach for and what grades?  

I taught for 33 years…. whew!  I loved teaching but I am SO glad to be retired.  I spent my first 14 years teaching a special day class, which is where I met your mom, who was our extraordinary speech therapist!  I spent the next 7 years as an RSP, and spent the rest of my time with first graders, which was my favorite.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I work at a local flower shop a couple of times a week, workout on pilates machines, and spend time with my husband, parents and girlfriends.  My parents and I love going to the movies, we try and go a couple of times a month.

What is your definition of happiness?

Happiness is a feeling or state of being that comes from within, the positive feelings, contentment and joy you experience just waking up and looking forward to another day.

What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

Spending time with my family, doing whatever.  I also enjoy having a houseful of people and love listening to all of the banter and laughter.

What’s something you know about happiness now that you did not know at 25 years old?

At 25 I thought…when I do this, I will be happy.   When I achieve this…. I will be happy.  When I have this… I will be happy.   It was all so contrived, based on what I thought should make me happy.  Well, I learned that happiness is what I should be feeling, DAILY, as I strive to achieve my goals.

Is there anything you find yourself repeatedly doing that gets in the way of your happiness?

No, cause if it doesn’t make me happy, I don’t do it!  I am a people pleaser and in the past I spent too much time doing things I didn’t really want to do, to please people.  I learned to say NO! (nicely)  Now, I do things that I want to do, because I want to do them.

If you’re feeling down, how do you give yourself a happiness boost?

I’m embarrassed to say—a little “retail therapy” makes me feel better.  If I’m a little down, a little shopping expedition and then scoring a great bargain adds a little lift to my step!  (So shallow, but it works)

How important do you think happiness at work is to a person’s overall happiness?

The luckiest people are the ones who love the work they are doing.  If you love what you are doing it doesn’t seem like work.  One spends most of their day at work, so it is very important.  The reality is that we still need money to pay bills so, if you don’t love your work, reward yourself with morning and evening activities you enjoy.

Have you always felt about the same level of happiness or have you been through a period where you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? 

I wake up happy every day… life is good.

You are a breast cancer survivor.  How did you find out about the cancer?  

My doctor found a lump during a routine breast exam (don’t ever miss your yearly exam.)   She found the lump on October 31st (my favorite day of the year) and I had a lumpectomy on November 14th.

What ran through your mind? 

The BIG “C” word is SO SCARY.   I was very frightened and afraid I was going to miss out on the big events of my life with my husband (I still have a bucket list you know) and my children’s lives: college graduations, their marriages (did I say that?), and grandchildren  (one can always hope).  I am so nosey and so busy that I didn’t (and don’t) want to miss out on anything!  I was also terrified of the idea of chemotherapy and radiation.  It wasn’t a walk in the park, but it wasn’t as bad as anticipated.

Did cancer change your perspective on life?  If so, in what ways? 

Yes… live each day and enjoy everyone around you.  Create memories with the ones you love.  Do what makes you happy, (I have been working with flowers) the dishes and housework can be done later. (sorry Andy)  Take care of yourself, your health is so important.  You won’t realize how important it is until you don’t have it.

Is there a happiness mantra you live by?  Or a particular book that has stayed with you?   

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

― Dr. Seuss

What is your advice to 20-somethings? 

Think POSITIVE, set goals and work hard, and while you are doing all this, take time to enjoy yourself.  Happiness comes from within, only YOU can make yourself happy.   If you are not happy then stop, and change it up.  Don’t worry so much about what other people think, “don’t judge me!”  Rely on your core values and wisdom nurtured by those that love you, as you face the challenges in your life.

Some of the above questions are Gretchen Rubin’s: www.happiness-project.com. 

8 thoughts on “Happiness Interview: Janella Vasquez

  1. I am one of those very lucky people to know and love Janella. She truly does light up a room with her beautiful smile and contagious laugh! She continues to teach, through example, how to really live this life with fullness of heart.
    Laugh and the world laughs with you!
    Love your project Natalie!

    • “Laugh and the world laughs with you”… I love that. 🙂 And I agree, Janella’s laugh is one of the greats. Thank you for such a great comment, and thank you for the compliment.

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