I know I said you’d likely not get another post from me before I left to the States, but today happens to be special. It’s my dad’s birthday.
Dads are special creatures. Most of us only get one (or sometimes two, if you’re lucky), and they can be the most loyal, forgiving, reliable, and supportive champion you’ll ever have. My dad has been no exception. He has always been one of my greatest allies.
When I was a little kid, he was always fishing me out of some ridiculous situation I’d gotten myself into. Of course, sometimes he’d take a picture and laugh his head off first, but that’s understandable. I had this pink plastic toy box in the shape of a pig when I was maybe five. The lid was its mouth, and it looked rather terrifying when it was open, staring at me hungrily. One afternoon, I leaned a little too far into it in search of a favorite toy, and SNAP. I was gobbled up. My legs and feet were kicking in the air, the lid was bouncing down on me, and the more I wiggled and kicked, the more the pig chomped on me. Dad came running up at the sound of my screams, and was met by the sight of the plastic pig cheerfully snacking on me. He eventually stopped laughing long enough to fish me out by the ankles.
It was Dad who taught me and the boys to ski.
I spent most of my life before we started traveling in New Hampshire, and skiing is one of the things I miss the most about spending winters somewhere cold. Me and the boys were “those” kids on the ski hill. You know, the ones that are like five and zipping down the hill on their own, unintentionally annoying the crap out of the big kids who’re just learning for the first time or haven’t done it in years? I still remember being bundled up like a small fat marshmallow, little ski boots hooked into miniature skis, wobbling along with my hands completely swallowed up in Dad’s big gentle ones. He’d swoop me slowly down the hill, my skis crossing and tangling up between his. The first time I tried a jump, I came hurtling down the mountain, started to go up the jump, reached the top… and slid down again backwards. Dad laughed it off with me, and rode with me back to the top to try again. Somehow he never lost patience, never got tired of picking me up and dusting me off, never stopped encouraging me to give it another shot. Now we race each other down the mountain at breakneck speeds, and occasionally I win.
It was my Dad, ultimately, that eventually led me to get in touch with my more lady-like side.
Which was a bit of an achievement, because while I may have worn dresses occasionally and had dolls, I was never a “girly-girl”. I spent the most memorable years before we started traveling in a community where almost all of my friends were boys, and we spent our days crashing about the woods, playing in the dirt, and exploring the outdoors on our own. Acting the lady was never something much encouraged in our young society; but Dad always made the effort to do things for me to make me feel like a lady (and like it). He’d surprise me with a pretty new dress. He came to a tea party I hosted just for him once, even though I dumped an entire packet of raspberry flavoring into the one cup sized teapot and ruined it. He took me to my first Asian restaurant and treated me to tempura ice cream. He bought me a string of pearls for my eleventh birthday. I still have them in my backpack. Most importantly, he taught me that it’s ok to not be the kind of lady who likes her nails and makeup done; that I could be the kind that likes to hike and explore and be innovative and well-read while still embracing the ability to be classy when I need to be. He’s that kind of cool.
Recently, he’s been teaching me all about how to be in command of my own happiness, and how to fight to make my dreams a reality.
Last fall I spent some time in NYC getting my TEFL certification, and that was a wakeup moment for me. I have never worked so hard for something or wanted anything more than I wanted to succeed at that. And it wasn’t particularly easy. I’d already done the course online and had studied like crazy. When I arrived I discovered that no one else had. I was frustrated with redoing the work I’d already done on my own, I was overwhelmed with homework that kept me up till midnight, NYC is depressing on a good day for someone who isn’t into cities (I nearly got hit by a car there more times than I ever did during the entire duration of our stay in Vietnam), I was eight years the junior of anyone in my class, I experienced mild bullying for the first time, and I was lonely and lacking in confidence. About halfway through, I was on the phone with my dad, sobbing my eyes out because I’d screwed up a key piece of paperwork and it’d been the last straw. He let me have my cry, and then instead of going in and fixing everything for me, he encouraged me, set me back on my feet, and gave me the push I needed to go find the answers for myself and to have the courage to do the work needed to accomplish my own goals.
I suppose that’s the thing I most love about him.
He’s not a “fix it” kind of guy, he’s a “failure is a teacher, that was a good attempt, you can do it, now go give it your best shot as many times as it takes until you make it happen” kind of guy. If there’s anything I’ve taken from the way he’s come behind and scooped me up and encouraged me over the years, it’s how to not be afraid to try new things and to work hard for the life I want to have, just like he has.
Today, my hero turns 43. Happy birthday, Dad. Thanks for spending the past almost 19 years loving, teaching, and encouraging me and the boys. Thanks for all the little ways you’ve made me feel special. Kitchen dances, motorcycle rides, getting to sit with you at the internet cafes and journal while you worked. Thanks for finding ways to spend so much time with us as we’ve grown up, and for giving me the amazing childhood I’ve had. Watching you work hard, love hard, adventure hard, and live life to the fullest has inspired me to dream big and trust in my ability to accomplish difficult things. You’re my source of inspiration, my adventuring buddy, the guy I can talk music and watch stupid movies with, and the awesomest dad I’ve ever met. I hope to be as cool as you some day. I love you. :)