When the New Year arrives, we start thinking about personal change. The buzz about New Year’s resolutions starts on the news channels and on social media, and suddenly, it begins to feel like you’re totally left out if you haven’t made one resolution yourself. Local gyms are suddenly more busy, people all over the country are packing healthy lunches for work and vowing to cut down on junk food. Those of us that make resolutions have the best intentions at the beginning, but inevitably, we get busy and it gets harder and harder to follow through. I think the timeline of New Year’s resolutions is partly to blame. For so many of us, January 1st is an arbitrary date. I firmly believe that personal goals are better set when we are ready for the challenge. And really, there’s no reason we can’t set a personal goal on any one of the other 364 days in the year. When I posted a few months ago about personal goals, I made a list of what I wanted to work on. I wanted to drink more water every day. I wanted to sew more. I wanted to use social media less.
Most importantly, I decided, I wanted to tell people how I feel about them before it’s too late. So, today, I’ll start with that. This is an open letter to my dad.
A few weeks ago, I found an assignment I did for Professor Benson back in 2006. It was a big list of my plans: short term, mid-term, and long term goals that mapped out my future. It has been twelve years since I wrote those plans, and while some things have changed since then, I’m pleased to say I have accomplished some of what I set out to do.
I’m quite certain I finished my Spanish homework on time, went to every field hockey practice, and cooked a meal for my suitemates at least once a week. I haven’t accomplished my #1 long term goal yet of owning a successful cafe or catering business, and I don’t have a horse stable on my property, but I’ve done many other things on my list. I am married and we own a house in our hometown, I have vegetable and flower gardens, I have friends over for meals at least once a month, and we buy local as much as possible. I’ve traveled abroad multiple times since 2006, have a successful career, and am working on my Master’s degree.
I could not have accomplished so much without you.
You taught me that knowledge is power, and how to be a lifelong learner. You taught me that school is important, that what I say (and when and how I say it) is valuable. I got my love of grammar jokes from both you and Mom, and I love your dry sense of humor.
You have always championed my creativity. When you and Mom sent me to cooking camp when I was only 8 or 9 years old, I gained a lifelong passion for cooking and world cultures. You have always supported me by buying interesting ingredients, tasting my creations, and trying foods with me from near and far countries. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was when you and Mom sent me to visit Europe in high school, and how much my life changed when you helped me live in Spain for a semester. Through my experiences in school, my internship, working in a restaurant, and going out with friends, I discovered a social side of myself I didn’t know existed.
You taught me the value of making something with my own two hands. You take an interest in all of my projects, and supported Mom and I opening our own business a few years ago. Once, on a road trip, you told me about my ever-resourceful great-grandfather who repurposed old things into new, and you told me that I was like him. Although I never met him, I like knowing that I’m in some way, just like him.
You taught me to be strong, and stoic, if necessary. While growing up, we faced losses of family members, family pets, and friends, and I knew I could always count on you to be strong. Now that I am an adult, I understand why you rarely wore your heart on your sleeve. I know now that, even if I am broken into pieces myself, there is a time and place to show it. I learned that sometimes, I need to stand tall and be strong for others. You taught me that, Dad.
You taught me to set high standards for myself and those around me. I can count the number of times on one hand when you have outright complimented my work. I don’t mean for that to come across as a negative attribute; rather, it has taught me the value of the compliment.
You have never been one to have serious, deeply emotional conversations with me on a regular day, but you seem to save up all the difficult topics for long car rides. Once, when we were driving to New York City, you told me what I should do for Mom when you’re gone.
Two years ago, when I thought we might lose you, I remembered that conversation, I talked with Anthony, and I knew what we had to do. You can imagine my surprise when, about a year after your surgery, you told me you didn’t remember “the plan” after all. Regardless of the fact that you forgot the deal, I will still keep my promise.
There are things about you that used to drive me crazy, but more and more often, I find myself doing the same things, and possibly driving others crazy. The older I get, the more I realize just how similar we are. Dad, you taught me to be proud of what I know, what I have created, and who I am. In Spanish, there is a saying, like being two peas in a pod, we are, “Dos gotas de agua.” We are two drops of the same water.
Thank you for everything.