It was October 1998. Though Disney’s Mulan had been released four months earlier, I remained nothing short of obsessed with the film, and when my kindergarten teacher sent us home with news of our annual school Halloween parade, I was ecstatic.

Later that evening, I told my dad I wanted to be Mulan. I handed him the letter, and as five years of being spoiled rotten had demonstrated, I knew I could count on him to secure the costume promptly. The very next evening, he returned home from work with a Party City bag hanging from his wrist, but when I opened the bag, my excitement quickly morphed into disappointment. I wanted to be pretty Mulan in her pink Disney princess dress — not warrior Mulan in her dingy army attire. My dad went back to check for the Mulan costume I had wanted at other Party City locations throughout the DFW metroplex, but they were all sold out.

Needless to say, while there were other Mulans at the parade, I was the only girl who showed up as Warrior Mulan. At the time, I found this devastating, but seventeen years later, I am so glad that my dad bought me the wrong costume — not only because it made for priceless photos (see Exhibit A for a good laugh and also a reminder that shoulder pads flatter no one) but also because it was the first (that I can remember) of many times my dad taught me to aspire to be something more than conventional and “pretty.”

I don’t doubt that every father — mine included —in part would like to raise a dutiful and obedient daughter. But I think that even before the new wave of feminism hit, my dad had always wanted me to be more. My dad never wanted me to be a passive princess on the sidelines; he wanted me to be strong, intelligent, independent — a warrior (interestingly, this is also the meaning of my English name) and a risk-taker in the thick of the action.

He continued to teach me this throughout my childhood: when he dropped me off at all sorts of sports practices and taught me to be strong rather than thin; when he supported my precocious love for website building and graphic design and brought home expensive software suites and thick books on programming languages; when he encouraged me to leave home two years early to go to a residential math and science high school; and even today, he continues to support me as I prepare to jet off to Silicon Valley and explore a still unfamiliar (but incredibly exciting) world of startups.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: thanks, Dad, for helping me to chase a life of excitement and meaning, thanks for always being there to lift me up (see Exhibit B), and most importantly, thanks for encouraging me to be a warrior rather than a princess.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you!

Exhibit A
Evidence that shoulder pads look bad no matter what filter you use.

Exhibit B
Thanks for always lifting me up. :)

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