There are few things that I’ve learned in my 26 years that I’m 100% certain of, but I know one thing for sure: your childhood shapes who you are – who you become. You can deny this as much as you’d like, but facets of your youth always end up rearing their head when you least expect it. Your childhood reveals itself in the food you like, in the way you communicate, in the way you deal with pain, in the way you express gratitude. Your parents are usually an enormous part of moulding you into .. you.
But when is that point when you start realizing your parents are just .. humans? It’s often when you’re older, when you or your friends become parents. You start to see a world of growing and nurturing through a new set of eyes and you realize, hey, my parents were just like me once. Trying to figure things out.
I realized my Dad was human a very long time ago. It was a little under twenty years ago when we lived on a sprawling rural property in Cooks Creek, Manitoba. (All my changes were there…) My Mom and Dad had split up when I was incredibly young and all I can remember is seeing my mom every few weekends then not at all. Before I was old enough to even recognize it, my family morphed into a triangle – my Dad, my Sister and myself. And on that property in Cooks Creek is when I thought – a triangle is supposed to be one of the strongest and most sturdy shapes and my Dad is trying to make it stand with two flimsy sides – a 5 year old and a 6 year old. That seems nearly impossible.
And it was nearly impossible. But he made it work. We didn’t have a lot of money but I got to spend my childhood on that beautiful acreage where my sister and I could let our imaginations run free. My memories of those years are overflowing and plentiful – and my Dad didn’t once let me feel like I was lacking that maternal puzzle piece.
My Dad is an entrepreneur and throughout my life he has chased countless opportunities. (I think he had an Internet start up before the internet even started up) There have been so many times over the years when I’m not going to lie, I absolutely hated it. Why can’t he just get a normal job, like everyone else’s Dads. People would ask me what my Dad did and sometimes I legitimately didn’t have an answer.
Eventually I found out that my Dad used to be in the jewelry business (before I was born) and had an unwavering passion for gemstones and precious metals and the whole business behind it. It was his reason to wake up in the morning. It was his calling. Then he fell in love and got married and things got complicated (at 26 I can now totally understand that). They had a couple little girls before it fell to pieces. Through some horrible occurrences (and a custody battle later) he was forced to choose between his business and his two little girls, and he chose us.
My stomach aches thinking about it. He put his entire life on the back burner and never ended up going back to it. My Dad was just a regular human, with super human love for his girls. So his new destiny was to keep these two little girls’ heads above water while maintaining his zest for life. And he did a damn good job.
Five VERY important things I’ve learned from my Dad:
1. You can have a great career being a dreamer.
My Dad never kicked my ass to get a post-secondary education. In fact, I wanted one but we couldn’t exactly afford it. But he always reassured me that money wasn’t everything, and neither was that $40,000 education. If you can dream it, you can do it. Passion and intelligence can evolve into a pay cheque. He was my biggest cheerleader when I decided I wanted to move to Toronto.
2. Music is life.
After begging him for months, my Dad took me to my first concert – The Tragically Hip – when I was about ten years old and I fell asleep in like .. the fifth row. The security guard came around and gave me a jacket as a blanket. The fact that my Dad cherishes that memory and isn’t 100% embarrassed proves how cool he is. In my house, all our cups and glasses were decorated with ‘Pink Floyd: The Wall’ and concert DVDs played in a constant loop. My Dad threw a music festival called ‘Spruce Jam’ at our house in Cooks Creek. My Dad let me throw a music festival on our farm when I was in my early twenties. He also drove me to the States to see Aerosmith (even though he won’t ever really get my love for Steven Tyler) and again to see Dylan. Music is life. My Dad knows this.
4. Be yourself.
My Dad has never asked me to be anyone else or do anything I didn’t want to do. Even if he didn’t completely agree, he would let be exactly who I wanted – which I think is turning out pretty okay …
5. Communication is key.
In the harshest times, when my human father thought he couldn’t deal with how difficult things got – and being a single dad is TOUGH, he would tell us. He would shed tears. He would lay it all out. And it made me more able to understand flaws, and mistakes – and I learned to appreciate that honesty and love can move mountains. And you come out stronger on the other side, just for communicating. I think this is why I wear my heart on my sleeve.
I guess I just want to say my Dad isn’t a normal Dad. He dances to the beat of his own drum. He has taught me life lessons, partied with my friends(!!!), pushed me through my toughest moments and supported me in all my decisions. I give him so much credit because he deserves it. Life takes crazy turns and you have to step up to the plate and give it all you’ve got. I’ll always be my Daddy’s little girl and I’m damn proud of that.
Since he’s an avid poker player – I’ll leave you with this: Life isn’t always fair, so you have to play the best game you can with the cards you’re dealt.
Happy birthday, Dad!