I want to wish a Happy Birthday to the best man I know, my dad. I could thank him for a lot of things today, but I’d like to pick the one that perhaps I’m most proud of.
My father made me tough as nails.
I’m not afraid of many things, which is kind of funny because I popped out of the womb an insanely shy, painfully quiet little girl who was afraid of almost everything.
Well, Dad wasn’t going to have that.
We spent a lot of time together over the years—watching horror films, climbing mountains, petting alligators on Alligator Alley, and practicing speeches I’d have to give in front of big groups.
Somehow, through it all, he made that quiet, terrified little girl near fearless.
Dad knew that the world was rough. He knew that people would disappoint me, that challenges would sometimes seem insurmountable. So, he built a fighter.
I didn’t have an easy life, but I had the armor I’d need to handle it. And that was the key.
Dad had little patience for me being out of breath the last 200 meters of my cross country races. There was one option—push on through and the breath would come.
When I’d rehearse a school project and lose my train of thought, he made sure I knew that there was only one thing to do—reach inside yourself and find an answer.
I had to walk a runway modeling show when I was 14 years old. All the girls were taller and thinner than me. I remember wondering how I could manage to stand out. I also remember my dad pointing to his head and his heart before I stepped on that runway. Without a word, he reminded me that I already knew how to own that stage.
I remember the night before my college valedictory speech. I had waited until the last minute to finish it up because I wanted it to be fresh. My dad came into my room and said, “You’re just finishing this now?” He looked a little worried.
“I got this,” I said. I wasn’t worried. Not in the least bit. But only because I knew that failure wasn’t an option. I wasn’t afraid because he had taught me how to conquer fear a long time ago.
Dad was in awe of my speech that day. I was in awe of the man who had taught me how to be myself in front of thousands of people without fear.
Every time I host a TV show, my dad calls to tell me he’s not sure how I look so comfortable out there. On occasions when I don’t get topics in advance and have to respond to news spontaneously in front of millions of people, Dad gets nervous. But his little girl doesn’t. Mostly because he taught me that believing in yourself is so much better than being afraid of what’s thrown your way.
I can never repay him for that lesson. I just hope that watching me live my life the way I live it somehow tells him that he did a pretty good job. I make plenty of mistakes, for sure, but there’s almost nothing in this life that I’m afraid to tackle. And that I owe to him.
Happy Birthday, Tony Bila! I love you.
Jedediah Bila is a Fox News host and commentator, author, columnist, and former professor and academic dean. Follow Jedediah on Twitter @JedediahBila.