In my lifetime, I’ve had a lot of fantastic teachers who handed me well-thought-out academic curriculums which, regrettably, I can no longer remember; but, I’ve also had a lot of bad tutors with whom came some of the greater lessons I’ve been privileged to learn. It always seems that way, doesn’t it? The stuff that’s good for you is always grotesque – the equivalent of physical or emotional spinach. That makes it much more difficult to see the forest despite the tree into which you just slammed your proverbial new Mercedes.
It’s because of this concept that I try to never regret anything I do or that transpires in the chaotic realm of this seemingly inescapable “control vacuum”; but rather, I try to understand it and its origins. To me, it feels like regret is having to apologize to myself for doing something that felt so personally right at the time, and well, I’m not so good at apologies (mostly because I seldom have to use them). I suppose, if we remained true to ourselves from the jump, we wouldn’t have to become concerned in our thoughts and actions with the goings-on tangled within the web of lies which is so closely related to self-deceit. I suppose figuring that out is all part of growing up. My 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Deason, used to say, “Growing up consists of more than walking around getting taller.” And although I stand at a majestic 4’11”, I like to think I’ve done my share of growing.
I did say “growing up” with just my engineer father – a tattooed, long-haired, “works-seven-days-a-week, rides-a-Harley, ‘If-you-need-me-I’ll-be-in-the-garage'” type of dad – in a house that was too big for just the two of us. He bought the house initially for the security of his hopeful but makeshift family which soon failed and that place remains his home today, though the bedrooms were never graced with the family he wanted. I think that’s why he always tried to remain busy.
In between jobs, he always managed to have a girlfriend in and out, though nobody stayed; and, soon I began to hate females and the world. I stopped believing in Love altogether as I watched these women take my father’s kind gestures for signs of some unseen mental or emotional weakness. And he did have a weakness: making other people happy. But as all weaknesses go, they are also strengths.
I was one of those people my father was sure he made happy. In the garage or not, he always had time to teach me a lesson – one of those rare good teacher/good lesson combinations. I don’t have a single memory of ever going without anything. He used to tell me he’d make sure I had 100% of what I needed and 50% of what I wanted, and that I would be given the wisdom to figure out how to get the other 50%. It’s because of this that I do everything I do – so that my father doesn’t feel like he failed me and so that those precious minutes we shared in the bubble of time are not forgotten.
Among my favorite pieces of advice bestowed upon me by my father is this tidbit:
“Kiddo, you are a mirror, and all others merely reflections of a part of you. Remember that as you look out at the world and begin to judge what you see. And try to keep a smile on your face, just in case that person who looks to you can’t find a smile of their own.”