Through most of my formative years, my dad has always called me his “tough cookie.” One recent night as I made the requisite call across an ocean and continents to his house in Islamabad, he said “you’re my tough cookie because you never give up” before hanging up.
I guess I needed to hear that because growing up, I never understood what a tough cookie meant – was I a hard chocolate chip cookie that didn’t drown properly in milk? No, I wanted to be soft and chewy like Chips Ahoy.
In the end, my dad gave me an example of how tough I could be. In 110 degree Saudi weather I would never gave up trying to scout for fish and turtles in his office’s pond. I would run around and around that pond, pigtails flying, a loaf of bread swinging in one hand, trying to sneak a peek at those illusive fish and turtles I so badly wanted to feed. I never stopped for a drink of water once.
“You’re my tough cookie because you never give up,” he said to me that day, laughing as I finally went indoors and was standing on my tippy-toes gulping down water at the fountain.
Back then, in addition to not drinking enough water, I was atrocious at cross multiplication and controlling my temper. Small potatoes, I know. I just didn’t know what this meant: 2/3 divided by 4/5, and how the “2” and “5” had to be multiplied across the way. I’d get stuck. (I was seven or eight years old after all).
In regards to my temper, everyone always said I had my father’s temper. So at a young age, I tried to control and hone it in. Wasn’t getting my way? Stay quiet until I cool down.
I never gave up trying to cross multiply and I tried and tried at controlling my temper- and managed to succeed. I finally realized being called a “tough cookie” meant I would always try to push on, working harder and becoming a better version of myself.
And I found those fish to feed, too.