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My father is a rocket scientist. Literally. He and my mother met while working as engineers at NASA. Brilliant, logical, extremely analytical, and with a PhD in Biomechanical Engineering, he is the most overqualified stay-at-home dad, completely devoted to raising my brother and me by his idea of perfection. With all these academic credentials, one would think he would be an inspirational role model, but even I’m unsure.
See, my father is a man who would rather spend his time alone, researching and reading articles rather than joining his family dinner parties or social events. My brother and I see a man who is tremendously obsessive, exceedingly controlling, overly critical, hurtfully sarcastic, and continuously condescending. In spite of my good relationship with my mother, who does her best to lighten the mood around the house, my father still torments me.
From early on, it became increasingly clear that he had higher expectations for me than I thought realistic, not only academically, but also in music and sports. He constantly reminded me of this with every insult, put-down, and heavy sigh of disappointment, I felt smaller and smaller. He was supposed to be my number one fan, but instead was impossible to please and excruciatingly easy to anger and disappoint. He would often ask me, with a tone dripping with sarcasm, if I ever thought about others when I made decisions or if I had a memory-span longer than a goldfish, or if I really deserved to have a mother. Each time made me more determined to prove him wrong.
Finally, the dam broke my junior year. Yelling through tears, I told him that I knew I was not the child he had wanted: a brilliant kid who could remember everything, plan well and be the best academically. I apologized for being such a disappointment. His stone-hard, angry expression softened and he said there was nothing I could do to make him more proud and I was not a disappointment to him, but rather the light of his life. I was stunned as I watched tears roll down his cheeks.
My dad always says it is best to learn through experience. Thanks to the living hell he put me through, he provided many powerful and memorable lessons. I discovered a deep well of inner strength I never knew I had. I learned I can always find a positive light in adversity, no matter how discouraged, frustrated or angry I feel. I am able to see the best in people, especially those who are awkward, quirky and weird, like my father. I could easily despise and ignore my father, simply holding onto my anger and painful emotional scars, but I have come to realize that he pours his criticisms on me because he loves me and wants what he believes is best for me. I can understand him, and would not be as determined or compassionate without him. Love is constant and unwavering even though at times difficult to believe.
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