Well, it’s time to write about the final member of my immediate family – my wonderful father. There is so much that I could say about any of my family members, really, but I have always felt like a bit of a daddy’s girl. He was my softball coach, my catcher, a soccer fan even as he grumbled about us “wrecking” the football fields, and now, my running buddy. He has taught me a lot of life lessons, most of which involve sports, simply because it is an interest that we share. I wasn’t sure how to go about this at first, but now I think I know that I have to write a list.
Life lessons, as told by my dad:
- You should always be trying to win. It’s funny to me that this is the first thing that pops into my head, because it sounds like a terrible sports motto. But, to me, it’s perfect. It’s easier to say that you should always give your best effort, or always give 110%. Or whatever. But isn’t it easier to just say that you should be trying to win? You should be doing everything in your power to achieve your end goals, to be successful. You should be training, learning, and always, always trying to be better than you were the day before. Whether you’re taking the field or arriving at work, you should be trying to win, no matter what that means to you.
- Striking out once doesn’t mean you can’t hit a ball. I will never forget the first time I struck out during a softball game. My dad was one of my coaches, and I couldn’t look at him after, because I thought he would be so disappointed in me. But he just said “Stop crying. You’ll get them next time.”[i] Because, that’s the thing! There’s always a next time. Failing at something once doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. It just means you have some room for improvement. It means you need to go back to training, back to learning, back to the drawing board to figure out where you can get better. Then you go back out to the plate and face down that pitcher again.
- Other people’s opinions don’t decide how well you do. There were a lot of politics in the traveling softball league in my hometown. There was one year where I was made to play down a level when everyone else my age[ii] was playing up. I was heartbroken and angry, so angry. But my dad said that he was going to help coach. And I was going to have to step up and be a leader, because I was the oldest on the team. I ended up being the starting pitcher, often pitching doubleheaders. I was team captain. I had one of the highest on-base percentages and was a reliable clean-up hitter. But more important than all of that – it was the best summer of my softball career, the most fun, and the most memorable. The still feels like my team, and it’s ten years later, now. Those board members, those coaches who decided I wasn’t good enough to play up with everyone else? That was me laughing in their faces.
- Hide your feelings. Again, this sounds like terrible advice, but hear me out. My dad always told me that I had a tell as a pitcher, because you could read every emotion in my eyes. When I was getting pissed, the batter could tell. So I needed to be better at hiding it, so I don’t give away my entire hand.[iii] It turns out, that advice has been priceless when it comes to the workplace. At some point, you’ve got to be able to keep it in check. Oh, you’re having a bad day? The customer, your boss, your coworkers – they don’t care, and they certainly don’t need to know that about you. So, suck it up, hide your feelings, and get through to the next thing.
- It is never about luck. I’m not sure if my dad ever actually said this, but I know he has implied it. Luck doesn’t exist. It means nothing. Luck is what people blame when things go wrong – whether it’s their own bad luck or someone else’s good luck. No, what matters is how hard your work. It’s the effort that goes into it. If you’ve trained hard, if you’ve put in the time and practice, then the rest will fall into place. But not because of luck. No. Never because of luck.
- Never give up. Life throws you curveballs. It’s a fact, and Murphy’s law. But nothing that is put in front of you should stop you. I have been querying agents for almost a year now, although not regularly. And I’ve only gotten negative feedback. Upon telling my dad this, he says something along the lines of “that doesn’t say anything about your skill as a writer.”
- When the going gets tough, it’s okay to lean on others. My dad is a former alcoholic. H always gets mad at me when I talk about personal things on the internet, but I am so, so proud of my dad and his sobriety that I can’t not mention it. He has demons. Everyone has demons. But he fought them off, and he continually fights them every day. And on the days that it’s hard, he talks to us about it. He jokes about it. It’s a part of him, a part of his past, and he acknowledges it and is okay with it being out there. I love that, and I respect that, and I try to be that way about my own demons.
- When all else fails, make a joke. Laughter is the best medicine, after all. My mom always says that the reason she and my dad are still in love is that he still can make her laugh. And if you know what my mom’s laugh sounds like, you’ll understand why this is a key to their marriage – her laugh makes everyone else who can hear her smile. I hope I can have a marriage like theirs one day.[iv]
In the posts about my mom and my sister, I had fewer words and more pictures, but I thought the life lessons would be a nice change, and interesting foray into new territory. I love them all equally, but their places in my life are decidedly different and distinct. My sister is my protector. My mom is my supporter. And my dad is my teacher. Obviously, the lines are often blurred in those distinctions, but that is the best I can do to describe it.
To sum up, my dad was often a little tough on me, especially when it came to sports. I mean that in a good way. I have a very thin skin – I cry at the drop of a hat and hate being competitive when it isn’t necessary. I needed someone to needle me a little bit, to prepare me for what life is like once you leave home. And he did a marvelous job at that.
"Beautiful baby from the outside in. Chase your dreams, but always know the road that will lead you home again. Go on, take on this whole world, but to me, you know, you'll always be my little girl." -Tim McGraw, "My Little Girl"
I love you, Daddy.
[i] Clearly his calling was BASEBALL, haha.
[ii] Except for one girl, my best softball buddy – she played down with me.
[iii] Or, in my case, wear sunglasses, because I could never really control my emotions on the field.
[iv] In case you’re wondering, I can always make H laugh by quoting Finding Nemo. This morning, I just said “Hi, I’m Dory, and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a fish. Phew, feels good to get that out there.” I’m not even sure that’s the right quote! But he still laughed hard enough that Ole was looking at him funny.