What I Learned from Papa

My writing class assignment was to write two pieces, about 16 lines each, that starts with the title “What I learned from…”

What I learned from Papa

Once Papa gently advised, and only upon my request for his advice, that:

I should only act on important decisions when I am centered. 

I should not proclaim in the throes of anger or hurt, but wait until I gain perspective. 

I should separate others’ statements about me from their feelings and world outlook. 

And thus:

I should not take “personally” perceived attacks, but rather find a perspective that is outside of me and them and respond accordingly.

That is what I learned from my papa.

That is not, however, what I in fact do.


To not take things personally is hard. 

To not react in the moment is hard. 

To breathe and breathe again before speaking is not natural.

Is not natural, I suppose I must say, for me.


After I have reacted

After I have said what I wish I hadn’t

After I have acted rashly

I then recall what I learned from my papa.

And I say, next time, next time, I’ll do better. 

And I’ll remember Papa.

What I Learned from Carolyn Dobbs

After 65 years, not much sticks. One has difficulty remembering names and faces.

Putting the two together? Forget it.

So, when someone said something to you once that you not only retain, but find yourself constantly using, it counts as a life lesson. It feels like something you’ve learned.

An urban planner by academic discipline, my The Evergreen State College professor, Carolyn Dobbs, said two things to me – 20 years apart mind you and seemingly unrelated – that I find myself going back to again and again as core wisdom and succor:

  1. “You know, Daniel, all people are bundles of insecurities.”  From which I remind myself that I need to treat others with kindness and tact.
  2. “The key to being a successful planner is that by the time a decision needs to be made, you know more about the subject than anyone in the room.”  From which I remind myself that I must do the work. That respect is earned.  And that while there are no certainties, if you make the effort, it increases the chance for the payoff.

One thought on “What I Learned from Papa

  1. I really enjoyed reading  What I Learned from Papa.  It helps (of course) that I knew your Papa and you, not intimately,but well.  However, you should only receive credit for half of this piece because your Dad was responsible for half. Given all that you do deserve kudos for admitting that good advice is easily given but very difficult to implement. Congratulations.  I am 94 and still having “control” issues.  At 65 you are doing well. Ted


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