My coaches throughout the years have always told me that there are no mistakes, only learning opportunities in disguise. Using that logic I guess that would make my Father the best teacher. He was always quick to point out where I went wrong and didn’t usually focus on what I had done right. In a way this kept me humble, never taking any success for granted and always working toward bettering myself when the journey to success went sour. It was the “survival of the fittest” logic because whenever an undesirable behaviour or response was taken, it would be replaced with something much more desirable; and so on and so forth until even my most detrimental behaviours no longer seemed so bad.
I would come home excited that I had just landed my first kickflip on the skateboard my parents had bought me for my birthday, or the fact that I had scored my first goal of the season in soccer, but none of that would matter. On my way into the kitchen to tell my Dad about it- clumsy me- I would knock over his beer or something, and suddenly that took precedence over anything I had to say. When I walked into a room he would often say “everybody hold your drinks, the hurricane is coming.” However, I never took it to heart and was always under the impression that he was so hard on us because he believed that we were strong enough to take the sometimes not-so-constructive criticism. As the years went by I began to notice that maybe there was nothing I could do to impress him, but this did little to slow me down, and, due to some weird turn of events, I decided that I would just need to work a little harder.
My work ethic was strengthened by the belief that I would be the one person to change the man who was likely too busy drowning himself in his own life’s failures, that he had trouble seeing not only his own accomplishments, but that of those around him as well. Where I had a stern and unforgiven Father and a loving Mother; my Dad had virtually no Father and a stern and unforgiven Mother. Where I had balance, he had instability; with the scales always seeming to lean toward one side: the side of error.
He always talked about playing sports, but maybe as a kid his coaches never gave him the same lessons that mine had given me; so he quit. Maybe his mother never held him close and gently whispered “everything’s going to be okay” into his ear whenever he felt like giving up; and instead encouraged it. Maybe he continued to fall unsupported until finally he grabbed onto the only thing within reach: defeat. And just like that he could find nothing else to fight for, or so he thought. Perhaps he was just attempting to live vicariously through us and didn’t want us to fall prey to the same negative thinking that now haunted him. If so, he had a funny way of showing it. But nonetheless I respected him all the same. Heartened by this newly formed knowledge I began to strive for excellence, opposed to acting out for the attention in ways that, to a criminal like him, I thought would impress him.
When I graduated public school, he was nowhere to be found. When I scored my first points in the championship game, the sideline was bare. When I graduated high school he couldn’t have had a care in the world. But, when I was signed up for college and was moving out of the city, a slow moving figure had come up to my room one day and, with shaky arms, embraced me while saying nothing but the three words that given any other circumstance, would never have been used. Suddenly, all the conversations we never had, and all the congratulations and pats on the back that I was longing to receive, had been summed up in three small words: I love you. And I wouldn’t have asked for it any other way.
My mom had always told me that “good things come to those who wait”. But I never realised until that day just how true her words had been, and finally, I began to see something in his dark hazy blue eyes that had never occurred previously: a spark. It was so brief that if you were not actively looking for it, it could of easily have been missed. But as he pulled away from the moment that had taken so long to get to, and ended so quickly, I saw it. The smallest flicker of light in the eyes of someone who’s bulbs had long since been extinguished, and I couldn’t help but think maybe, just maybe, the light might be switched back on for good. Of course, I was wrong, and as quickly as it came, it was gone; and the gloom settled over once more. He never changed. But is that not another lesson in and of its self? I chose to believe that it was.
My 6th grade teacher had once told me that the word “can’t” only stood for one thing: certainly are not trying. If that fleeting moment of connection my father and I shared that night had shown me anything, it was that impossible was just a word thrown around by the people who only chose to fill their gas tanks up halfway, knowing full well that the journey would require it to be full; by the people that, when that very same tank emptied, would find an excuse to stop searching for whatever it was they were looking for, because they lacked the willpower to get out and walk further; by the people that when their legs began to grow heavy and plead for mercy, they refused to crawl for the one thing that, for all they knew, could very well have been right around the next bend. Sometimes you have to put it all on the line in order to achieve even your smallest dreams. Will you have to take risks? Of course, and it certainly won’t be an easy process, which makes it that much more meaningful when you finally reach it. I apologize if you were expecting a simple explanation, but in the reality of these situations there oftentimes aren’t any.
As I had just witnessed, even the darkest of places can be lit; even if it’s just for a brief time. It’ll be no menial task, but striving to shed light on what naturally lies in shadow allows you to see the beauty in a place that otherwise goes unappreciated. And what a view it is. Life is full of curveballs, heartaches and mistakes, but from those, strength can be produced, knowledge can be gained, and lessons can be learned. You just need to be willing enough to fight through the darkest areas of your subconscious, and I promise you that, just like my Dad and I, you too can find your spark. It’ll take a while, a long while. But in the end, the finished product is worth far more than the losses that this journey through life has designated you to bear, and maybe to continue to bear, since you know that deep down you will be able to persevere, because you have always been, and will continue to be, a champion in your own right.