Chasing the Taillights

by Julia Chalifoux, Project Manager

The car is leaving whether you are ready or not.

Our experiences shape us in all kinds of ways. I find that the lessons we learn as we evolve as humans take on multiple meanings. After losing my father-in-law this past fall, I began to reflect on my relationship with my own dad and the lessons I learned from him. As a pouty child and sometimes sour teenager, my dad’s lessons weren’t always easy. Still, they instilled in me my abilities to work hard, navigate challenge and practise resilience — abilities I now value very much.

This past year our personal and professional lives have demanded these abilities like no other. And much like dad’s lessons, navigating these hasn’t been easy. Still, trusting the process and knowing the magic of time and perspective, I feel confident that one day we will all look back on this past year with an attitude of gratitude as this will be the year that we shaped our future like no other.

I want to share some lessons learned from my dad as a demonstration of the importance of perspective:

Growing up, my dad and I attended the same high school, the only high school in our small town located in the British Columbia Kootenays. He was a chemistry teacher, and I, his student. And while being 13 and having your dad teach you the periodic table was mildly mortifying (after all, what do you call your dad who is also your teacher?), it did come with its benefits, such as a free ride to school if you were ready on time. That was the household rule: if you were not in the car by the time he was, the car was leaving and you would be left to your own devices to get to school. Most of the time I made it, but there were still many mornings that I was forced to walk.

That household rule taught me a few important lessons:

  1. The importance of being on time.
  2. I was not the centre of the universe.
  3. Often in life the car is leaving whether you are ready or not.

While the first two lessons are obvious, it is the third that has stuck with me the most, as recently the landscape of how, where and what we do for work has changed dramatically.

In short, work has felt a bit like that car in the driveway, peeling out before I have had time to load my backpack and get out the door. I feel like I am chasing the taillights, hoping that my dad will see me waving frantically running behind the car and that he’ll stop. But inevitably the speed of the car overtakes my legs, the taillights fade and I am left to trudge.

While trudging is not the end of the world, it naturally comes with its own set of consequences (see lesson 1 above).

Looking back, I now recognize that those days my dad left me to my own devices to get to school were not meant to be cruel (although I am sure I cursed him at the time); they were simply fuelled by the fact that he had other priorities and responsibilities to fulfill that (gasp!) were more important than me (see lesson 2 above). His job is what put food on our table, and thus him getting to work on time (and therefore keeping his job) was simply more important than ensuring my comfortable transport.

When you are the one left standing in the cold driveway staring at the fading taillights, it is easy to think that the driver is a jerk. But over the years I have come to realize it is not the driver who is a jerk — it just is what it is. The driver is simply doing what they must do to fulfill their responsibilities and move forward.

Growing up, my car ride to school was a means to an end for me (one that I would need to navigate for five years). My dad, however, was driving the road of a lifetime. He was in constant pursuit of an ever‑fading sunset: post-secondary education for his children and retirement.

I remind myself of this lesson these days when sometimes at work I feel like I am back in the driveway chasing the taillights. I remember that not only am I chasing the taillights, but there is also someone else chasing the sunset — or in our case at Reportex, the sunrise.

Further, I remind myself of the importance of being on time and getting in the car. The car (like life) is moving forward whether you are ready or not. Best buckle in and get ready for the ride and sunrise.