Submitted by Kara Nicole Permenter
One thing I have learned in my short time on this earth is family life can be extremely complex. The nuances and dynamics of these relationships are a part of everything that I perceive, every opinion that I generate, and every preference that I may express. The landscape features of my life have been shaped and fashioned by the elemental forces of these relationships.
One of the most complex features that I have explored so far is the unique relationship that I share with my father. For the longest time, I felt as though I had trouble finding a way to connect with him. Do not get me wrong, I see what everyone else sees when they look at him: his quick wit and sharp mind, his giving nature and sense of fairness, his focus and drive — all the qualities that anyone who knows my father would quickly recite. But still, there are certain chasms between the psychological life of a teenage girl and a father that no amount of respect or admiration can bridge. At least this is how I used to feel.
As my focus has begun to shift away from high school and more in the direction of the college and a career, I have been leaning on my father more and more for guidance. As we have sat and talked about life, I have realized what made my father different than most. The more time we spend together, the more I come to realize how our core similarities provided a certain advantage in the way in which we process the world and approach problems. We are both highly organized and enjoy figuring out the best and most efficient way to go about planning and preparing for whatever project is at hand. We are both pragmatic and like to go into things with a sense of control – even in the face of chaos. And on some deep level, we both enjoy the chaos only because it gives us another chance to put things into proper order. I realized the traits I valued the most were the same ones that animated my father. In truth, I was a bit ashamed that I never really noticed these similarities before.
The more time we would spend together, the more I came to realize how these core similarities provided a certain advantage in the way in which we process the world and approach solving problems. In my case, one of the biggest problems I had was trying to figure out exactly what degree I should start working toward. I was not sure how my strengths and weaknesses would measure up in the real world outside of academics.
It was then I finally started to ask my dad more specific questions about his job and the responsibilities of his position. In truth, I never really took any interest in these things. All I knew was that he worked for a large chemical company and that he was involved in the business end of the petrochemical industry. But once I started asking him about his job, something quite unexpected happened. Suddenly everything snapped into place. Even the word he used – logistics – seemed to immediately resonate with me as if it was something comfortable and familiar. The more he told me about his job and his responsibilities, the more I realized what I wanted to do with my life.
As we sat at dinner one night, he explained what was involved with getting the glass I was drinking out of from the manufacturer to the restaurant. I did not realize how many things had to happen to get a finished product to the consumer (me) and all of the different components of the supply chain that work together. This was fascinating! He started talking NAFTA, rail freight, drayage, LTL, intermodal, and import/export. Some of these words were foreign to me, but I wanted to hear more. His biggest concern was truck freight in the US and how the supply vs demand had shifted. I asked him, “How do we solve it?” My Dad did not have an immediate answer, but he smiled and said he liked I had used the word “we”. He told me there is not only one answer that would solve “it”, but the freight transportation industry needed creative minds like me to tackle these problems. How he described the transportation industry and all of the challenge we are facing in the future made me realize I wanted to be part of the solution.
I was both shocked and relieved by this realization. I could never have imagined that learning about my father’s job and a talk over dinner would lead to such clarity and sense of purpose. In the past when I would talk about college or the future, it always felt distant and obscured by anxiety. But now, because of this experience, I can see the road ahead and can anticipate the twists and turns along the way. I feel as though my father and I discovered a common language that had never existed before and now somehow I feel as if our relationship has taken on a whole new level of meaning.
I have never been more excited about the future than I am right now. Just a few months ago, thinking of life beyond my senior year would fill me with a sense of uncertainty. I now laugh about the anxious feelings I had during all the evenings with my father talking about life and struggling over SAT material and course catalogs. In reality, those times were some of the most important in my young life. In learning more about my father I ended up learning more about myself. I just want to move forward and make him proud. I am happy to say I am a student at the University of Houston majoring in Supply Chain and Logistics Technology. Earning this degree is an exciting first step into a new world and a way for me to solve the “it” problem in freight transportation. And thanks to my dad, I am ready to begin.
Submitted by Kara Nicole Permenter
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