My dad asked me the question as we were sitting on the balcony in Greece, a few weeks ago. It was just the two of us, as my mom had already gone to sleep, after a long day. It was just two dudes, talking, while drinking. The conversation was smooth, simple words between 2 adults, 2 men. A conversation between a father and a son. We talked about life, his life, my life, and so much more.
It was a question that came after he realized this year will mark my 20th anniversary of arriving in Canada. 20 years is a lifetime. That’s 2 decades, 1,040 weeks, approximately 7,300 days, and about 175,200 hours. It is a long time, especially when I look at the numbers and I can’t help it because in my past life, I was a statistician. So, after 20 years, what do I have to show for it? It was and still is a legitimate question, asked from one generation to another, from a father to a son. The question was filled with care, love and patience. At my age, my dad already had three sons, he was a doctor and he ran his own business. Comparatively, even if we are not supposed to be in competition, I am nowhere near any of his accomplishments. That’s just the truth of the matter, facts are facts and they are undeniable. I cannot fault him for wondering how I live my life, what my plans are and especially, where I am heading. He sounded a bit worried, and the Gods only know how I understand him.
I got here when I was 18, filled with dreams and feeling the pain of being uprooted from my homeland. The latter is a pain that never really goes away. It subsides with time, but it never disappears. I was on my own and away from my family. It was all new to me and it was scary. Well, some people have had a rougher life from a younger age and my problems can seem light in comparison. Here I am comparing myself to others once again. To be completely blunt, to each their own problems, right? I had dreams but my dreams changed as time went by, as they usually do when you don’t really know what you want but think you know what you want and especially when you don’t truly know who you are.
I have done so many odd and proper jobs. I have learned so many practical things. Yet, it is nothing compared to how much I have learned about myself. I learned about my own fears, my own limitations because contrary to popular belief and the “you can do anything” popular anthem, we all have limitations. The latter have to do with your values and core personality. I wanted to become a doctor, because I have always admired my father, the OB/GYN, and I admire him still. So, I went to school and studied microbiology with the hope of becoming a doctor. Immediately, the first few months of school, I knew I wouldn’t make it because I was only passionate about the knowledge, not the work. Moreover, to become a doctor, it’s extremely hard work and not everyone can make it.
My distaste for school did the rest. I got expelled from the program for poor grades due to a myriad of reasons, including personal reasons. Then I went and worked at a bank, for 10 years. I thought finance was the way to go. It turns out, it wasn’t. Again, I was passionate about the knowledge, not the work. I know it makes me sound indecisive or lazy, and I’ll take that criticism gladly. This was the journey that got me to where I am today, meaning writing came into play. Telling stories, describing the world, asking questions, making people laugh and think, creating fictional stories, that complete and pure freedom of creation, that’s where my heart, soul, brain, and body lie.
While all those things were happening to me, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions, feelings, good and bad. I got my heart broken a couple times and I broke a couple of hearts myself. I had money problems, I got fired from a couple of jobs. I failed at many things, I have made some money and lost some of it. Life has been the best teacher I have ever had. If I could monetize my knowledge about life and its tentacles, I’d be a millionaire, for real!
There comes a point in everybody’s life, where they must sit down and do some, if not a lot, of introspection. We must study our life, to see what has worked and what caused the failures. It’s crucial to ask those immensely important questions.
Where did I go wrong? What do I want and how am I going to obtain what I am seeking? What behaviors and habits are making my life easier and what are the others that make my life harder? What about financial stability? What about retirement? Do I have enough money to live and is it enough to support a family? Is my work stable or unstable? If it is unstable, how can I make it stable? What are my objectives? What am I doing to reach my objectives? What behaviors need to be cut from my life because they are unproductive?
All these questions were asked by my dad. He didn’t wait for an answer. He knew the questions would stay with me and that I would have to find answers, on my own, as adults do. There he was, yet again, trying to help his son. He wasn’t trying to humiliate me or to berate me. He wasn’t trying to make me feel bad. He wasn’t saying I was a loser. He wasn’t saying I have wasted my life. He wasn’t saying anything negative. He was being himself; the eternal optimistic and encouraging father he has always been. I remember when I told him that I had found my calling, my purpose, the thing I excel at, the thing that gives meaning, the one thing I have never thought of letting go, he smiled and congratulated me. He was happy for me. He encouraged me to find ways to make money out of this writing thing, he wanted me and still wants me to make a living from my passion. He told me to go to school to hone my craft even if he knows how much I despise school. He told me to swallow my pride and go learn how to write better. I am still fighting with that part of me that hates school, but I know he has a point. The man knows life better than I probably ever will.
In the end, he told me to get off my ass and work because “Freeman, remember, this life ain’t easy at all”. He said that in Greek, which had an air of gravitas to it. He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but it felt good hearing it from him. It felt good to be seen and understood, albeit partially because I know he will never fully understand me. We spoke again a few days later, and we couldn’t agree on a few topics. He is so different from me, by his age, the world he grew up in, his experiences, his own values that don’t perfectly match mine, his understanding of the world, his perception of the world. We didn’t agree on many things, and I wasn’t expecting us to be totally in sync anyway. The most important thing is that we spoke and that we listened to each other to the best of our abilities.
And I had to sit down and admit my own shortcomings. 20 years is a long time, but the game isn’t over yet. I am still going. He might want me to go faster, and I get it. However, some things, I cannot rush and others I shouldn’t rush at all.
In the end, he gave me the pep talk I didn’t know I needed. He gave me a boost of energy that revitalized me. He gave me the push I so subconsciously needed. Perhaps I didn’t want to admit to myself I needed that small shock of electricity to my psyche.
He took care of me yet again. He looked after me the way he always does. I could only admit I didn’t have much to show for after 20 years. He nodded and said, “you still have time to create anything you want but you gotta get to work, son. Time flows in only one direction and you can’t get any of it back”. I felt like Superman when he met the sun in our galaxy and his kryptonian cells gained all the superhuman strength. Suddenly, I was Kal-El and my dad was the sun that gave me its radiation to make me stronger. He is the sunlight chased darkness away. He is the inextinguishable source of wisdom, love, respect and support I will always need and one day, he won’t be there to give me this lovely pep talk. Well, that is a problem I will deal with when it manifests itself, not a second before.
If I ever become half the father he is, then I will officially call myself Superman…
Thanks for everything dad. You are truly the best.
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day!