3 Life Lessons From My Dad

 

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My dad is a man of many hats – he’s a coastal Pilot, storyteller, Dad, Papa (grandpa), friend, and mentor, colleague, the list could go on forever! More accurately for me, he has been a navigator of moments, storyteller and lens shape-er.

We all have lenses – we use them to see and interact with the world. Our parents, siblings, friends, community and anyone who enters into our world contribute to the shape of our lens. When it comes to lens shaping, dad is a professional. Be it during a walk to the store, commuting to school, or gabbing at a table in Tim Horton’s, dad takes every opportunity to shape my lens with compassion and courage so as to help my navigate life’s seasons with confidence.

We often tease my dad for his ability to tell stories with vivid detail. As an adult now, I often find myself recounting tales and experiences much the same way he does. A rabbit would never JUST eat a carrot in my dad’s stories. No, no, no. There would be an explanation of where the carrot came from, if it was organic, the breed of the rabbit, what that rabbit’s honest opinion was of the farmer’s dog, where was the sun’s position was when the rabbit was munching on the organic carrot, etc.

You might be wondering what do my dad, storytelling, and lenses have to do with each other?

When you’re not busy teaching children is when they will learn some of their most valuable lessons in life. My dad indirectly taught me that the way we see the world includes the little details, they help illustrate the big picture. That lens that my dad helped shape and refine allows me to examine situations with compassion towards others and the courage to handle difficult or challenging situations – it’s how I process everything in the world. When they all come together, an amazing thing happens. Especially when it comes to documenting stories for others!

When I photograph a birth for example, there will be beautiful moments of connection and raw emotion that I anticipate. Focusing on the details such as the crossword puzzle that the mama to be was distracting herself with while in early labour, the folded clothes in a pile of an expectant father headed to the OR, or a bundle of daisies picked by a chubby one year old’s hand – it all brings the story to life.

Besides lenses, developing my storytelling, there are a few other life lessons from my dad that I would like to share with you.

Life Lesson 1: Remember your roots and the people who got you to where you are

I was teetering in heels (every time I walk in heels I teeter, I can’t seem to find my land legs when I wear them!), with a cap and gown, ready to walk across the stage and receive my Bachelor’s degree in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria. I was feeling on top of the world. I had completed all the assignments, presentations, and practicums to arrive at this moment. To create an ambience of decorum the speakers requested that while it was alright to clap, that cheering be saved until after the ceremony. When I reached out to shake the Dean’s hand my dad bellowed from the back of the auditorium “GO ERNIE!”. That’s my nickname from my parents, because when I was just a little scamp my laugh sounded exactly like the rubber duck loving puppet. How’s that for decorum?! In that moment I thought about my childhood and the sacrifices made so that I could access an amazing education, and how proud of me my dad was. When you look at what you accomplish in your life, the big moments and the little ones, they’re made even more special when you see pride in a loving parents eyes.

 

Life Lesson 2: Anticipate and always have a back-up plan

Being a Captain comes with a lot of responsibility – there are lives on board your ship (passengers and crew), cargo, and the ship itself (filled with various fuels). There’s a lot at stake! He needs to get that ship from point A to B – maybe under a bridge, through harrowing seas or land it at a dock after navigating through recreational kayakers/fishing boats during the Canada Day harbour celebrations. On more than one occasion there have been some wrenches thrown into a seamless chartered course for my dad – maybe it was an engine failure, power outage, or crew miscommunication. He has always been able to rally resources and rescue the situation. I learned from him to evaluate a crisis situation with a level head and have a backup plan (and also to always know where the lifeboats are :) ). Being a parent and a photographer comes with a surprising amount crisis situations: birth clients can have emergency transfers and complications, the time we lost our son at Seaworld or being chased through a parkade by an aggressive individual. Without a level head, planning, and quick thinking – life could look very different right now. I am extremely grateful to have had my dad model this for me throughout my life.

 

Life Lesson 3: It’s about perspective; just start and you can go from there

My dad always encouraged me to try, it was fine to be terrible or fantastic, but you needed to try. The time had come for me to learn to try drive and my dad was my main instructor. The bane of my existence was parallel parking. If the situation deemed it necessary, well, I was going to circle the streets until I had another option! Learning to drive on an SUV also terrified me, and seeing as we were looking for another vehicle for dad to use for his commute to work, I got to have some input on what we looked for. We went to a dealership where my dad showed me a Mazda something-something and asked me to see if it was a size I would feel comfortable driving. To be sure, this car was compact and little – from my dad’s perspective, a Captain who drives ships longer than two football fields, it was a piece of cake! To me however, this was practically a limo with a boat trailer – there was no way I could ever manoeuver this contraption into an even tinier parking space. So we walked away. Then we found a Toyota Echo – to give you a reference point, it’s a little bigger than a smart car. Perfect (for me)! And that was it. My dad could’ve easily said we were getting a different vehicle, one that more like the bat mobile, had more horsepower, had four wheel drive, or a top that folded down, but he respected where I was at in my comfort zone. For years I practiced, graduated through the licencing program and now find myself behind the wheels of boats, trade vans, and the family SUV. It’s ok to start small, hone your skills and build confidence – and it’s a much easier process when you have someone in your corner telling you it is ok too.

To the family story teller, our Captain, Animal lover, lens shapper and Dad – thank-you for all the love and life lessons <3

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