“You’re always a day late and a dollar short” is one of my favorite sayings from my younger years in Louisiana. It is not my favorite because of what it what it means but rather how it makes me laugh out loud, sometimes to the point of tears. Just reading the statement I find myself reliving moments of how family members performed it—the attitude in their voices, the look in their eyes, the posturing of their bodies, and how it was a way of reading (calling out) someone covered up with a joke, sort of.
I wrote the first iteration of this essay in June 2020 as an additional Father’s Day gift to my dad, a few days late (go figure!). Well . . . the idea did not fully form until the early morning of Father’s Day. Oops! And, although it’s not the case at this moment, I do know a thing or two or three about being a dollar short. After all, I am an artist who on multiple occasions has had to transform big dreams into projects with significantly less than a Beyoncé budget.
When I think of the phrase “You’re always a day late and a dollar short,” I also think about resilience—the ability to recover from or adjust easily to, despite hard luck or change. One of my earliest lessons about resilience came through observing my father. Early in my childhood he suffered an on-the-job accident where he was pinned for 30 minutes under a heavy pipe. He was bedridden in a hospital for several months. That was followed by a physical rehabilitation process that spanned more than a year and included learning how to walk again. His sheer will to recover, to be independent, to be strong, to walk again uncovered lessons about patience, focus, determination, practice, grace, flexibility, and being fearless—all characteristics that I believe are markers of resilience, and hence of living.
His experience taught me that resilience is a cyclical process of learning, unlearning, relearning, and how in the relearning, new insights can be gained about the self, others, and the world around us. In this sense, resilience translates to student for life, a value that is deep-seated in my core. I am reminded of a quote by American poet, writer, and professor Sonia Sanchez: “I cannot tell the truth about anything unless I confess being a student, growing and learning something new every day. The more I learn, the clearer my view of the world becomes.”