At work today, I started reading Thomas Friedman's book, That Used to Be Us and I was so moved by Mr. Friedman's insights about America in the 21st century and how we can move forward. I sat there thinking, "YES! He gets it!" and I immediately texted my dad because a) he had given me the book and b) I knew he would share in my enthusiasm for Thomas Friedman. I mentioned before how my family is paired off evenly in looks and personality (I look like my mom and have my dad's personality and my brother is vice-versa) and how my dad and I are both introverts. That doesn't, however, begin to capture my dad's and my relationship.
My mom is my go-to for basically anything, from people to style to health to those moments when you just need to vent, but my dad is different. My dad makes me want to be smarter.
My dad and I are both introverts. We are quieter and more reflective so already we are a good match already. He gets how I relate to the world and has since I was little. When I was little, my mom would work during the day and my dad would work nights so he took care of me during the day so we bonded very quickly. There's a picture of me and my dad from when I was a baby and he is building a sandbox for me. I was supervising the whole operation and am perched on one end of the sandbox, happy as can be, while he's putting on the finishing touches on the other side. He read to me constantly when I was younger, as well and we always enjoyed quiet time together.
When I was in kindergarten, my dad used to volunteer in my classroom as often as he could and I have a distinct memory of him supervising an activity in which we wrote our names with shaving cream in a little plastic tray. My dad used to drill me on state capitals when I got older (we made it a $5 bet one night, using my map of the United States in my room) and in third grade, he patiently sat with me at the kitchen table while I practiced my cursive letters. Even now, I try to replicate his impeccable printing. He was the one who helped me with school projects; he was and still is an expert diorama architect, from the dinosaur scene pictured below from second grade to a replica of The Oprah Winfrey Show from fourth grade:
As I grew older, he fostered a more intellectual relationship with me. He and I read an abridged version of Great Expectations together in fifth grade, and gave me books on presidents and the Civil War, and other events in history. I grew up watching The West Wing, one of the greatest political dramas of all time, with my parents and, though I didn't understand much of it at first, it was what eventually sparked my fascination with politics and led me to my current field of study. Sometimes it would just be me and my dad at home for dinner and I would say, "Want to watch an episode tonight?" We would only say "an episode" because we both knew that was the only show we wanted to watch. My dad, in fact, is Toby Ziegler in the flesh, so whenever I watch it today and hear one of Toby's classic one-liners, I immediately think of my dad.
My dad also taught me to drive, as he is incredibly patient. I was a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a basket-case driver but he somehow did not completely lose it when I still could not reverse park the night before my road test. He just took me up to the high school parking lot, set up cones and let me try over and over and over until I finally got it. 8 months later, when I took a tight turn between two buildings and put a huge dent in the side of the van, he just looked at it, looked at me, and said, "Is the building okay?" For the record, the building was perfectly fine.
It was my dad who convinced me to apply to Fordham - I can still hear him saying, "It's a *free* application!" and he took me on my first tour on the day I fell in love with this school. He helped me fill out my course preference form and, on the day I moved in, brought me a HotShot hot water maker for my room, which I use every single day. He wrote to me that night, telling me to work hard and take advantage of every opportunity and it is one of my go-to sources of motivation. He's my first email when I need to work on my resume or an application essay for a scholarship because he's one of the best writers I know.
My dad and I are both obsessively organized. I remember going to his office when he was still with the State Police and seeing his agenda lined up perfectly on his desk and, though I teased him about it at first, I do the exact same thing. We are both slightly germophobic so he appreciates the fact that I like to wipe down my desk at work with a Clorox wipe every day. We are both witty and easily frustrated with nonsense.
For Christmas the past two years, my dad gave me books, as reading is a passion that we share. He was the one who gave me Quiet (see my Introvert post!), as well as a book on habits and how we form them, the book by Thomas Friedman, and even a book called This Will Make You Smarter. He really outdid himself this past year, however, when he gave me two books: the Humans of New York book and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. My dad is unfailingly supportive of my personal empowerment as a woman (he gave me biographies of Clara Barton and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others), something he truly demonstrated when he sent me an article a few months ago about how President Obama's top three national security advisors are women. He said in the body of the email, "So…if you could pick, which job would you want?" We talk about current events and email each other articles constantly. He helped me get my internship at the DEA and I love talking to him about cases I'm working on and how I'm considering a future career in intelligence analysis or foreign service. My dad believes in me and dreams for me.
About a week ago, my dad asked me if, since I have a month's gap between when I get home and when I leave for London, I would like to go on a trip with him to Washington D.C. I could not think of a better way for us to bond than among museums and monuments and makers of history and I am counting down the days until we leave on our own "West Wing" adventure.
I read a lot about the value of a mentor when it comes to personal and professional development. This person is your guru, your go-to, the one who's been there before and knows both you and your potential. Maybe it's a little unorthodox, but my mentor, educationally and professionally, is my dad. He is smart and driven, while also being immensely loving and devoted to his family. When I was three, I somehow managed to drop my beloved Teddy out the window of our Explorer, and the family legend goes that he got in his cruiser and stopped traffic just to retrieve Teddy for me. He is living and breathing proof that it's okay to be an introvert and want to be smart and that I should celebrate this. My dad not only makes me want to be smart, but he makes me want to be someone and he inspires me every day.
Inspired to be,