Some of the best memories of my dad are from car rides. Whether short or long, they seemed to provide him with inquisitive inspiration. And he asked me a few great questions during those escapades.
One time – I must’ve been 10 years old – I got really hung up on how I did on this one test at school. I studied and did all the things but didn’t get the grade I thought I would.
And I started spiraling thinking what class placements I’d get in middle school if I didn’t do stellar here in 6th grade. Yes, I’d had perfectionist tendencies starting at a young age. 🙂
My dad listened, and listened, as he drove gently and I waxed and waned from the passenger seat.
And then he suddenly asked me….
“Hima, where are we?”
I was a little thrown off, because it made me think he wasn’t listening to my serious woes being expressed. But I respected my dad a lot and rarely ever talked back to him or questioned him. So I just quietly answered.
“In the car”
“Ok, and where is the car?”
“On the road”
“And where is the road?”
Now I was getting a little frustrated.
“Dad the car is on the road on Long Island in New York in the United State of America”
“And where is the USA?”
“In North America Dad, on planet Earth”.
My enthusiasm dipped…he asked again
“And where is Earth?”
“In the Milky Way Galaxy!” – My energy went up again, cuz I thought this was turning into a science test, the subject matter I had just performed sub-standard on…
“And where is the Milky Way Galaxy?”
“In the universe?”
“And where is the universe?”
Huh? I froze. It felt like my brain broke for a second.
Up until that point in my first decade of life, I had never thought about WHERE the universe is. I never really thought about its characteristics much at all. So I quietly answered…
“I don’t know where the universe is, Dad. Sorry if that’s not the right answer.”
He smiled gently, and shared this…
“Hima, the reason I was asking you these questions was not because there’s a right or wrong answer all the time.
Take the universe for example, scientists are still studying it, and always will be. But we do know that the universe is expanding. In all directions, and at all times.
So if the ultimate place where we “are” is always growing and changing, and we’re just on this blue grain of sand called Earth in the middle of that, then, well…
we’re basically imagination.”
I was listening so intently that I could sense my heart beat. It remained steady as he continued…
“I understand that you are frustrated about your test. And going to a new type of school, and so much more.
And as you grow up you will continue to face challenges, life is full of them.
But if they ever start taking over your brain, where you are going in circles and circles about it, just step back and ask yourself “Where am I?”
Start with your immediate physical presence, like you did today, and expand out.
Because in the end if we are all just imagination in this vast universe, 99.99% of what bothers us will not be life altering. Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK to feel bad or upset, just make sure you have this to help you manage it.”
To this day, when an unexpected challenge arises, or I don’t get a result I desired, or anything that’s not life altering, I ask myself “Where Am I?”
I get grounded, I work my way out, and then I smile when I remember that I am essentially “imagination” and there are few things that are truly truly terrible and unconquerable.
So consider adding this to your life management mental toolkit. Sometimes Father Knows Best, and sometimes Father just KNOWS. Because he’s done life, and given you yours.
And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Your kiddos are lucky to have you, whether small or grown. And if the surge ever hits to tell them a story or tale or anecdote, do it.
They’ll cherish it forever.
Was only a bit older than this when my dad asked me about the universe…
Parents and siblings at a friend's wedding in my 20s