There’s a popular meme that goes around on Facebook from time to time that goes like this:
Maybe because we’re older. Maybe because we’ve gotten out there in the “real world.” Maybe because we’ve tried and failed. (And tried and failed.) In our 20s, we realize parents are a lot wiser than we thought.
As I coast into my early 30s, I understand more and more just how much my dad, who passed away in 2014, and my mom were right about so many things. Each one of these began as simple advice but turned out as valuable life lessons for me:
1. “Dress warm!”
This was always a big fight in my house. A self-absorbed teenager, I couldn’t fathom a bulky coat ruining my meticulously selected outfit. I often just grabbed the coat my mother thrust upon me only to leave it in the car. And yes, I froze walking or waiting outside. Now, I’m the total opposite. In Boston winters, you honestly can’t tell if it’s me or a pile of clothes wobbling down the street. Mom was right.
It seemed like a simple command, but what she was really telling me was to be prepared, and get over yourself. This has helped me to embrace who I am and be confident in who I choose not to be. If someone teases me for being old fashioned or worrying too much, I remain true to myself.
2. You’re lucky if you end up with a few good friends in your life.
I take some sense of pride in making and keeping friends. I’m the person who is addicted to Facebook, attended 17 weddings in one year and still write Christmas cards with a letter to over 70 “close friends.” When my parents told me that I’d lose some along the way, I couldn’t imagine ever losing friends I had made in high school or even grade school. I remember rolling my eyes at hearing this so many times, but today, I realize it is sadly true. You grow apart. They hurt you deeply. You become different people.
Looking back, I realize my parents weren’t trying to annoy me; they were trying to prepare me for the hard lessons of friendship. Now I treasure every friend I have — not only the ones I have at this moment, but also the ones who show their true character by sticking by me in tough times.
3. Do what you love to do.
There’s an adage that says, “Do what you love and never work a day in your life.” For my parents, that was not their reality, but it was their dream for me. Both of my parents worked at the same job for 40 years. Neither had a college education, and my mom immigrated from abroad. They didn’t love their jobs, but they tolerated them and made endless sacrifices to send my brother and me to the best high schools. For them, every parent’s desire to see their child happy went much deeper. They had given us the gifts and education to choose our own adventure in life.
Growing up, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to be given this, mostly because it seemed like a no-brainer for many families around me. But more and more, I realize that their telling me to “do what you love to do” was not a blank check to be careless, entitled or irresponsible; it was about making good on everything they had given to me and asking what God wanted me to do with this life I’ve been blessed with.
That motivation has led me to take on the world using not only my knowledge and skills but also my creativity and unique gifts for things I love to do. I want to leave a mark on this world, and thanks to my parents, I also find a healthy challenge in discovering what my unique mark will be.