When you’re a teenage girl, it’s so easy to assume your father knows nothing about your life. In fact, if sitcoms are any indication of real life, the teenage and young adults years are mostly about ignoring everything your parents say or doing the opposite. Then you hit age 25 and realize, aw, they were right all along and suddenly your parents are your best friends and you totally understand each other now.
I don’t think sitcoms are an entirely accurate representation of real life, but I think there is a kernel of truth in this tired storyline. My real life teenage experience wasn’t exactly this, though there were definitely a few years in there when my father in particular wasn’t quite sure what to make of me, and I him. But I never flat-out assumed my parents were completely wrong (at least, I don’t think I did, and Dad, if I’m wrong, please don’t correct me). I took their advice quite frequently and used them to help puzzle out some of life’s greatest decisions–like where to go to college, though not, somewhat regrettably, what to major in.
Now that I’m in my late twenties (gah!) I can see even more clearly all the lessons my dad taught me, and how he helped shape the person I am today. Some lessons were explicit, clear, and solicited, while others took a little longer to develop and sink in (like that advice on college major). Even though I’m married now and have a new sounding board who has to listen to all of my major and minor dilemmas, I still call up my dad for the odd piece of advice, and he never fails to work in a larger lesson, even if that lesson is just “you already know what to do.”
Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned from Dad.
1. An appreciation for good whiskey.
My dad wasn’t the first to introduce me to whiskey, but since I first became interested in at the age of 22, we have come to learn more about it together. We have informal traditions around it now–whenever my husband and I go visit, or my parents come to us, after dinner we sit around the table with a glass of Scotch and maybe a game and just catch up. I don’t think my taste for whiskey would have developed quite as much without sharing it with my father.
2. You can’t always rely on others to do what needs to be done.
When I first started my career, I was, like many, probably a little too naive and optimistic about the workplace. Basically, I just assumed that everyone would do their jobs. Dad was quick to try to temper these outrageous expectations and taught me that we can’t always rely on other people and often, we’ll need to figure out how to get what we need and rely on ourselves. Dad believed in raising #independentwomen
3. Never check your bag if you can help it.
The carry-on is king and you don’t need as many shorts as you think.
4. There’s nothing wrong with choosing the money.
At one point at the start of my career I was offered a job I wanted to take so badly, but which would require a huge pay cut. I was torn between my “dream job” at the time and needing to actually pay rent for my apartment in Brooklyn and not feeling like a sell-out. After many long conversations I finally realized that, despite all the literature that pushes passion over salary, it’s okay to prioritize money when you consider a job offer. Doing what you love shouldn’t come at the risk of incurring debt to live.
5. Life should be a balance of different activities and experiences.
In other words, it’s good to diversify and have a wide range of hobbies and interests. When we were younger, we always had our noses in books and just wanted to read all the time. Dad encouraged us to go play outside or try new things. Now that we’re older, we’re more likely to try something new or different and each have a catalog of interests and diverse experiences.
6. Steak should be eaten medium rare or not at all.
Medium if you must.
7. Believe in your own capabilities.
Especially as we grew older, advice talks with Dad became less about the advice and more about talking out the options. He’d start saying that he didn’t have the right answer, and we’d need to decide for ourselves, but that we should trust our guts. Our instincts are good and while we might need a sounding board every once in awhile, we are capable of making the tough calls.
What has been your greatest Dad Lesson?
Photo courtesy of Emily Chastain