I am going to focus these week’s “lessons learned” on the second person I met in my life, my father. To say the least my father is a character. He has many personalities in one person and I have learned many of life’s lessons from him.
One of the first and most important lessons I have learned from my father is to never stop learning. My father is a life long learner. Growing up, he would take my brother and I to museums, zoos, IMAX shows, and monuments to learn about science, nature, history, and life. While other kids spent their time in front of the television or playing video games, my father made sure that the free time we had was spend doing something that enhanced who we were and who we would become. At the age of 69, my father continues to have a passion for learning. He is often reading several books at a time, watching documentaries, going to museums, attending plays, reading the newspaper and educational magazines, listening to audio books, or attending lecture series. My father has a passion and desire to soak up as much knowledge as possible. His quest for knowledge is fueled by his desire to understand. Understand how the world works, how people relate, how history is made, and how we got here in this very moment. His love of learning has inspired me to want to know and understand as much as I can. Through learning, the mysteries of life unfold, understanding what is different creates appreciation, and learning helps bridge the gaps of what makes us all so unique yet not so different.
Another lesson I learned from my father is being comfortable in the silence. My father can spend hours staring off into space or walking in peace up and down the beach just being alone with his thoughts. Every time I ask him what he is thinking about he will state something completed unrelated to where he is or what is going on around him. He is comfortable in his own thoughts and never stops thinking about how the world works, how life is so interconnected, and the power of being at peace in the silence. It is in the silence that we can hear our own heart beat, our minds thoughts, and our true self speaking to the world.
A third lesson I learned from my father is the power of understanding. In my junior year of high school, I was studying for my chemistry final and I asked my father, a Textile Chemist by education and trade, to help me. I had one 3 X 5 card that could be used to write down any and all equations that could fit on the card. I asked my father to help me select out the equations that would be the most helpful to put on the card so I could pass the final. My father looked at me and said “no”. I looked at him as if I misheard what he said and my face must have shown this very thought process because he repeated his answer of “no” and then sat down beside me and started flipping through my text book. I told him that I just needed some equations for the card and I would just memorize the rest. He looked at me and said “if you understand there is no need to memorize.” I looked at him and at that moment cursed him in my head but at 40 I have realized the importance in that message. He was right,in life, if you understand you will never have to memorize. This little tidbit of knowledge has helped me over and over again and I have even shared this knowledge nugget with people that I now teach. With understanding comes flexibility, inter- connectivity, and seeing the whole picture.
A fourth lesson I have learned fro my father is to take life seriously but don’t take yourself so seriously. It is important that you take pride in what you do, don’t cut corners even when the task is long and difficult, but there is no need to take yourself so seriously. I have embraced this almost my whole life. I take the work that I do very seriously but I don’t let that seriousness shadow how I see myself. I have the ability to laugh at myself and know that life is too short to be so serious.
The list could go on and on about the lessons that I have learned and continue to learn from my father. I am fortunate to have such a powerful and involved father in my life and I am who I am today because of him. And for that I thank him.