I'm 35 years old and still looking for pride in my Dad's eyes. I received a gift in the mail from my Dad today --- a book of collected essays from author Sharon Randall - called "Birdbaths and Paper Cranes". My Dad told me last week that my blog entries remind him of her writing and that he was sending me a copy of one of her books. I haven't read the book yet, just the forward (which is beautifully written by her son). But I never expected that such a gift would instantly bring back so many memories of how much I have always wanted to make my Dad proud of me.
As far back as I could remember, Dad told me I could do anything I wanted and be anything I wanted. I received my first doctor set when I was four. It's not that I didn't have the traditional girl toys - I loved Barbie and Strawberry Shortcake with all my being at that age. But the doctor set was a gift that said be ambitous.
My Dad pushed me toward science and math and in Jr. High, I won first place at the local science fair, after working diligently on a project about electromagnetism. My Dad and I did all sorts of experiments with magnets - my favorite being ruining the color display on the TV for a week and not telling Mom who did it. Around the same time we had fun building a short-wave radio together. Super cool. I love that he taught me that it was okay to break things down to figure out how they worked - and how it's equally okay when they don't go back together exactly the way they should.
It sounds like a cliche, but he always taught me to do my best and try my hardest. I spent two years in high school without a lunch period because I was too busy doing as many classes and extracurricular projects as I could cram into my day. I skipped out on home economics (and I now realize what a poor choice this way - you do not want to try my "cooking") in Senior Year because I wanted to take physics (offered during the same period) instead. My Dad not only taught me to marvel in technology (graphing calculators! CD players! cell phones!) but to understand how they worked and to understand the science behind them.
When college time came around, it was never an issue of 'if' I was going to college, it was where. My Dad was the first in his family to get a bachelor's degree and he was fairly adamant about college equalling success. I "knew" I wanted to be a engineer - mostly because I (thought) I knew that was what my Dad wanted me to be. We researched colleges and visited many schools. And then I changed my mind - I wanted to be a doctor (oh, how I wish I would have followed this path sometimes!). We did our research again and visited more schools. Then I thought I wanted to be a teacher, and we researched this again. I was secretly worried that my Dad wouldn't be supportive of this option since it wasn't math or science or engineering. But he never said otherwise; I just assumed he didn't support this career path.
We found the perfect college by accident (driving from one school to another and it happened to be on drive between) and I enrolled. I babysat the summer before my Freshman year and realized I could NEVER be a teacher. I changed my major the first day of school to Political Science and never looked back. But I still worried it wasn't sciency enough. What would Dad think?
I graduated four years later and met my soon-to-be husband along the way. I enrolled in law school and made it all of five weeks before I realized I would be a terrible lawyers. Dropped law school (What would Dad think?) and got married and found a job working political telemarketing fundraising. Yup. Telemarketing. (BIG FAT What would Dad think?)
Several years later I enrolled in nursing school. I remember telling my parents I wanted to go back to college to be a nurse. (Oh, what would Dad think?) They were incredibly supportive, demanded they pay for my text books (I was 28 years old and had a job! I argued.) and they even bought me a Palm Pilot for it. I still worried my Dad wouldn't be proud.
And then Jason and I told them we would be moving. Not to, say, Pittsburgh. Or Indianapolis. Nope. We were going to move overseas. And live a crazy life moving every few years for the foreign service. I know it's not my career, but Jason's career determines most of my career path now. What would Dad think?
All these years, instead of worrying What would Dad think?, I should have been listening to What Dad says. Because the answer to each of these questions, every single time, was "I'm proud of you. You make good decisions. I want you to be happy."
It's probably silly that such a gesture --- the book he sent to me --- told me so succinctly that my Dad is proud of me. But it did. It tells me he is proud of my writing. And since my writing is so much about me, my family, and my life...it really does tell me he is proud of me.
I just wish it had not taken me so many years to realize it.
|March 2008. My Dad and me on the greatest road trip. Ever.|