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4 Invaluable Things My Father Taught Me

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Father’s Day is coming up. A lot of people are thinking of unique ways to celebrate their dads, or maybe unique ways to forget about them. My version of appreciation comes in the form of a tribute column full of swear words that I will never let him read. Seriously guys, my dad is a minister, so I’d really appreciate it if you don’t show him this–or really anything I’ve written for this site. He knows what I do for a living, and he’s smart enough to stay away. Let’s not ruin that. Anyway, here are a few things I picked up from my pops that I’ve come to appreciate as of late.

1. Music

I grew up listening to basically two things nonstop: a cappella worship music and classic rock. My mother, a saint, really doesn’t give a shit about any kind of popular music. She just wants to either drive in silence or listen to the same songs she sings on Sunday mornings. You can imagine that a young Knox really enoyed riding to school with his dad. There was a lot of Eagles, Tom Petty, and even some Bee Gees, but my dad’s favorite band is Boston, and that’s really stuck with me. I remember how much it blew my mind when he told me how they made their first album living in completely different cities, and Tom Scholz compiled the songs in his basement. I think that’s why I still love Boston to this day. Those dudes were scrapping around and home-recording decades before that was even considered to be a viable option.

2. Not Being An Idiot About Girls

My dad wasn’t the type to teach me how to hit on women, or what to wear that would impress them. He was above all of that. What he taught me was common sense. You’d be surprised how many things go through your head when thinking about how to convince a girl you’re a viable romantic option that are just pure bullshit. Case in point, Valentine’s Day, when I was in the seventh grade. There was a girl I was friends with who was inarguably the hottest girl in our grade, possibly the whole middle school. She was also notoriously impossible to date. Like, only one guy had ever done it, and he was in high school, which we couldn’t even fathom. So what did I decide to do? I bought a stuffed bear holding a box of chocolates, and I was going to give it to her, and then…well, I really hadn’t thought exactly where it was going to go from there, but I was pretty sure there was a good chance it would end with her being my girlfriend. Why? Because I’m an idiot, that’s why. So we drive up to the school, “Don’t Look Back” blaring through the speakers, and my dad asks who my valentine is for. I proudly tell him my plan. He immediately takes the bear and tosses it into the back of the Suburban. He wasn’t a dick about it and he didn’t make fun of me. He just said, “You’ll thank me for this someday.” And holy shit, was he right. Was there an infinitesimal chance she would’ve found it endearing and we would be married and happy now? Sure. But in all likelihood, I would’ve been ridiculed by my friends for months. Plus, she got fat, so I really dodged a bullet either way.

3. Focusing On What I’m Good At

For something so trivial and obvious, this has really made an impact on me. I spent a long time really wanting to do things that I wasn’t gifted at, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s useful to play the guitar, even if you just don’t have the musical instincts that it takes to be great. What’s stupid is deciding that because you’re a good guitar player, you have a decent voice, and you have great taste in music, then you should focus your entire life on playing music. That’s what I honestly planned to do for a long time, which is hilarious now. Sure, I’d still like to start a band just to fuck around, but I don’t have any illusions about superstardom anymore. What I completely neglected while I thought I was the next Dave Grohl was what I was truly good at: writing and making arguments. Granted, my dad thought I would channel that into being an attorney (which I almost did) but when I told him I wanted to write movies, it made sense to him. After all, a script is essentially nothing more than a long-form argument about why a movie should be made.

4. Making My Own Decisions, But Valuing The Wisdom Of Others

As I mentioned above, my dad is a minister, which could honestly have made for a really repressed and boring upbringing. Luckily, he’s one of the goods ones. He’s the non-judgmental, “I just wanna help people” kind of minister, but still, you can imagine that it was pretty devastating for him when I arrogantly (and unfortunately) announced while I was in college that I was an atheist. My mom took it super hard. But pops? He just told me that he was glad I was thinking critically for myself, and hoped that I would continue to philosophically examine my life. He made only one request of me. Once a month, he set up a time for me to have a meeting with a one of the theology professors at my university. I was worried this might be his subtle way of brainwashing me back into the faith. Instead, Dr. Harris and I pretty much just spent our time talking about books we liked, discussing difficult topics, and showing each other music. It turns out, that was exactly what my dad had intended. It didn’t change my outlook on religion, nor did it slow down my drinking, swearing, and general debauchery-filled college lifestyle. But it definitely made me think more honestly about myself.

So, Dad, if someone reading this broke the agreement we made at the beginning about not showing this to you, sorry for the bad words. I know you don’t really care about that, since “Animal House” is still secretly your favorite movie. Just don’t tell Mom. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t turn out to be a prosecutor in a neighboring city in Texas with a wife who laughs at your jokes and goes to church with me every Sunday. But strangely, I get the sense that you’re actually okay with that. And that’s why you’re awesome.

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Randall J. Knox

Randall J. Knox (known colloquially to his friends as "Knox") left his native Texas a few years ago, and moved to Los Angeles in his '03 Buick Regal named LeRoi to write movies with his jackass college buddies. His favorite things in life include bourbon that's above his pay grade, mix CDs, and Kevin Costner films. He isn't sure what "dad jeans" are exactly, but he knows he wants a pair.

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