There are so many life lessons that I learned growing up abroad, it was not an easy life, nor was it a life I would recommend for everyone, but it was my life, and I don’t know any differently. To describe my parents, would be to define them by their outward appearances, which was in all practicality, square, and very conservative. Their personalities on the other hand, were complete opposites.
My Father once said, that if he had to, he would flip burgers to put food on the table. I was always startled by that statement, because he meant it. The few times I walked into the office with him, he acknowledged every single person he saw, including the guards, the person who controlled the elevator, the janitors. EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON. He had worked hard to get as far as he did, but he was still humble, and gave everyone respect.
He had impossibly high standards, but if you worked hard, you always had his respect. My Father detested laziness. He always said “pick the slower hardworking person, over the highly intelligent buzzer.” He always believed that someone could learn a skill if they set their minds to something, but he had no time for those who never wanted to try.
Although incredibly conservative on the outside (he was a classic nerd, dapper, but still all stuffy and diplomatic looking), yet my Father never cared or judged anyone for who they went home with. He always said to never judge a book by its cover. He believed that who you love is who you love, you can’t control that, and should never judge anyone for that. He just didn’t believe in discussing the intimate parts of your love life at work, no matter what. I always felt that I could come home and announce that I was a Buddhist, gay, straight, or was taking a vow of silence (the latter, my Father would have jumped for joy if I did). Knowing that I was never going to be judged, made me realize how important that it is when becoming a parent. I have never wanted to judge my son. I want him to know, I will love him unconditionally just like my Father did.
To be thankful and gracious. My Father was incredibly difficult to live with at times. If we were posted back to Head Quarters, my Father was always under a huge amount of stress, he would have so many countries under his supervision, and there was always a crisis. He attempted to compartmentalized as best as possible, but there were times, it was obvious the stress was palpable, like a big elephant in the room that we were supposed to ignore. No matter what, he always said thank you for a dinner that was made for him, or clean laundry that was left on his bed, or dishes done, he was so thankful for these small things, that it made it nice to do the small things for him. Gratitude goes a long way.
Always have an ironed shirt and shined shoes. My Father believed that no matter where you are in life, people will remember the state of your shoes, I never understood it until we stood together at receptions, and I began to learn how to read people partly by their shoes. It’s not a brand thing, but noticing how someone walks and takes care of their shoes can give you a quick assessment before you negotiate with them. As for the ironed shirt, well, that was so he didn’t look like he rolled out of bed!