After I finished my post for Mother's Day, I thought I had best get working on the one that I wanted to post for Father's Day, because I was a little rushed on my Mother's Day one, and I don't think that I did it as much justice as I could have. But when I sat down to write this list of amazing things, qualities, and lessons my father has taught me, I didn't know where to begin. Not because I haven't learned anything from him (I can catch, gut, and grill a fish, thank you very much!) But the single greatest thing that I have learned from him was more weighty than any list could possibly hold, and yet every list has it...
My dad taught me to follow my dream.
I know, it's on every single list that anyone can possibly make about how great their parents are. Especially when it comes to Mother's & Father's Day celebrations. I even put in on the list I made for Mother's day. Everyone always claims that someone in their life taught them to follow their dream. Lucky for me, my father really did it. He actually lived his dream. He did what he set out to do, and made it happen.
Some might argue that his dreams were not lofty, but where does it say that your dreams have to be extravagant and huge? Why does a dream have to be of an impossible feat, or accomplishment? Why can't a dream be going home at night, putting your feet up and reading a good book? Dreams and wishes are as varied as stars in the sky. My father lived his dream, and in doing so, taught me to follow mine. The best way to illustrate this amazing lesson he taught me would be best done in short, significant memories. The times when what he said struck a chord that still resonates through me and often influences my next step, more so than most would think, or I would often care to admit. So here are the times, that my father taught me about following my dream.
When Dad Retires from the Air Force
I think I was about five or six years old when I learned that my father was not going to be a navigator, and fly planes forever. He was going to retire from the USAF and then start a second career. My mother taught me to ask him, "Dad what are you going to do when you retire?" He never took offense, he thought it was cute. After all I was in kindergarten, and was the perfect child. (Seriously, I was.) He would smile my favorite smile, and respond:
"We're moving to Montana where I will teach, so I can have the summers off to fish and hunt."
I thought this was funny at the time, and it became a ritual, almost as perfect as when he asked how old he was on his birthday. (He's 23, for the record.) It was a like an inside joke for the family. We laughed and joked about it, and then his retirement got closer, and closer.
Turns out, he was dead serious. He meant every word he said. As his final year serving in the USAF drew to a close, he interviewed for a teaching position at Great Falls High School, and got the job. That summer, we moved to Great Falls, Montana and that fall, I started school at CMR High School, while my dad started teaching math at my rival high school.
And guess what? He didn't have the summer's off right away. He coached or umpired baseball, he was a high school and college football referee, and taught summer school classes. But what mattered most, in my opinion, is that he did it. He now has the summers off to occasionally umpire a ball game, go fishing, and read a good book.
If l learn nothing else from this man, I will have a full life. How many people do you know that actually did exactly what they set out to do. I don't know a single person who managed to do it through the path of least resistance. Maybe it's because he was stubborn, or he had gone through the run-around before his Air Force days, or maybe the Air Force was his run-around. Either way, he managed to pull it off. He is living his dream.
My Dad not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk. He told me to make goals, and taught me how to strive to attain them. He taught me to plan ahead for the future, and that hard work was the only guarantee in life. As he taught me these wonderful life lessons, he lived them. He lead by example. People often say that I am a born leader, but I learned to lead, persevere, and conquer from my father's example.
College isn't for everyone
I had an odd high school career. I was a very intelligent and smart kid, who didn't do her homework. I am still justifying this fact to my parents, but basically, I was smart enough to pass the tests, and didn't care about doing the extra work. I graduated in the middle of my class, when according to my parents, I could have been valedictorian. Looking back now, I could have done things differently, but if I had, I would not be where I am now. I know this, and have NO REGRETS.
Despite my average grades, and poor work ethic, I got into two of the schools that I applied to, one was in Montana (my current state of residence at the time) and one of the most, if not the most, prodigious college in the state, and the other was in Arkansas. I chose to go to back to Arkansas, a 2000+ mile drive from my parents, as opposed to a 3 hour drive (4 in the winter) to another Montana town. I wanted to strike out on my own. Be an adult, toot my own horn. Run away from my parents and be my own person. And a myriad of other reasons that most people choose to go to an out of state school.
I spent almost 2 whole days packing up my belongings into my brother's truck, which I was using to haul it all south. I was so excited about this new adventure. It was going to be an experience all on my own. No parents, no brothers, no responsibilities, at least after my mom dropped me off and headed back to Montana. I didn't care what happened when I got to Arkansas, as long as I got to do whatever I did there on my own.
The day I left for college, all packed up and itching to get out of there, I said my required good byes to my then little brothers, and to my father. It was hardest to say goodbye to my dad. It always has been, I don't know why. But as I gave him a hug, he said to me:
"College isn't for everyone London, you don't have to go."
At the time, I thought, "Here's my out. I don't have to be what everyone wants me to be." But the car was packed, and I wanted to be on my own, so I said, "I know Dad, but I'm going. It'll be fine." And it was, for a year, and then I packed up everything and moved back to Montana.
To this day, that moment haunts me. It is one of the purest examples of love that I have ever seen. I was an intelligent student. Had I applied myself I could have gone to a much better school, gotten a respected college degree. And even in what I can only assume was the the frustration and despair of seeing his intelligent daughter settle, and leave his home, he presented an option that challenged everything that he had ever taught me. He made me question the pursuit of higher education, because it didn't seem right for me. He was right. It wasn't. He saw through the mask of expectations that I was given and expected to meet. Even now, I tear up as I think about it.
When I got back to Montana, I worked 3 jobs for a year and half, saved enough money and made my move out to New York City. And it's where I am today, more than eight years later.
I know for a fact that I would not be where I am today without the guiding words that he gave me. Although they seemed insignificant, they have shaped my life, my pursuits, and my methods. My father is a great man who prefers the simple life. I couldn't be prouder to call him Dad.
Happy Father's Day!
London Griffith is an Alaskan born, Montana raised, Southern influenced, New York Actress. She occasionally writes about her life and experiences of being on the verge ...