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The Best Advice I Ever Received from my Dad was to Leave Home

Dad delivering one of his lectures

Published in ChicagoNow, March 20, 2015

Growing up in a suburb of Detroit in the late 50’s and early 60’s, there were only a few college options known to me. I applied to two of them, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, a good commuter school. Being an obedient daughter and a product of my times, I was pretty sure I would choose the latter. But thanks to my late father’s advice (probably the only advice he ever gave me), I packed my bags and was off to Ann Arbor that September.

My father was more of a lecturer than an advisor. So why was he so determined that I go to Michigan? I’m guessing it was a combination of his provincial pride in what he considered the best college in our state and his love for their football teams. He didn’t consider the fact that I had never left home, not even to go to camp. He thought my homesickness that first year was silly. But for all of the wrong reasons, he gave me the best advice I ever received.

While I didn’t even know there were schools outside of my home state that might have been great opportunities (Did I tell you my upbringing was provincial?), going to a school that was affordable (back then) and far enough from home to require I live on campus did the trick. My eyes were opened. My politics were changed. Jeans and mini-skirts replaced my conservative clothing. By the time I graduated, I was ready to forge my own path and actually leave my home town and the state of Michigan.

Of course, that was a different era. It was so much easier to pay for a college education and then be launched into the world by actually getting a job at age 21. I’m not sure my father envisioned my move out of state, but I know my mother still doesn’t forgive my husband for luring me to the wicked city of Chicago almost 50 years ago.

Even assuming my father didn’t see the long-term effects of his advice or even give it for the right reasons, he handed me the chance to find out who I was independent of my family of origin. Leaving home was tough for me initially. Yes, I actually cried every time Ann Arbor came into sight following too many weekend trips home that first year. But at the end of four years, I had gained enough confidence and independence to become my own person.

Over the years, I have received advice from many sources about almost every aspect of my life. I always listen and consider how much I respect the advisor. But because my father inadvertently gave me the best advice I ever received, I am able to make my own decisions after considering what others suggest.

So, thanks to my father for pushing me out of the nest and into the world. Good talk, Dad. And, Go Blue!


by Laurie Levy
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