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#30DaysofThanks: Lessons From My Parents

This article is part of a series known as #30DaysOfThanks.


The older I get, the more I realize how lucky I am to have my parents and no one else’s. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that they raised me and molded me into the person I am, so of course we’re similar, but sometimes I’m amazed at what a perfect fit we are as a family.

It’s not only that they are unhesitatingly supportive of my sometimes hard-to-define goals and constantly encourage me to strive for more, but we also just plain get along. I genuinely enjoy spending time with them, whether we’re training for an upcoming race, working side by side at the family business, or just sitting down to enjoy a meal at our favorite Indian restaurant.

Our relationship isn’t just a friendship, though. Whether they expressly set out to teach me certain life lessons or not, they were my first and most important teachers. They never went to college, but they are two of the most intelligent people I know, hands down. With minimal formal education, they jumped into building a restaurant business when they were in their early twenties, when I was only four years old. Thinking about being a parent or a business owner at my age seems absolutely overwhelming to me and I don’t know how they did it all, let alone succeeded.

The first years of the restaurant business were hectic and frustrating, from what I remember. For the amount of work they put in, they didn’t get much in return. There were a lot of Ramen Noodle dinners at home and early mornings sleeping in the restaurant’s booths before it was time to open.

None of it was particularly fun (even less so for them I’m sure). What they didn’t gain in financial succes for the first few years, they gained in experience. They used that experience to make the business (now a wholesale bakery) the success it is today.

Even though not all of the memories are warm and fuzzy (because some of those mornings were downright cold and dreary, and the booths uncomfortable), I cherish the memories of those years because of what they taught me. It taught me that the right path isn’t always the easy or clear path and that success doesn’t happen overnight. Not only do you have to make mistakes and stumble a bit, but you have to pay attention and learn from those mistakes.

The older I get, the more I’m becoming like them and the happier I am about that. A big part of life is how you make choices, and as I venture further into adulthood, I realize that my parents happen to be good at making the right ones.

The choices I have made in my life are a direct result of their influence: what I looked for in a partner, how seriously I take my education, my motivation to save money, my (usually) healthy eating and exercise habits, the list goes on. I’m proud of myself for all of these things, but I actually have them to thank for all of it.

They never explicitly said “go for the awkward, nerdy boys,” or explained the level of dedication it takes to do well in college, but as if through the process of osmosis, I simply knew what choices to make when the time came because of the values they instilled in me.

It’s not just a fondness of soy lattes, infuriatingly fine hair, and my sense of humor that I share with my mom. One of the best lessons she taught me is to always keep an eye out for the next opportunity. The wheels are always turning in her head, and when she comes up with a good idea it turns into a fully-fledged brainstorm session.

I admire that about her and I see that reflected in the way I life my life. I snatched up every opportunity I could in college, and I still try to use every free moment to improve myself. I’m very much a “what-if” person, a dreamer. I like to visualize the future and plan a way to get there with ample research and preparation. I got that from her.

My green eyes, almost humorously short legs, and taste for all things spicy come from my dad. I also got my go-with-the-flow attitude from him. My dad is patient and even-keeled, and I like to think I’m the same way more often than not. He’s so laid back that when my mom started brainstorming about starting a business back in the early 90s, my dad just trusted her and went with it. At least, that’s how the story goes.

My favorite things about him are that he doesn’t let the little things get to him and isn’t quick to judge anyone. He’s the sort of person who is liked by just about everyone and is truly well-meaning in everything he does.

Together, they taught me that resiliency, hard work, kindness towards others, and a little humor can go a long way. I have a lot to be thankful for in life, most of which stems from everything they have given me.

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About the Author

Natalee Desotell

Natalee graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013 with a triple major in Political Science, International Politics & Economics, Languages & Cultures of Asia, and a minor in Global Public Health. After a couple years in the working world, she recently returned to her alma mater to study Cartography and Geographical Information Systems. A self-proclaimed public health nerd, her dream job is to communicate epidemiological information visually through beautiful interactive maps and graphics. She enjoys iced black coffee, punk rock music, and surprising people.

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