10 Life Advice According to My Dad

My dad, Luc, creates quite a bit of curiosity in my entourage. Those who don’t know him want to meet him and those who’ve met him certainly never forget him.

My dad is the one who told me about Goldfrapp, Ladytron and Peaches when I was a teenager. It’s also him who’s been participating in Puces Pop, Mile End’s “hipsteriest” fair, for the last two years to sell his pin game, Lükky. It’s him who re-writes children’s book to create ridiculous and semi politically correct versions. It’s him who completely changed his career at 47. It’s him who’s been married to my mom (who he still calls “his girlfriend”) for almost 40 years. It’s him who survived a 100% female family (my mom, my two sisters and me).

It’s him who’s learned a couple of things about life and who will tell you about them.

P.S.: Happy Father’s Day to all the cool dads out there!

Love

When I love, I really love. I “spotted” my girlfriend 49 years ago. I was in my fifth year of high school and, for the first time in my life, I was attending a mixed school. Beforehand, I was at a private classical school, run by Jesuits, in Montreal. It was a year of sensory discoveries: girls, long hair like The Beatles, drugs and a lot more.

Unluckily for me, in 1969, my future girlfriend had a boyfriend. I became their friend and one thing led to another (from secretive holding hand action to passionate love letters), I officially became her boyfriend in 1977. I had to wait 8 years. But the wait was definitely worth it. I’m a faithful and devoted person. The motto we’ve been applying to our relationship ever since: never take the other for granted.

Family

Family is like a gang united by blood. My three daughters mean the world to me. One could say that we’re inseparable like a quintet (even though I’m not much of a jazz fan).

My girlfriend and I raised them like kids and not like girls. We played baseball, hockey, Lego, Playmobil, we went sledging at the local hill, we went to Renaud Bray at 10pm on Saturday nights to read books and look at the toys.

I love my family. I’d do anything to help them (but now, I try to stay away from moving heavy boxes from one third floor to another twice a year), protect them, listen to them and encourage them.

In fact, my three daughters all received a gift when they started living on their own. Each of them received a tool box filled with all the basics so they could be independent and also in order to give me more free time on the weekends to shop garage sales.

Work

I’ve always hated working. Working, for me, has always been a mean to earn money in order to do what I really liked. I’ve never been unhappy at work — I still had a great deal of fun doing what I did. However, once the day was over, I ran home to make stuff, draw, write, watch obscure movies, etc.

I must admit I was lucky to work in advertising, which was my first serious job. I had no experience and I made spelling mistakes every two words. Through perseverance, I ended up being pretty good at it. I also had to make it work: we had three kids. I wanted them to have a stable and joyful life, filled with surprises.

Same happened for my second serious job: teaching. I started teaching when I was 46, again with no experience, 24 years after earning my bachelor degree. It wasn’t easy. Through it all, one thing’s never changed: when I start something, I jump in it head first and I do the best I can.

Style

I started wearing vintage clothes, in 1969 at the age 15 years old, before thrift stores even existed. As a faithful Salvation Army client, I was always able to find one-of-a-kind garments, at low prices, that no one had. Now, at 64, I wear mostly t-shirts — last time I counted, I had 128 of them — black or blue jeans, denim or Avirex leather jackets and Doc Martens (black, brown or with the British flag).

I like being original and different. I like to stand out even though my outfit is not a “stand-out” per se. I look for long-lasting pieces that you could have worn 30 years ago and that you can still wear today. I once skied with a brown leather aviator hat from WWII found at a second-hand store. I slid down the slopes at full speed (I didn’t know how to turn) as the side panels went flying around. It was pure joy!

Friendship

Friendship is like love without the sexual part. I love my friends deeply. I’d do anything to make them happy, to help them out, be there when they need me. As one would expect, I don’t have many friends. And it’s perfect like that. My best friends remain my girlfriend and my daughters. It’s really important for me to make the people around me laugh. I never overdo it though.

I’ve lost a couple of good friends along the way. Not because they passed away, but because they had serious money problems. Money is always complicated. I’m more than happy to build you a piece of furniture or go to the flea market with you and pay for gas, but don’t ask me money to buy paint for your house.

