Question 132 of 365: Who's shadow are we in?

Heart Monitor
Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

I traveled with my father when I was young. To Australia, to Japan, to Spain. He went there to talk to people about his passion: electrophysiology (the study of heart rhythms). They asked him to come. Paid for him, even. And he brought me along because he thought it would be a good experience. It was.

I didn’t learn as much about the cultures as I could have, but I did learn a lot about what it means to be thought of as valuable. I learned what it meant to be someone in the room that requires a handshake. I learned what it meant to be someone in the room who’s child you had to at least fein an interest in.

I am glad that I am not in medicine. While my father’s reputation would have opened a great many doors, it would have been nearly impossible to get out from behind his shadow. I would have had to either fail spectacularly or have run in a drastically different direction to make a similar impact. And that is heartening and discouraging at the same time.

I believe that my father loves what he does and that he creates new things on a daily basis because of it. He collaborates and pushes his insitutions to be better in every conversation he has. And each one of these contributions creates a larger shadow.

And I am sitting directly in the middle of it now. The Heart Rhythm Society‘s annual conference is in Denver this year and I just went and received my credentials to attend. At first, they aked me if I had already paid the conference fee. Then someone behind the booth figured something out, and redid my whole entry so that I could have a Master Pass rather than a “Comped ticket”.

I’m quite certain that this didn’t have anything to do with me. It had to do with the fact that my father is on the front page of the Heart Rhythm Society newpaper. While I am presenting on Friday regarding social networks and collaboration, I didn’t have to submit through the rigorous process usually saved for unknown upstarts. I just sat in my father’s shadow and it worked.

The majority of what I do, does not require me to sit there, but for this week, that is where I am. I shake hands as my father’s son, and struggle to come up with something interesting enough to warrant being remembered as something else. I get double takes when people look at my badge. And then, perhaps just a bit, I get a knowing glance. An understanding of why and how I am here is being shared.

And for as much as my father has the best intentions for injecting me into this world, it still isn’t my world. As much as he thinks that I have something to offer and to teach the people that inhabit this world, it is only because of his shadow that I can sneak in and make my own impact. And, for the most part, I am okay to do this for a week.

I am fine to sit here and make a small contribution. It is great to talk with interesting people and try and find out a little bit more about my father. It is wonderful to see him interact on my behalf and see what it is that I can help create with him. It is great to collaborate with my father, seeing as how I talk about finding mentoring relationships in any place we can.

I just couldn’t do it forever. At some point, my fathers shadow would prove too dark. I would crave the sunlight. I would wish to venture out and find truth on my own.

And that is why I hope I don’t make a shadow too big for my own son. While I don’t believe I will be taking him around the world as my father did for me, I do think that there are certain circles that I am passionate enough about to simply monopolize the discussion and the creation within. It is my sincerest hope that I don’t cause my son to run away from what I am ambitious about for fear of not measuring up.

I’m not sure that is exactly why I didn’t become a doctor, but I think that is part of it. If my son feels as though there isn’t enough space to find relationships on his own, he will leave. And I don’t want him to leave. I don’t want it to take us 20 years to come back to the place of mutual benefit, to have our exploits dovetail perfectly.

But, that may be the way that all father-son relationships are. We want what is best for our sons, but we are striving for ourselves all the while. When one gets in the way of the other, which one wins?

The shade that my father is providing this week is cool and comfortable and wonderfully temporary. I hope that my son feels the same way about mine.

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0 Comments

  1. jacquelinecahill

    I love this part:
    “I am fine to sit here and make a small contribution. It is great to talk with interesting people and try and find out a little bit more about my father. It is wonderful to see him interact on my behalf and see what it is that I can help create with him. It is great to collaborate with my father, seeing as how I talk about finding mentoring relationships in any place we can.

    I just couldn’t do it forever. At some point, my fathers shadow would prove too dark. I would crave the sunlight. I would wish to venture out and find truth on my own. “

    I agree…following in a shadow wouldn't be fun…how would you ever know if YOU personally succeeded from your ideas, intelligence, work ethic and not your last name? However, I do think a balance would be perfect…more experiences and some doors open…it is your child's choice if he/she wants to go through those doors. I think it is a really cool experience you and your father are having…he must really respect who you are, what you have created, and your knowledge in this area to invite you into his professional realm to do “your thing”…that is priceless.

  2. You really do know how to make sense of it all. I just keep spilling
    out my half ideas and you keep coming back with a great frame for what
    I am thinking. I feel like your perspective is really helping me to
    figure things out… whatever that means.

    Anyway, I am so glad that I have my father's respect. I'm not sure
    that I always did, but now that I have it, I don't think that I would
    want to let it go. If it means being his shadow and taking a few cues
    from his extensive experience, I am okay with that.

    My next question is… what if you don't have a shadow to provide the
    shade and cover from the many attacks that come along? Is it possible
    to create your own shadow from scratch?

  3. jacquelinecahill

    I'm glad to hear that I'm helpful to you! I think it is incredibly important in life to have friends who can act as a sounding board with feedback. Your last question…my take…is that there is no harm in not having a shadow to walk in. I never did. Walk into the sun with some sunscreen and hat on, and make sure you have some band-aids, journal, and close friends on hand. You can definitely create your own shadow from scratch…I always have the utmost respect for self-made people who are amazing. Attacks will come, falling will occur, failure will happen…in my eyes without risk you can't accomplish the extent of your goals…I've always felt I'd rather fall numerous times in life…sometimes repeatedly and be bruised than lie on my deathbed and wonder “what if”. Who knows how it will all turn out, but at least I'll know I've tried and I won't have regrets…just my opinion though…it is a very challenging path to take, I admit. At times, I've toyed with easier, less painful ones, more guaranteed ones, safer ones, but then I feel as though I'm suffocating and it is self-induced, so I forge ahead paving my own path and aiming for the stars.

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