The Journey of Fatherhood: Rediscovery of oneself and the meaning of life

“Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.” –Charles Kettering

My name is Tony and I have been with Southwest Behavioral and Health for almost five years. Last January, my first child was born and I officially embarked on my journey of fatherhood. It has been a phenomenal roller coaster ride so far, watching him growing up every day, and at the same time rediscovering through him, the playful heart I once lost.

Tony Dong. (Submitted Photo)

Growing up, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder and wanted to prove to the world that I was going to become somebody. Being an achiever, I would set the bar unbelievably high and then push myself to reach it. Under the guiding philosophy of “I manifest my own destiny,” I am constantly moving from one goal to the next tirelessly, and my ambition has led me half way around the globe, from China to the U.S.

Yet in this never-ending pursuit of goals, I find myself spending more and more time anxiously anticipating the future rather than fully enjoy living in the present moment. Tony Robbins once said: “success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure,” and I seem to know little about the art of fulfillment after obsessing over the science of achievement for so long.

Having a child has genuinely turned my world upside down, forcing me to reevaluate my aspirations and rearrange my priorities in life. Here is this little being who cannot even say a word properly or go wee-wee himself, yet he has become the most joyful and worry-free person I’ve ever known.

Watching him laughing over and over again over a simple noise I made and observing him truly enjoying the most ordinary food like a strawberry have made this the most rewarding experience of my everyday life now.

Originally, I thought I was the teacher being the father, yet I quickly realized that as I am teaching him practical living skills, he is teaching me invaluable lessons of living wisdoms: to laugh and play more; to be patient and empathetic towards others; to slow down and be present for every moment with loved ones; to have the curiosity to explore this beautiful world; and to enjoy the little things and be grateful for everything in life.

I believe that the most important thing a father can do is to be there as the mentor, the best friend, the biggest supporter, and the catalyst to the child’s self-actualization process.

Therefore, I intend to instill certain characteristics and traits in my children, such as kindness, gratitude, humility, integrity, equanimity, prospective, and self-discipline, in order to help them lead a meaningful and balanced life.

In the past if you asked me how I would know if I had succeeded as a father, I would give you a checklist of things like: my children go to Harvard or Stanford; they have good, secure jobs; or they are wealthy and famous people, etc.

As I evolve as a human being, now my answer is much simpler: if my children grow up to be happy, kind and lead a fulfilling life, and whenever asked who their role model was growing up they would promptly and proudly mention their dad, then I would know for certain that I’ve done a pretty decent job raising them.

I’ve come to understand that each one of us is walking our own path alone in life, Occasionally, there will be people who come in and walk with us for a while, but ultimately, they will leave us only a trail of memories. On this Father’s Day, I send love and light to a very special person in my heart, a father figure who has dramatically changed the course of my life. Jeff Jorde of Southwest Behavioral & Health Services. Happy Father’s Day, Jeff, I miss you and thank you for everything.

Editor’s Note: Tony Dong is a Property Management Specialist for Southwest Behavioral and Health Services.

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