“Do you miss your daughter?” This is not an inquiry, but rather a rhetorical question from anyone I pass who knows that my seventeen year old is travelling this summer through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Should I admit that not only do I not miss her, I actually feel like I have found her?
I have read that high school’s junior year is a tough one full of stress. As a transfer student in a highly ranked magnet school, this reputation of stress-filled played out. For the first time in her life she seemed to walk to the beat of someone else's drum.. And by the way, that drum was not so musically inclined.
In one school year, my daughter managed to take up a new sport and play at the varsity level, make tons of great new friends, hold down a paying job, hold down a volunteer job, babysit, carpool her brothers, help her single mom, take all advanced and AP classes scoring no less than a B, visit 15 colleges across 7 states. Yet, it always seemed like nothing was ever enough. As soon as one task was complete it seemed like the list of “must do’s” would grow.
And then suddenly, in an instant, only hours after her last exam, there I found myself: I was waving good-bye at 6 a.m. as she departed on 24 hours of air travel to the other side of our planet.
Mine is the the daughter who embraces sunrise and chases sunsets. She doesn’t just consume what is in front of her or even take a picture. Rather this is the girl who studies tide charts, researches the sun’s patterns, and learns animal behavior. This way she can grab the shot of kangaroo at dawn and reflective tide pools at dusk. So the fact that she planned and saved for this trip for six months doesn’t surprise me.
Do I miss her?
I should answer "yes" since that is the expected answer. But it might be more true that I “anti-miss" her. She is back. She is no longer buried in a narrative of unnecessary expectations. Rather, through Facetime and texted photos I see her smile, eat scaly fish, learn a new version of hacky-sack under city street lights with Vietnamese friends, and overflow with gratitude. She is climbing in the tunnels that determined the fate of the Vietnam war and she is exploring the lost city of Angkor Wat in a Cambodian jungle. In her true fashion she is filling me and her brothers with bright images, new relationships and expanded intellect.
Thinking about my amazing daughter makes me ponder about business leadership. How often do we set conveyor belt like expectations, policies, and procedures and unintentionally eradicate creativity and genius in the process? Well, let’s not.
I look forward to her return and the hug we will share. Meanwhile, I am delighted she was able to (for now) shed the compulsive culture for creative cultural exploration. I thank God that such an adventurous, brilliant child walks our planet and I am in awe that I get to know and love her.