Advice from a Dad: "Just Be Courageous"

Monday, May 31, 2010

When I was offered this new job, I wasn't sure who to call to talk it out. I'm closest to my mom & grandmother, to three or four good friends - but I didn't want to call any of them.

I wanted to call a dad.

Notice I didn't say I wanted to call my dad. My dad was a salesman who sold golf carts for a living, not just to golf courses but to universities & theme parks & airports, & I know he was a damn good one - the most charming ones are! - but I imagine the PR-&-communications realm would've felt a little foreign to him. And anyway, I didn't know my dad well enough to know what he would say to me in this situation; instead, I just had this nebulous, abstract idea that I wanted to be talking to a dad. To someone who could give me fatherly advice & a couple nuggets of dad-wisdom & send me on my way to ultimately make my own decision.

I have one "real" uncle. (The other three men who I sometimes call my uncles are really my dad's good friends, who I've told you about before.) My Uncle Jim is my mom's younger brother, who spent his entire career working for IBM, doing things way beyond my comprehension level, including being a salesman & a general corporate genius. He's one of the most Type A people I know, not like my mom & me at all; he's level-headed, all-business, forward-thinking. He recently retired from IBM & almost immediately began working a new job as a jack-of-all-trades at a country club in Southern Ohio, more fun but still a lot of work - not quite retired.

He was at his new job when I called him, so it was a short conversation, only about 10 minutes long. I told him he could call me back later, but I guess my voice was a little wobbly; he insisted that we talk then, even though it meant juggling requests from club guests & intermittently spouting off about tennis rackets & pool towels.

I told him I didn't know what I want to be doing in five years, that I'm not quite clear on what my career path or my dream job is. I told him I was scared to make a change when what I had was so darn comfortable, that I was afraid of making the wrong move or being miserable or being confused or not good enough.

"Kate, just be courageous," he told me. He said it three times throughout the course of our chat, which means he's either annoyingly repetitive or that I sounded like a big wuss who needed a bit of prodding. I'll give you one guess which was the case.

I did need a little prodding. I didn't need him to make the decision for me; the truth is that I'd already made it for myself. What I did need was a verbal push to just say yes, to take this step, to make the decision I'd known all along that I would ultimately make - in other words, to just grow a pair. And when I coupled my uncle's words with my own father's favorite quote, "Press on, regardless," it all made sense. It was simple advice, but it was just the right advice.

Sitting here now, I don't feel particularly courageous, because hey, people accept new jobs all the time. But it does feel like the right thing for me. And in just a few hours, it's about to begin!
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