How Forgiving My Dad Allowed Me to Own My Creativity

Whew. I have to take a deep breath on this one because this is heavy. But here it goes anyway. Have you ever felt like you were becoming the thing or person you’re trying to avoid or not be? This may be a hard concept to understand, but let me explain. I had this realization about myself when it comes to my dad. If I acknowledge who I am based on both of my parents, hands down I can’t deny that I get every ounce of my creativity from my dad. It’s something you’d rarely hear me say because my dad was never someone that I talked about much. I didn’t grow up with him in my life. Much of the praise for me being the person I am has gone to my mom. Since she raised me and my older sister on her own, for as long as I can remember, I have given her all the credit.

Side by side picture of my dad and me when babies.

Like I said, most people don’t know much about my dad because I never talk about him. But my dad was a self-taught chef and made some of the most amazing tasting and looking meals I have ever had in my entire life. He was a self-taught photographer and took and developed some of the most beautiful pictures of my mom I have ever seen. He was great with portrait photography and had an amazing eye. He was also great with his hands and could do just about any home improvement project you could think of. My dad really was a jack of all trades and it’s only now that I am realizing he is a much bigger part of who I am than I ever gave him credit for.

My dad in backyard serving dinner

Anyone who knows me knows that in conversation a mention of my sister or my mom is never too far behind. That’s because my parents got a divorce when I was six and my mom raised my sister and me. We were and have always been the three stooges. It’s always been the three us, thick as thieves and we’re all we’ve ever had.

My mom is the reason for my strength, my determination, my will power, my sense of responsibility and self-discipline, my ability to stand on my own two feet, to stay firm in what I believe in and my never take anyone’s shit attitude. She is also responsible for instilling in me the compassion I have for wanting to helping others. My mom is just a bad mamma jamma in every sense of the word and I am forever grateful God picked her to be my mother.

My dad standing on bridge with his camera

The fact that I am a lawyer can also be attributed to my mom. Not that I was forced or anything like that, but her idea of success was always along the lines of a doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. Pretty typical of growing up with a hard-working Haitian mother. Your education and working hard in one of the esteemed professions was generally the way to success. I have been fortunate to have had much success in my professional career under societal standards earning the fancy titles, nice salary, experiencing home ownership and driving luxury cars in my 20’s.

My dad holding his camera

But as I’ve gotten older, I have gotten a lot more clarity around my life vision. I’ve learned a lot about entrepreneurship and technology over the years and realize they are actually a gateway for me to tap into my creative side that’s been suppressed and trying to emerge. For the past 7 years, I have yearned  to go off and make or do something new and exciting; to let my mind wander and think about how I can put together some existing things in a new, unusual or just different way. If you’ve ever been on the fence about your own career path, I’m sure you can imagine the internal tug of war I’ve been in walking through the world as a lawyer and a creative: enforcing the status quo one day vs. wanting to bust it wide open the next.

Until recently, I have never truly embraced the possibility of using my creativity professionally out of fear I would be judged for having a change of heart in my career so late in my 30’s when you’re already expected to have your life all figured out. And on top of that, self-doubt has kept me from believing that I could actually leverage my creativity to do good in the world and have the unconventional life that I often daydream about. At the end of the day, I just want to be happy and feel that the work I do day in and day out is in line with my purpose and God-given talents, strengths, and what I naturally enjoy doing.

My dad with Mayor Bloomberg in his chef outfit

Over time and with lots of therapy and practice, I’ve been able to work up the courage to stop caring about what people think and get my confidence back. But I also learned my strong hesitation to pursue my creative passions went a lot deeper than just caring about others opinions of me. Through my work of becoming more self-aware and going to therapy, I learned that there was also a part of me that was unwilling to forgive my dad for not being in my life and that’s been a big part of why I have struggled so much with embracing my creative side fully. It was such a profound connection I would have never been able to make between my feelings about my dad and my struggle with giving myself permission to change careers had I not committed to my healing journey and gotten the help of a therapist. I learned that for me, accepting my decision to pursue my creativity professionally meant that I had to come to terms with forgiving and accepting the person who wasn’t there for me, but was 50% responsible for who I am and creative direction I want to take in my life. And the unfortunate side of having my epiphany, was that it came at a time that my dad would never know how much like him that I really am because my dad passed away April 9, 2016.

Me and my dad smiling

He was a stranger to me my entire life and we never had the type of father-daughter relationship I would want my kids to have if I ever become a mom. But it’s only now that I can truly appreciate the gifts he gave me. He gave me the gift of creativity – to see things from a unique point of view, to appreciate and see the beauty in things, and to put my heart and soul into what I am passionate about and love. While not directly related to his craft, he’s the reason I love all the creative things I do like interior design, fashion, technology and media. He is the reason for my notoriously creative eye and my ability to visualize, organize and present things in the most beautiful way – just like he masterfully did with his photos, food and anything he touched. He is the reason I see things differently. Simply put, he is a big part of why I am me. There would be no me if there wasn’t him and I can finally say what I have never been able to say to him my whole life which is just a simple Thank You, Dad.

There’s beauty in all of our ashes and I encourage anyone who finds themselves struggling in life to seek out help and get the support you need. Take time to really acknowledge your feelings, even when you don’t fully understand them. It’s only through this acknowledgement that you can go deeper and start to unpack and understand what could be holding you back. Letting go, fully accepting things for what is and healing are the only ways to keep moving forward in a healthy way to become who you were created to be.

What if the pieces of yourself that you resent or are holding onto are the parts that God wants to use?

Sarah Jakes Roberts

I am Sandra, the gal behind Thanks for coming along with me on my journey. I'm trusting and enjoying the process and excited to be living my life out loud unapologetically. I currently reside in Brooklyn, NY.

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