Almost a year ago now, I wrote some words about my father on father’s day, telling you mostly about how he was my best friend, inspiration and guiding light throughout my life. But that’s an incomplete story. It leaves out an integral person in my life who represents a significant reason for who I am today.
Those that know me, know I have that relationship with my dad — we talk Blue Jays, politics and everything else under the sun — but not many know about my mother. But she’s the reason I am who I am. Why I’m a reporter. Why I wear my heart on my sleeve. Why I chose to follow my heart.
Growing up, the common question every kid gets asked at one time or another is the infamous, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s either going to be in some sort of Grade 4 group work or on some aptitude test as you’re entering your high school years. Growing up with both my parents working blue collar jobs — my dad working in various manufacturing jobs and my mom working in a nursing home since I’ve known her — we didn’t live a lavish lifestyle. We weren’t skipping meals, but I’d be lying if I said times weren’t tough.
Naturally then, when I was first asked what I wanted to be, the answer had a lot to do with a paycheck. I wanted money for money’s sake. That would solve my problems, I thought. If I had money, I could do everything — after all it’s just a job right?
I’d love to tell you that my answer evolved because I grew older and read some self-help books in some coming of age novel yet to be written, but I really never had the chance to do that. I didn’t need to. My mom stepped in.
She told me how important it was to find what I wanted to do, rather than find a salary that would suit my needs. While my answer was that I wanted to be a lawyer, she asked me if that was something I really wanted to do (it wasn’t). Over time, it allowed me to think about what it was that I really wanted to do, which from the time I was 7-years-old, was writing about sports. That dream seemed impossible though. I watched it on TV, I read it in magazines, but really, how could I ever expect to make it as a professional writer covering sports teams?
That didn’t matter to her. Any time I said that, she quickly snapped me out of trying to figure out how it would happen and follow my heart.
Year after year, my mom continued to stress the importance of following my heart rather than the bottom line, while I watched other parents tell their kids what career paths to take or not take based on the lifestyle that was associated with it. She could have easily seen how hard it was to pay the bills and make ends meet and steer me away from following journalism (not the most lucrative profession out there, trust me). Knowing how hard it was, she could have easily helped me pursue a safe life, but she didn’t. There literally are not words in the English language to describe how grateful I am for that.
There’s a quote from actor Jim Carrey during a commencement speech that sums up perfectly what my mom’s guidance meant to me.
“My father could have been a great comedian but he didn’t believe that was possible for him and so he made a conservative choice, instead he got a safe job as an accountant and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
She never said it like that, though. Not once, because, really, she didn’t have to. She lived that for me and that’s why I am where I am today.
A 23-year-old lost, but happy, journalist. Without her, I probably don’t have the confidence that I do today and instead of applying for journalism school in 2012, I follow what were my better grades in high school in mathematics and do something in that field. Gone would be the amazing experiences I had at university. The transformation I had in British Columbia. The every day grind of telling people’s stories that I’m on in Saint John today. What if, right?
Having left home for a little over a year now, I haven’t been able to spend much time with my mom outside of FaceTime and Christmas vacation when I was home. So we aren’t watching movies together, drinking an afternoon coffee on our porch discussing our days and laughing hysterically at our family dog Tonka chasing his tail in the living room. I miss that.
Today, I think about how my life would be drastically different without my mom, knowing that I’ve given my dad a lot of the credit to this day (sorry Dad). She rarely talks sports with me, she didn’t call my pitches at my baseball games and she still sends text messages like written letters with the entire conversation summed into one message topped off with “xoxo” at the end, but she’s my mom.
I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.
Happy Mother’s Day.