Updated: Feb 20, 2021
When you're a girl growing up, I'm pretty sure there are certain decisions that have already been made for you. It's a given that there are expectations that are automatically in place for both girls and boys, before they're even born. Parents want good things for their kids, or at least we hope they do. I feel like some of the expectations are necessities, just for being able to survive. There are things little kids should be taught. But I also feel like some of the expectations so many times can inhibit growth in people. For example, Rita was told when she was growing up that the camping or hunting trips her grandpa and uncle went on were 'just for boys'. I, on the other hand was included in every single trip with my dad. My dad Tadashi Aoki was one of eleven kids (he's the one in the middle, back row) and was a crop farmer. His parents immigrated from Japan. Super interesting story behind that, but maybe later. Everyone worked, or at least they were supposed to work. Money was hard to come by, really hard, and he was one that grew up in the Great Depression. So when he had kids, they were expected to work. My mom had to work, the second they were married. She inherited several of my dad's younger siblings to care for, as his parents passed away at a young age. I heard story after story about how hard she worked on that farm. At the time, when I was a kid, work was something that I had to do. There were no options. During those years, seeing through my limited viewpoint of unpleasantness, I was being taught how to do things. It reminds me of The Karate Kid. Daniel was becoming resentful as he saw himself as Mr. Miyagi's slave as he was given huge and rather daunting tasks to complete. But the end result was, he was learning something essentially useful for his situation, even though he didn't know it. So was I. I got to learn things like how to bend nails back to a straight position so as to be used again. How to swing a hammer properly. There's technique to everything. If the hammer was too heavy, choke up on the handle towards the head, firm grip, the proper stance, and most importantly, keep your focus glued to the head of the nail and never take your eyes off of it. When carrying something long with someone else, always watch the other person. Because you know what you're going to do, but you don't know what the other person is going to do. If they accidentally drop the piece, you've been watching them and know to jump out of the way before it hits you, or avoid swinging into something because of their sudden movements. How to carry a rifle properly, always, always pointing away from yourself and others. I was taught by one of my dad's buddies, Cam, how to build a fire and how to properly contain it. He took so much time teaching me. He was so cool! The kindling had to be the right size, it had to be dry. I was given one match at the beginning of a hunting or fishing trip, and I was in charge of the fire. I had one chance to get the fire started by doing everything right, and one chance only. It was a fun game. Could I keep the fire going the entire trip? No more matches if I messed up. I still love the 'one match' challenge to this day. What to do if I got lost in the wilderness. How to be prepared if that ever happened, and it did. A couple of dozen men on foot and on horseback, looking for me and 10-year old Casey in a blizzard. How to fish. How to gut a fish. How to golf. Using proper etiquette when playing golf. The list goes on and on.. So what's the point? I was given an opportunity to learn. I had gentle, decent men in my life who were interested in teaching me something that they knew would help me. Useful things. Things that would give me confidence. Things that so many haven't had a chance to learn. What a gift! It takes time to take a young kid and teach them something practical and useful. Something besides taking out the garbage, or doing the dishes even though every kid should do those things. It takes know-how and patience to get that knowledge to sink in and click in any child. I was given an opportunity that a lot of kids might not ever get. Just the experience of a grown-up taking time with me, one on one, is something I will count as some of my deepest and most meaningful treasures. Irreplaceable treasures. Not some big ticket item that was given to me, but time given to me in the form of a priceless lesson. Time spent because it was evidence that this grown-up cared about you, enough to teach you something important. But you don't have to be a kid to grab an opportunity to learn. An opportunity that could turn into a tangent of other opportunities. There's always time to learn.