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Life is Too Short

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by Julie Hryniewicz-Hache

The fact that you are reading these words means that you are part of a very unique group of individuals. Whether you are an officer, the loved one of an officer, or someone who is employed or involved in any capacity in this industry, you probably understand the deep impact of the policing culture on your life. Policing is now in your blood and will forever change the way that you see the world.

Although I pulled the pin on my policing career, after only eight years on the force, it was news that a former co-worker of mine had ended own his life, that reminded me how we are all still connected. Hearing this type of information affects every one of us, whether we know the person or not. It causes us to reflect on our own lives and is a perfect opportunity to reestablish our priorities for our brief time on this earth.

When we entered the policing environment, we were full of excitement and enthusiasm, we wanted to make a difference in the lives of other people, and we were also happy to earn a decent paycheck, good benefits, and a pension at the end of the tunnel! Along the way we were pleasantly surprised that we actually got paid to do what we do. Being at the heart of the action, feeling that adrenalin rush, and knowing that every day would bring a new adventure, filled our days.

If you happen to be someone who still feels this way about your career and you also have your personal life intact, then keep up the good work. For the rest of us who have a past riddled with divorce and divided families, bitterness over internal politics, frustration over cutbacks and amalgamations, suffering health, and cynicism over the mess of our society, then perhaps you can relate.

It is a fact that this occupation exposes us to the worst circumstances in our society. We are witnesses to violence, abuse, neglect, death, crime, trauma, crisis, and despair. We add this to sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, shift work, the rise and fall of adrenalin surges, post-traumatic stress, and attempting to balance all of this with our personal life, and it eventually wears down our spirit, our bodies, as well as our family unit.

What began as a promising career, progressively lead to my life falling apart piece by piece. I became swept up in the all-consuming identity and negativity of the policing culture and I allowed it to jade me. I noticed several officers counting down the years until their retirement, I was shocked by the number of coworkers whose marriages were also in the throws of destruction, and I was sad to see all of the people praying to win the lottery to "get them out of here".

It is like the elephant standing in the middle of the office that no one is talking about. Discontent is everywhere. Just look around in your own office and realize how many of your co-workers are divorced. Look at all the people who are continuing to swim in sarcasm, anger, bitterness, worry, and constant wallowing over things that they can't control. This is no way to live; it affects your health, your energy, and everyone around you.

Negativity in your life is like adding black food coloring to the clean water in a fish bowl. Eventually negativity clouds your entire world, including your health, your relationships, and your social life. Even though we have always been trained to look for the worst case scenario and should continue to do so for purposes of safety, this habit may be the culprit for why our personal lives are taking a beating.

The whole world is not bad; it is just what our radar is set for. For every person that is caught speeding or committing a crime, there are thousands who are obeying the law. Can you see how negativity has become our habit? It's no wonder that police officers have such messed up personal lives!

If you are at the place in your career where you are more cynical than excited, more sarcastic than empathetic, or more bitter than ambitious, then it may be a perfect time to take a peek at where you have been focusing your energy. If you find yourself constantly rehashing the injustices of job, talking about the latest scandal, feeling angry and frustrated on duty or off, suffering in your relationships or your health, then you too could be headed for disaster.

Think about going into a sports store to buy skates. When you get home your spouse asks you if the running shoes were on sale. You have no idea because you weren't looking for running shoes; you were looking for skates. The reality is that the running shoes were there all along but you just didn't notice them. Many things exist simultaneously and yet we only tend to notice what we looking for or what we are in the habit of concentrating on.

If I asked you make a list of all of the things that you are angry, bitter, or frustrated about on the job, then I am certain you would be able to find tons of problems for that list. Understand that negativity festering in our mind and body eventually causes stress and disease. Stress and disease also leads to strained relationships. Strained relationships then lead to family breakdown.

On the other hand, if I was to ask you to identify all of the good points or positive things that have happened because of the job, then you could also find tons of things for that list; if you looked hard enough. Negative and positive always exist at the same time; it is up to you to choose what to focus your attention on.

