What My Father Has Taught Me

I wear the “daddy’s girl” cliche as a badge of honor, and I always will. My dad is the greatest man I know, and I owe him for some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life (always given through example, not lecture). The below examples hardly capture the full spectrum of lessons learned, but might provide a brief look into what makes him such a wonderful dad.

Lead by example — Actions speak louder than words

My dad has never enforced upon my sisters or I any type of harshness or rigid expectation in a verbal, direct sense — he is one of the most gentle, compassionate people you could come across — and yet, largely because of his kindness towards us, he never had to utilize an aggressive tone to set standards in our house. He is a leader in a quiet, more effective way, and this has resulted in a deep respect for him that my sisters and I still possess. We truly consider how he feels, not just what he expects, in response to the wonderful example that he sets every day.  I rant often about people who are “touched by their own compassion” — in other words, people who are so self-absorbed that they must project their own good deeds on a very regular and public level. I honestly do not think this concept ever threatens to enter into my dad’s persona. He gives of himself generously without request of reward or expectation of anything in return. He never publicizes the good he does, but we see it.  It is as though he lives so intentionally that he need never require the validation of others for the choices that he has made along the way — because questioning continuously does not do much good. He presses on, always, to the future.

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Be optimistic

My dad has worked hard his entire life, he puts others first, and he takes care of himself by setting a healthy routine so that he can continue to be there for us. He does all of this without complaining or injecting any negativity. I cannot think of a time when my dad exhibited a sense of selfishness verbally or expressed a sense of “unfairness” for any given situation. His optimism and adaptability amidst life’s challenges is what makes him one of my heroes, and arguably one of the strongest people I know.  A typical dinner in the Topalian household often involves my sisters and my mom talking rapidly and loudly while my dad joins in with humorous commentary or simply smiles and gives a brief “ha” at intervals in the dialogue. This small gesture has become a classic dad “ism” and captures something in his nature that is difficult to put to words… it seems he possesses the wisdom of an adult, a father, but he has somehow obtained this wisdom without many of the scars that others bear outwardly. He has chosen the positive perspective all along, and it has paid off tremendously. I don’t think my father wastes any time on self-pity, which must be the most worthless of all human emotions. He seems to innately understand this, and instead moves onward with a smile at all times.

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Consistency goes a long way

In a house full of women, all of them very sensitive, smart, and “creative,” my dad never blinks an eye at our peculiar tendencies.  I have no idea, to this day, how he managed (and continues to manage) this feat. He coasts alongside our own volatile moods and outbursts, our passionate highs and dramatic lows, and somehow he remains a source of strength and consistency.  It took me a very long time to understand how important and rare my dad’s sense of consistency is for our entire family.  It is this gift of consistency that is also tied to his reliability, loyalty, and sense of balance. He is a leader because he has carved out a path that is safe and true for us. I know that my dad wakes up each day, ready to support my little sister and get her to school, and there will be coffee brewing, and he will take her where she needs to go for volleyball or other after-school activities. This is how he has always been, for all of us. We knew dad would always be there, smiling and on time, no matter what the situation.  But this is just a small aspect of what I am talking about when I refer to his consistency. Zooming out, I see more clearly (and with the help of a bit more maturity) how the choices my dad has made and continues to make are that of a balanced, healthy mind that prioritizes the happiness and safety of others close to him. He does not question things that are useless to question, he does not ask for more, he simply shows up for the ultimate job — being a dad — every day.  I could speak so much more to the value of consistency, because I am just beginning to recognize the deep importance of this trait as something that can be literally life-saving for people.  I see less and less role models who possess this gift, and I fear never knowing another person who has such strength in consistency.

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There are a million other things I need to be grateful for that my dad has given me and passed down to me.  To name a few: he’s taught me how to ski (and every other sport I have wanted to play), he introduced me to my first love, The Beatles (and so began the classic rock love affair), he passed on an extra hobby of drawing and sketching, we look identical most of the time and especially when we read with one finger propped against our mouth, and he’s instilled in me an appreciation for trekking around mountains and making time for adventures.

It is a combination of all that he’s given me that makes me appreciate his consistency even more — because it is a promise that there is more good to come, every day, and I can count on that.

Always, always, always, he is there.

Always, always, always, he is my father.

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