I lift up in my eyes and see a figure in the distance: a man with a glistening cape. This hero’s cape was provision and suppressed emotions. Before I can ask him his name, he flies off. I ask myself, “what kind of hero was that? Why did he leave me? I need saving too. I need a sense of security too.” Little did I know, he was saving me in more ways than I was emotionally able to understand.
Though for a while I never saw his true visage, I’ll always remember his voice. I had countless conversations with a voice filled with joy yet underlined with frustration at the gap he couldn’t bridge. That frustration was mutual; I had no sense of security and just wanted to connect emotionally. “If only I could tell him to his face, I will give him a piece of my mind.” That moment first came when I was 19 years old. I was the youngest of four, and in an attempt to connect with me, he moved me to the country he was working in. At 19 I met my dad for the first time, and all the pent-up emotion burst out. It didn’t start well. Through tears and gritted teeth, I recounted all the times I wondered where my hero was, and the anger I felt when someone else had to step in his rightful place.
But then I got to know him. He was very human in his approach to life. The superhero I once knew was just like me. He showed me the vulnerability of a parent, but I was too emotionally blinded by the pain of his absence to get it. He walked me through the experiences of his life, and I got to understand his side of the story.
Eventually, my eyes were opened. The decisions I deemed as selfish were for my own benefit. Ironically, his flying off into the distance that long time ago was for my family. We were his mission; I just couldn’t see it. As I got to know him better, his cape made more sense. The hero had a human side that I could relate to.
Tragically, however, some heroes get tired. They can only fly so far before they have to land, and sometimes the villain wins. A time came when my dad’s health began to decline. The hero I had once known, I could no longer communicate with, though our emotional bond was strong. All I had left were the lessons he taught me over time, lessons I cherish and share with you now.
New Style, Old Cloth
One of my hero’s favorite love languages is giving. He bought most of my clothing for a long time; he was the source of my fashion sense. Since I was young, I loved fashion, and what he bought me left an imprint on my taste in clothing styles.
As I got older, I developed my own taste and learned how to cut and sow. I would take the clothes he bought me and would weave them into something new. This pattern took form in everything he gave me: re-fashioning what was given to suit my own style. I was starting to come into my own, and my individuality was taking shape.
Eventually, I realized that this applies to life as a whole. I saw that I didn’t have to settle for whatever life gave me; I could always re-work hard circumstances to fit my needs. No matter what hand you’re given, there’s always beauty in it; you just need to cut out a new style from the old cloth.
“Stubborn as I am”
My hero fought the odds to change the course of his future. He wasn’t perfect, and he made his share of mistakes; in fact, most of his mistakes were a result of his stubbornness. He knew what he wanted, and no one could tell him anything.
I am very much my father’s daughter. He noticed early on that I had a stubborn streak, just like him, and he explained a healthy version of that looked like. One day, he sat me down and had a talk with me about it. In summary, he said, “you’re strong-willed, not stubborn. When someone wants you to do something and calls you stubborn for not listening, it’s because they want you to stoop to their level. When you know what to do, follow your heart, and be ready to deal with the consequences. It’s okay to be an outlier and to walk your own journey. When people don’t understand it, it’s fine; they’ll catch up. But if you don’t do you, you’ll resent them. Always explain your truth from a place of honor.”
From that point on, I embraced my strong will. It helped define my identity, in that I didn’t have to be anyone but myself.
In this life, you’ll always have choices. My hero knew this well but would often compromise his truth for success. He wanted to have it all, but with time, he understood that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. As full of choices as this life is, the wrong ones will make you empty.
He didn’t experience many milestones in our lives; many missing teeth and graduations weren’t fulfilling because he wasn’t there. As he got older, he explained how hollow he was because of this. He put it this way: “Sometimes I wonder what the cost of mediocrity is, and whether paying the cost of success was worth it.” This truth came with a warning: “never choose success over family(or the people you love). You’ll make plenty of good friends along the way, but in the end, you’ll just be empty.”
This helped me realize that you can have a fullness of life that is also laden with success. It’s a balancing act, but it’s very feasible. And when you do get tired, always choose family, because they’ll be there when the accolades and success aren’t.