I’m always willing to do a favour for friends, but when I’ll need one in return (which rarely happens), I expect them to do the same for me, because I don’t forget easily.

Self-confidence

Self-confidence is very fragile. The best way to trust yourself is to be well prepared and take on things within your reach.

I worked 20 years in advertising. It was a highly demanding and subjective environment. One day, you’re the best copywriter in the whole world and the next, you’re back to square one.

To be honest, I learned out of experience. I made furniture with no formal training. I became an advertising copywriter when I barely knew how to write, I taught at elementary school when I’d obtained my bachelor degree 24 years before that.

Everything can be learned. It’s a matter of putting in the time and effort. Everything you do, every class you take, will one day be useful. It’s all part of your background. It’s a bit like a tool box you keep filling year after year. Eventually, one tool that you’ve had for a long time will turn out useful. There’s absolutely no limit to what you can store in your tool box. 

Humour

I really like lightening up emotionally charged situations with humour. I have a hard time being serious during long conversations. When I’m in a church, a funeral home, at the museum, in a library, I just want to say funny things to make people laugh. I can’t deal with silence.

I’ve learned about humour while watching the Marx Brothers, which my mom used to translate for me — she was really good in English. Then came W. C. Fields, Paul et Paul, Steve Martin, SNL’s first years and much more. Lately, I’ve been into bad movies. So bad they become funny (lame scenarios, lame actors, no budget whatsoever, etc.). Humour helps me find balance in a world filled with tragedies.

Creativity

Up until CEGEP, I was like every other teenager, average, with no particularly interesting background. While taking a Fantasy Literature class (I was enrolled in the Literature Studies program), I found out about surrealism, both in written and visual forms. What a revelation! I was mesmerized with the unexpected side of surrealism (like the exquisite corpse idea, amongst others). I started drawing even though I wasn’t good. I was able to create an imaginary world that I liked.

Today, I still like unpredictability. I write a lot of funny stuff: I parody children’s books, I rewrite graphic novels, I make fun of newspaper’s articles by changing their titles, etc. Spending 20 years in advertising helped me learn how to write and, most of all, play with words.

I also build things out of recycled materials. Once again, unexpectedness plays a big part; I never know what I might find at the scrap yard. I don’t like doing the same thing twice, thus the importance of originality.

Money

For me, money is not a big deal. My goal is only to have a certain financial freedom to do what I love or buy things that I find inspiring.

When I was only 15 years old, some of my clothes came from Salvation Army. Being a teenager with little money, it was the perfect way for me to stand out after leaving a private school to go to a mixed school. What a breath of fresh air! I wanted to be different to attract girls’ attention.

As a couple, we’ve always been really reasonable money-wise. I’ve never been a big fan of credit. Back in the days, I used to make a lot of our furniture due to a lack of money. I then developed my abilities as a handy-man and grew an interest for thrift stores to find unique treasures for my wife and kids at Christmas. All that also allowed me to spend incredible vacation on the coast of Maine or at my brother’s cottage, who lent it to us for free. Thanks Daniel.

Happiness

Happiness is so simple that many of us can’t seem to find it. For me, one of the biggest joys, is to hear someone laugh at my jokes… even if they’re sometimes terrible.

These days, happiness occurs on a daily basis. I’m with my girlfriend, day in and day out, I create things until I’m exhausted, I help out my daughters and my friends, I write jokes, I make the students laugh when I substitue at school, I go to flea markets, and recycling centres across the city.

I’ve also been designing and producing a pin game (Lükky) for the past 3 years after my daughter Justine — who now lives in Paris, which is way too far — suggested it to me. In anything I do, I try not to make the same thing twice and I like long long long-lasting objects.

Overall, happiness is doing what you love. If you’re not happy, change the way you do things… Don’t worry, be happy!

 If you liked this post, you’re going to love these ones 

And What If We Stopped Comparing Ourselves to Others?

Getting out of My Comfort Zone: I Went to a Concert Alone

How to Be More Creative

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