When I walked into the house after school, the first thing I noticed was a box with items I recognized from my dad’s office. He is a neat freak, so I found this odd. As I looked through the box, my dad appeared.
“What are you doing home already?” I asked casually.
“Andrew, I was laid off today,” he answered, quietly.
I was sure he was joking. “No you weren’t. Why are you really home?”
Then I noticed his expression and realized he was telling the truth. My father has always been a hard worker and prided himself on his career. Providing for our family has been his joy, and I guess I had taken his work for granted.
My father’s unemployment created many changes in our lives. For starters, he was home all the time, which meant my bed had to be made, my room cleaned up, and my homework done right after school. I would come home every day to find him at the computer searching for jobs. I began to notice how down he seemed, and how losing his job had affected his self-esteem, though he tried to be optimistic. For the first time, I saw my dad as vulnerable. He asked my brother and me to spend less. I gave up my allowance, which even though it wasn’t much, felt like the right thing to do. I also found a part-time job.
After several difficult months of searching, my dad decided to go in a totally different direction. He explained that he never wanted to be laid off again, so he was going to start his own business. Day by day, I watched him build it, and I admired how much time and energy he expended.
One evening I asked if he needed help.
“Only if it doesn’t interfere with school,” he said, which sounded like a yes.
I showed up at his office the next afternoon, and most afternoons after that for two months. I always knew he was a hard worker, but watching him in action really impacted me. Although this was one of the worst experiences for our family, it taught me a lot about dealing with adversity. Now I know that through creative problem-solving, I can always find Plan B, ask for help, and take risks. What I have learned from my dad’s understanding of business and his work ethic are two of the most important lessons I will ever learn, and will be my foundations for success.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.