What My Father Taught Me

Nil İrigül

When you’re just an infant there has always been one question all your family friends and elders have asked. Are you your father’s or mother’s little girl? I’ve always been my father’s daughter. He’s the one who taught me everything. Thanks to him, I’ve become who I am today. He has always been my role model when it comes to life choices, I have always aspired to be just like him. His views on religion, humanity, politics, economy and freedom continually amaze me. He always puts his mind and logic before his heart and feelings. However, there has always been an exception. Me. He treats me as if I am the only person who matters in the whole wide world, which for my mother wasn’t the right way of parenting. She always said that I lived my life in a bubble and that reality wasn’t close to what I thought it was. Well, she was right, but I’m glad my father decided to raise me this way. Even though I spent my whole childhood in a bubble, it was the best childhood a girl like me could ever dream of.

As I grew up, my father started having more mature and complex conversations with me. He is very keen on science, and I used to believe he knew everything. No matter what I asked, he always had an answer: for example, with regard to learning English. I remember never wanting to study any kind of language when I was in primary school, but my father helped change my view of learning a new language. Thanks to him, I got keen on language learning and decided to study at a French high school. He had an interesting view of teaching me. Whenever I needed to study, we would go on long drives without a destination and listen to songs in English. He would stop the song from time to time and ask me what the song was about and what the lyrics meant. As I grew up, this technique went from teaching me a language to helping me learn life lessons. He would make me listen to songs with deep meanings, and we would talk about what the songwriter meant to say.

There is one song that stuck with me. It’s “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley. We were returning to our hometown from our summer house, and this song came up on the radio. My father suggested that I listen to this song and try to understand the meaning behind it. When we first listened to it, it meant nothing to me. I was very much astonished when I listened to it a second time and later heard my father’s thoughts on the song. At that time I didn’t yet know about the government in Turkey, but we were facing some challenges. Our rights were being taken away. Especially the ones of little girls just like me. Women homicides were growing more common by the day, and at first my father tried to gatekeep this information from me. He enlisted me in private schools, volleyball, and piano lessons and did his best to help me get the best education possible while also helping me evolve culturally. I didn’t think much of it at that time, but now I understand that knowledge is power, and the more I know, the freer I get, just as in the song. So he was rescuing me by having me pursue my studies.

The song by Bob Marley had a few lines that kept bugging me. “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery / None but ourselves can free our minds” For me this line was a plot point. After researching the song I found out that these lines were derived from a speech that Marcus Garvey gave about Black Nationalism. Later when I listened to this speech, I heard him say, “The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the man who uses his mind.” This is a mindset I live by. I try to stay as awake as possible and have as unique ideas as possible because I don’t want to be ruled. I want to keep my rights and I’m fighting for them, not by physical power but by learning and developing and working on myself. Because in my opinion freedom starts in the brain.

Even though the song as a whole had an impact on me, there is one last line that I would like to recall. “Have no fear for atomic energy / cause none of them can stop the time” These lines seemed to be very important for my father, because he talked about them a lot. He talked about how the life I’ve been given is very precious and that I need to use my time efficiently. If there was something stressing me, he told me to remember this line. Stress won’t stop time and time is the most important thing I can have. He told me that I should always do things that interest me and give me joy. Because the odds of me being born were even slim. He talked about the butterfly effect and how, for example, the smallest thing my great-grandfather’s great-grandmother did could be the very reason I exist, so I need to be grateful. He also says to not fear death because in his worldview, if you have had an impact on the world then you never really die. He says that the time you live isn’t calculated with the time you spend on Earth but with the time you spend making differences, and this could continue even when you die.

My whole childhood, my father has been a doctor, a philosopher, a scientist, a teacher, a coach, a cook, a songwriter, an author just for me. But most important of all, he has been a good father.