(adapted from my letter to him in his autobiography “Barefoot to Boardroom”)
Popz. That’s what I’ve affectionately called him for as long as I can remember.
When I turned 12 years-old, my father and I moved to the Bahamas. It was during those formative years where he taught me, mostly indirectly, invaluable life lessons that have shaped the person I am today.
Here are 3:
1. Venturing Into the Unknown is It’s Own Education
We’re an educated family of six, with each member holding an advanced degree, except for one - the youngest son, me.
Growing up in a household where academics were highly valued, I often felt a sense of urgency to follow the traditional path and pursue a prestigious career. However, my father, despite his own accomplishment including obtaining a doctorate in philosophy from his humble beginnings, never made me feel guilty for choosing a nontraditional academic path.
Instead of criticizing or pressuring me to conform to societal expectations, my father embraced my individuality.
He recognized that education comes in various forms and believed that exploring and experiencing different cultures would provide its own valuable lessons. His unwavering support allowed me to embark on incredible journeys and broaden my horizons beyond the confines of academia.
Through my lived experience and his support, I learned that education isn't limited to textbooks and classrooms; it can be found in every corner of the world.
Today, I am grateful for his guidance as it has shaped not only my educational journey but also my perspective on life itself.
2. Stay true to Yourself No Matter What Others Say or Think
As a young person, my father faced numerous challenges while trying to establish himself abroad. However, he persevered because he believed that a better life awaited him if he pursued his dreams and focused on his education.
While in America, he faced new forms of criticism and disapproval. As an outsider in a foreign land, he encountered prejudice and stereotypes that sought to diminish his worth. Despite these challenges, he persevered with determination and resilience.
And even when returning home, there were those who didn’t welcome him. Some viewed him as someone who had changed too much or had become too influenced by foreign ideas. They doubted whether he could truly belong again after experiencing life abroad.
Through it all, he remained steadfast in his identity and never let others define him.
He embraced both the lessons learned from living abroad and the values instilled in him from his hometown. His experiences shaped him into a unique individual with a global perspective while still cherishing his roots.
3. Always remember the importance of family and staying connected to your roots
He made sure we were exposed to our Bahamian heritage by spending time with our grandfather, aunts, and uncles. We engaged in activities like bone fishing or casting your line from the dock. He believed that connecting with our roots was important and wanted us to appreciate the beauty of our culture.
Not only did he teach us about our heritage, but he also instilled in us the value of family. He always reminded us that family is everything and should be cherished. Whether it was through family gatherings, Sabbath dinners, or simply spending quality time together, he emphasized the importance of maintaining strong bonds with our loved ones.
His dedication to preserving our Bahamian heritage and emphasizing the significance of family has left a lasting impact on us. I’ll forever be grateful for his teachings
These three lessons have become an integral part of who I am today.
They have guided me through life's ups and downs, reminding me of the value of exploration, authenticity, and family bonds.
In his own words
From my father’s book:
Reading this account might give the impression that raising my four sons was a piece of cake; it was not.
I didn’t, however, have to deal with some of the issues my friends had with their children. My sons weren’t saints. They were normal, energetic, mischievous, and fun-loving children.
I believe they were fortunate to have a father who truly loved and cared about them, a father determined not to let them get lost.
~ Dr. Leon L. Higgs, Barefoot to Boardroom