My dad has always been, and continues to be, one of my greatest teachers. Quiet, intelligent, strong, and vulnerable are all apt descriptions, yet they all seem to fall short at the same time.
Since he’s a father of three girls, I often wondered whether he regretted not having a boy. If he did, he never showed it. Instead, he nurtured our hobbies and interests, from playing “house” when we were toddlers, to our more grown-up activities like piano, swimming, dance, and track.
My dad has taught me many lessons throughout the years but these are the ones that stand out the most:
He taught me to take risks.
After working as Commissioner at his job for 35 years, he retired at the age of 57 to open his own business. Leaving a stable income was risky, to say the least, especially since my older sister had just started University. This kind of risk-taking was something he encouraged all of us to do growing up. When I decided I wanted to dance professionally, everyone around me was skeptical, except my dad. People advised me to have a backup plan, or to do something entirely different with my life, something “safer.” Not my dad. When I confided in him about it, he said, “If you want to dance, you will dance, and I will support you.” That was the end of that, and the rest is history.
Just because someone may have more power than you, doesn’t mean they have power over you.
My dad has always possessed a quiet confidence. He has the rare ability to listen more than he speaks. Even when he was Commissioner, he treated everyone with equal respect, whether they were the cleaner or the Prime Minister. He believes that status and money don’t equal power, and therefore should have no bearing on how someone is treated. I believe this quality has kept me grounded throughout my performing career. There were countless times when I was at an audition feeling small, and I would remind myself that the people sitting on the other side of the panel are just people, and though they may have the power to offer me a job, they don’t have power over the way I feel about myself.
He taught me that the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.
Whenever we needed to speak to my dad, he would drop whatever he was doing and offer his undivided attention. No matter how busy he was, he made us a priority, and we felt like we were the most important people in the room. This was also true for the way he treated other people. Due to the nature of his work, my dad travels around the country a lot. No matter where he goes, at least one person recognizes him and approaches him just to say, “Charles! How you doing, man?” No matter what he is doing, or where he needs to be, he always takes the time to stop and have a conversation. It used to drive me crazy when I was younger, and it was usually followed by lots of eye-rolling on my part. But now that I’m older, I notice how it makes people light up to be seen and heard. Now, I try my best to give people my undivided attention, even if it’s just for a few minutes. That’s all it takes for someone to feel like they matter. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want.
My dad gave me his love for music
My dad is a horrible singer. He cannot hold a key to save his life. To make matters worse, he has absolutely no rhythm and two left feet. But from as early as I can remember, every Saturday night, my dad would blast his favourite records and sing at the top of his lungs. If he was feeling extra confident, he would attempt some dance moves. He had a charming, boyish quality on these nights, not caring about how much we gave him looks of teenage disgust. Sam Cooke, The Beatles, and Stevie Wonder were some of his favourites. I used to cringe at the sight of these embarrassing displays when I was little, but now, every time I hear one of his favourite songs, it makes me smile.
His love for music was infectious. Eventually, I started exploring my own music tastes, and would become an avid collector of music myself. I soon had a reasonably sized CD collection of my own, and I started blasting my own music and singing at the top of lungs, just like my dad. He often jokes that I get my dance ability from him (Ha!).
He continues to show me there is strength in vulnerability.
The first time I saw my dad openly cry was when my older sister went off to college for the first time. We all travelled together to get her settled, and when it was time to leave, he cried while saying how much he would miss her. I remember feeling uncomfortable at the time, but looking back, I know that crying in front of your kids is one of the bravest things a man can do. Society has trained us to see vulnerability as weakness, and we constantly put pressure on our men to hide their emotions, equating that with being “macho” or “strong.” My dad showed me early on that being strong is being vulnerable, and that showing our emotions is the way we show our love.
Now that I am older, I see clearly all the sacrifices my father made for me without complaining. During all the times he may have been struggling, he still never failed to offer an encouraging word. All the lessons he taught me, he did so not by lecturing, but by being an example for me to follow.
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