A few weeks ago, my father took me out to dinner to celebrate a recent achievement that was the biggest stride of my professional life thus far. My mother was out of town, so it was just me, my kvelling dad and some very good wine. We sat at the bar of the tiny Italian bistro where we would be dining, sipping and talking, waiting for a table to open up, when he walked in.
I did not think that I would ever see him again. It had been at least ten years since the last painful, ego-crushing time and I had naively figured there would be no future interactions to worry about. I also believed (again, naively) that I had matured to the point that old high school teachers who were as frank about their lack of belief in me as this guy was could no longer affect me. Obviously, I was wrong.
I said hello out of the good-girl obligation that has been driving me to say hello to people I don't actually want to talk to since birth. He was there with his wife and a couple who is friends with my parents and had already heard the big news. They excitedly hugged me, told him about it and asked him if he had ever imagined that little Gabi Moskowitz would one day be doing such big things.
"No," he said without smiling. "I never did."
I felt my eyes fill with water and my heart begin to pound. Suddenly it was as if no time had passed. I was a destroyed seventeen-year-old again, reading and re-reading the letter of recommendation I had foolishly requested he write to accompany my college applications, in which he detailed all of the ways in which I did not have what it takes to succeed.
I should have relished this moment of comeuppance--looked him in the eye and said something witty and harsh about the fact that I am less than half his age and already more successful than he will ever be, but I don't think I have to tell you that I did not do that. Mercifully, as I grasped for words, my father handed me my purse and wine glass and told me our table was ready.
"Well, good to see you," I lied, before sitting down for dinner.
My bewildered father stared at his crestfallen daughter, attempting to understand what had just happened. "What's going on with you? We're celebrating!"
I whispered the details of what my old teacher had said, of the teenage pain that I had believed to be long gone and how it gushed to the surface the moment he walked in, only to be multiplied tenfold by his still-cold demeanor.
My dad sighed. "Oh sweetheart. When you're kicked by an ass, consider the source."
It may be the best advice he's ever given me.