My dad and I are close so it’s not uncommon for us to bounce a lot of emails back and forth throughout the week. Even when I got an email with the subject line “This made me so sad” last Monday I didn’t think too much of it… Until I opened it and realized that the content of the email was about my Toast Talk post that had published earlier in the day. I couldn’t even get through the first two sentences of his email – I was worried to read what part of my post upset him so much, worried that it would make me cry at the office (I’ve been super touchy as of late), and worried that I had shared something on the world wide web that I shouldn’t have. This sharing I do every Monday has become such a personal part of me – and has made me feel so connected to so many of you that read it – and I hated to think that one of my most loyal readers, my dad, had interpreted something I wrote in a way that not just made him sad but “so sad.”
So here is the sentence that struck such a chord: “Obviously it was my choice to move to Dallas, and I could have tried to find a job in either of the cities where my friends flocked to after school but I took the easy route and moved to where I had a long-standing job offer and affordable living waiting for me.” My dad’s response and reaction to reading this sentence hit me so hard that I felt I had to share… Not to make myself feel better or pump my ego, but to show how my initial view of my choices was so different from his.
His words: I didn’t know, and should have known, that you felt like you took the “easy route,” and what I read was you saying that you compromised for an inferior job. Molly, in my view, you have never taken the easy route, rather you have worked hard for everything you achieved – achieved through hard work and sacrifice. You earned a great job in the teeth of the worst economy since I graduated from college, 28 years earlier. You compromised nothing, yet sacrificed much. Chicago is a great town, as is New York, San Francisco and others. However, pull yourself away from a great weekend with friends, and they go back to their lives, their work, and their struggles, and what they experience is not too different from what you are feeling. Having returned from my 30 year college reunion, some of whom I have not seen in those 30 years, my voice is recovering from talking too much, and my stomach hurts from laughing more than I have in years. Regardless of where you live, your friends (true friends) will always be with you. Like you did this weekend, cherish your friends, cherish the time spent with your friends, and know that never will you have those same four years to experience with any group of friends again. Do not feel that you have compromised or taken the easy way out. From my vantage point, your work ethic is far superior to anyone your age I have ever seen or known. I just want you to have fun in your life.”
Can you image how guilty I felt reading that? This father put me through four years of college, heard about my struggles, and celebrated my accomplishments with me. My careless (okay, not careless, but definitely rushed) wording and saying I took the “easy route” insinuated a lot and was not the best choice of words to explain my decision making and thought process behind my move to Dallas. Reading his email forced me to take a step back and relive all the choices I made to get to where I am now – and his thoughts put so much in perspective for me.
Sometimes it’s easy – so incredibly easy – to lose sight of past accomplishments or to forget struggles and triumphs when I’m feeling unsatisfied with where I am now. I’m still working to find that spot where I can say “okay, press pause, life is too perfect right now and I never want it to change.” As you might have been able to tell from his writing, my dad is a huge cheerleader in my life and the lives of my siblings. And even though he has never, ever made me feel anything but proud of my choices thus far, sometimes I feel like I am letting my sweet dad down by switching jobs so much and following my instincts instead of using the degree I earned. He assured me that he sent me to college to not earn a degree, but to receive an education — inside and out of the classroom. To him, “A degree is meaningless. But an education is invaluable. Use your education, and I don’t just mean that which you received in college, but your life long education.” You don’t even know how thankful and grateful I am to have parents with that type of thought process.
I really loved what he had to say and if I had all day, I would springboard into toast talking many paragraphs about work ethic, balance, goals, etc. But I want to end with saying that the biggest lesson he taught me was that I need to be less hard on myself. That doesn’t mean compromising or stopping the search for personal and professional satisfaction, but acknowledging that hey, things have been pretty incredible so far and I’ve had tons of fun along the way. I’m excited for what lies ahead and I’m hopeful that no choice I make will be because it’s simply “the easy route.”
(Image via I Heart Luxe)