I didn’t grow up in a household where my sister or I had choices on what we wanted to do. We were told what was expected of us, and only once we had completed those items were we allowed any free time to ourselves. The list of expectations were prioritized in the following way: 1) Daily music practice (60+ minutes), 2) Homework as needed to achieve A grades, 3) Chores around the house, 4) Swimming lessons, 5) Reading books & completing book reports, 6) No more than 1 hour of television on Monday – Friday and television only permitted on the weekends only after approval from parental units (was quite rare), 7) In bed by 8pm. NO exceptions. We also only had 1 computer in the house and it was only allowed for parents’ business use or if we had to use it for an academic related reason. Computer / video games were not allowed in our house. It may seem strict or quite sheltered, but it was all that I knew (more on that later).
My father grew up with a river for his backyard and boating / skiing a part of his blood. I grew up though in the middle of farm country USA (Wisconsin) where we didn’t have large lakes or bodies of water nearby. Nevertheless, my father insisted that my sister and I learn how to swim. We took all the swim lessons at the local YMCA that we could until we graduated from their entire swim program. The next step would’ve been to join the competitive swim team, but that required a significant time commitment that we simply didn’t have with our other higher tiered priorities of music and academics already eating up so much of our time. So my dad said “You’re taking lifeguarding classes so you know how to save people”. And so I did. I worked several summers that local YMCA as a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons as well.
Dad also made sure we were comfortable with water that wasn’t a swimming pool. I remember during the summer when I was 8 years old, we would drive 3 hours north to (very small) lakes so that my dad could throw me in the water and I could learn how to water-ski. I did more falling and drinking lake water that summer than I did drinking soda the previous 2 years combined. It wasn’t until the following summer when I was 9 years old that I finally got up on waterskiis! Every summer dad would set a new goal for me on the waterskiis: getting outside of the wake, cutting harder, skiing over rougher and rougher water. Eventually dad said “It’s time to start learning deep water slolam” and just like that, I could no longer use two skiis and was back in the water learning how to get up on only one ski. Once I conquered that, it was then time to learn how to do a dock jump (start on the dock, time it perfectly so when the boat takes off, you jump off the dock, into the water, and your forward momentum with the boat keeps you going). The goal was always to dock jump, do the mile loop, and ski up to the dock perfectly so that I could let go and glide right up to the dock, gracefully sit down on the dock (without getting splinters), and only have my ankles to mid shins wet. And yes, I learned how to do that. In fact when I lived with my Aunt in Washington, she wouldn’t let me go to school until I had gone for a ski run. She then also told me I had to learn how to drive the boats for the younger cousins and also how to wakeboard so I could teach the younger cousins (I was always better at skiing).
When I graduated from high school, my dad then said it was time for me to get certified in Scuba Diving. So I did, but I wasn’t happy with not being able to go deeper to wrecks. Two years later, I got my Advanced Open Water to allow me to do this. The serious scuba divers in my family then told me that if I wanted to travel the world with them to exotic dive sites, I first had to get my Rescue Diver license so that in case something went wrong with them (or myself), I would know what to do. And so in January 2015, I braved the cold California waters, “saved” my instructor (a 250+lb ex-Marine; I’m 5’6″ and 120 lbs), and earned by Rescue Diver license.
“Ok RICHARD, WHAT’S THE POINT!?”
Yesterday one of my work colleagues invited me to go sailing today. I have only been sailing once before (my college chem professor threw a graduation party for the graduating biochem / chem seniors where we all went out sailing around Long Beach). It was a fantastic time and I always wanted to get back into it.
Today we went sailing out to the sandbar where we cast anchor and swam / waded around for a few hours. The sandbar itself was popping with a bunch of other boats, and we did see turtles and a few large rays as well! Don’t ask me to provide a clear rundown of terminology used in sailing because I’m still learning what is another foreign language for me. BUT, if you put me back on that sailboat, I do know a few of the jobs and what to be looking for in the masts for optimal wind / power utilization. It was a great time and there might be a chance we try to form a racing team and start sailing more often.
But sailing today (both playing a supporting role and taking the helm / navigating for a period of time) reminded me of two things:
- I love water! No, I am not Michael Phelps and I probably couldn’t swim a mile in a stellar time, but I may have a part fish gene somewhere in my DNA.
- Yes it may have seemed that my parents were strict with us when we were growing up, and yes I wish I would’ve learned how to code / program when I was younger, but overall I’m thankful that my dad placed such high emphasis on the projects / tasks that he did. All of those activities have opened so many doors for me over the years, not only for hobbies and pleasure, but also for business networking and actual jobs. In fact as I am writing this, a director from a very successful and rapidly growing Arts foundation in Orlando that I used to be a part of texted me. In our conversation, he eventually said “You’re a true Renaissance man!” I laughed and reminded him that there are always campaigns seeking to crown the next “Most Interesting Man in the World“, and while that title might be something I aspire to, I have not officially launched that campaign. That isn’t the first time someone has used the “Renaissance man” compliment to describe me, and to me it does seem a bit unfair as I know I am not a subject matter expert in these areas / I have a lot of growth to achieve as there is so much more that I want to learn.
But despite all this, the point here is that my parents set me up to have the opportunity to keep expanding my horizons. That is one of the greatest gifts they have given me, and for that, I am extremely grateful!
Hope you all had a great weekend!