Once, my father gave me some more of his very good advice. One day we were talking at his house and I don’t remember how the subject came up but I said, “Dad? Am I a good person?”
He could tell how important it was that he answer carefully, so he leaned back in his chair and looked at me with a smile and said, “Yes, Mollie, you are a good person. Of course you are. But don’t worry about that.”
“Don’t worry about it?” I said. That was the first time I’d ever heard anyone say such a thing.
“No,” he said. “That’s not the way to live. You don’t need to be any good to anyone else. You don’t need to do ‘good deeds’ and be a ‘good person.’ Just live the way God meant you to when he made you. See, he made you just like you are with your own DNA that nobody else has, because that’s the way he likes you. Do that, and don’t worry about anything else, and you’ll be fine.”
I nodded my head.
It was just what I needed to hear.
Not long after that—maybe about a year or so later, while I was still in high school—we had a similar conversation.
It was about failure.
It was late and night and we were sitting on my dad’s two big living room chairs by the fire that in his house went all winter long, and I began telling him about all of the things I wanted to accomplish in my life.
“What if I don’t do all the things I want to do?” I asked him. “Do you think I will? Do you think I’ll be a writer?”
His response—and it is very close to exactly word-for-word—I know because I wrote it down not long afterward—was this: “It took me fifty years to figure out that what you accomplish doesn’t really matter . . . and I’ve only known that for fourteen years.
“But it was worth the wait.
“I regret some things in my life—bad things I’ve done to people, those are the things you should regret—but I don’t regret failing. Because eventually, I realized: It doesn’t matter.
“And I have peace inside now, and now that I have realized this, it’s okay that it took fifty years to learn. Because that’s all I needed to do.
“Give it a shot, Mollie. You’ve got a good shot. But if you fail, don’t worry about it.
It doesn’t matter.”
It was some of the best advice I’ve ever heard, including anything I’ve read in books.
That’s just his talent, I guess.