"Don't let life just happen to you. Make it what you want." This is something that has been drilled into my brain time and time again from my dad, and it's a piece of wisdom I hold very close to my heart, even though I'm still learning what it means.
I think my dad was always destined for fatherhood, because he's just such a natural at all things dad-like. He's a superb cook, an expert at giving tuck-ins and reading bedtime stories, and has perfected an arsenal of dad jokes. He's a damn good dad, and I'm proud to be his daughter. But, like most kids, I didn't always agree with him growing up. I definitely had some times where I questioned him or doubted the effectiveness of some of his tactics — but looking back, I can see the value in every hard lesson he's ever taught me.
So much of who I am is because of the woman he raised me to be. My independence stems from his constant encouragement that I could do things on my own, even as a young girl. He'd help me when I needed it, but always made me try my best before stepping in. I also credit my resilience to him being there to help me up after every fall, and insisting that I try again. He's tough in the best ways, and softer than he'd ever admit.
My dad's guidance is something I value greatly, so I try to soak up every drop of wisdom he shares with me. I hear his voice in my head constantly, and I use it as a guide in my daily life. Whenever I find myself in a hard place or I'm faced with a tough decision, I already know what he's going to say before I pick up the phone to call him. While I don't think I could possibly write down all of the things I've learned from him, the emphasis he puts on me taking charge of my own life places it at the top of a very long list.
This advice gives me the confidence to walk away from things that don't feel like they're making me a better person or getting me any closer to my goals. I've left jobs, ended relationships, and even moved to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean because this statement has empowered me to do so. Each time I take action to direct my life, I uncover another layer of myself. I learn more about who I am, what I stand for, and what's important to me with every firm move on the path I've chosen.
I don't know that I've fully uncovered the meaning of my dad's advice to me, and I think my interpretation of the message will continue to change throughout my life. In an email he sent me on my 18th birthday, he wrote, "Never shy away from new experiences that will help you to learn more about the world or to grow as a person. Even if they are difficult, attack them. Don't let life just happen. Make it what you want."
I've read and heard these words from him many times since, and probably many times before he typed it out in that email. I will remember this advice forever, and I'll put it to action the best I can in order to keep learning, experiencing, and growing.
There are thousands of miles and a six hour time difference between us now, but as I continue to evolve I see more of him in myself, and that makes me feel like we're getting closer than we've ever been.