Life is like that - we tend to be blinded by what is going wrong in our life to the point that we miss the good; I certainly did. By the time I left policing, I could rhyme off all the reasons why I needed to get out; divorce, depression, illness, leading eventually to bankruptcy. In hindsight, I forgot to list all of the reasons why I used to love the job and why it may be handy to stay employed!

Although my life is still riddled with the effects of my past decisions, I have learned to instead focus on what I am grateful for. No matter how much we try, we can't change the past. There is no use wasting any energy in guilt, anger, sadness, or grief over something that we can't change.

Picture a jar of one hundred marbles representing your energy level at the beginning of every day. Throughout the day you are constantly depleting your energy a few marbles at a time. Often we give our energy away to things we have no control over, only to find that there is very little left for the people or activities in our life that truly matter. Where is your energy going? Would you say that you are more negative than positive? If all of your "marbles" are gone by the end of your shift, how much energy is actually left for your family?

Do you know anyone who might be draining your energy or someone who is figuratively always throwing up in your ear? Decide in advance not to be a party to people who are constantly talking negative. Remove yourself politely or redirect any conversations that are going sour. When you surround yourself with people and situations that are constantly negative, your energy is being contaminated. If you are contaminated with anything, would you bring it home to your family?

Asking yourself probing questions are an opportunity to take stock on your life. It assisted me in realizing that wasting any of my already depleted resources on things that I couldn't change, allowed me to get very clear on what was truly important. Realize that your life right now is a direct result of the decisions you have made in your past. You chose your career, you chose your spouse, you chose your vehicle, you chose your home - you can also choose to notice and integrate the positive into your life that may have been overshadowed by all the junk.

Who are you grateful for? What are the good things that have come out of your career? Whose lives have you positively affected in the past? What accomplishments are you proud of? What lessons have you learned that you can pass on to your loved ones? How many more people can you comfort, calm, or perhaps even redirect to a more productive future by your actions and your words? On your deathbed, how do you want people to remember you? What gifts, skills, and abilities do you have that can be used to benefit other people? What fun activities have you been meaning to get around to but just haven't made the time?

If you are not happy about anything that is going on in your life right now, then realize that only you have the ability to change it. You are only a victim of anything if you believe that you have no power or control. The good news is that you don't necessarily have to resign from your job, move positions, or attempt to fight the "system", to find peace in your life. Are you actually a prisoner of your job or it is your choice? Once you realize that you are in control of your life then you have shifted your perspective.

You, your colleagues, and your families deserve to live a life of peace. The only responsibility you have while on this earth is to do what you love to do and make a difference to as many people as possible. If you think for a moment that you are here to struggle, then it's time to stop and reflect. The quality of your life is absolutely in your control. If you want things to be different, decide today, and shift your focus. It is much more fun to live life full out. Life is too short!

(Originally Published Spring 2006 - Police Association of Ontario POA Magazine Reprinted with permission of the author)


Julie Hryniewicz-Hache was hired by the Ontario Provincial Police in 1995 as a Provincial Constable.  During her law enforcement career she served in five detachments of the Northeast Region of Ontario.  Today, Julie Hryniewicz-Hache is a keynote speaker, workshop leader and author.  According to Julie, My purpose revealed itself through my adversity.  Despite divorce, depression, illness, and bankruptch, I am so blessed for every step of my journey.  Julie Hryniewicz-Hache is the author of Natural Balance: How To Energize, Heal, & Simplify Your Life.


According to the description of Natural Balance: How To Energize, Heal, & Simplify Your Life, You were created by the same magnificent Power that makes our sun rise and set on cue every single day - you have a purpose and you deserve peace. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How do you get there?  Natural Balance: How To Energize, Heal, & Simplify Your Life incorporates healing images of nature, inspirational quotes, empowerment, self-exploration journal pages, and the opportunity to collage your way to a better life. Whatever has happened in life so far is behind you; you have the opportunity now to take your journey to new heights by releasing anything that is holding you back, finding joy in your gifts and passions, replenishing your energy levels, and living full out. You have this undetermined span of time between today and the rest of your life; life is too short to miss out on the amazing feeling of joy, fulfillment, and gratitude for your days. You are truly magnificent; you just may not realize it yet! 

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