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Of course my parents were there to help me think up of a plan, but its execution was completely my responsibility. In my teenage when both my parents got full time jobs, my siblings and I would often come home from school to find the house empty and a note taped to the fridge saying “paddle your own canoe (through the kitchen!), love, mom.” This phrase was part of our daily life, and it was used at least once every single day, for the most mundane things, ranging from walking the dog to doing our own laundry. Often when we went out for family dinners, we would walk past the homeless and begging people on the streets that would pursue us, asking for money, my dad would wave them away and exclaim “paddle your own canoe!” Soon my siblings and I even devised an acronym of the phrase, “p.y.o.c” which sounded very amusing when said out loud. Despite my initial exasperation at my parents’ insistence on paddling your own canoe, I realized the deeper significance of the phrase; it spoke of self-reliance, independence, responsibility, maturity and resourcefulness. These were the qualities needed to make a brave individual who is not afraid to take on challenges and devise his own solutions to them, and this was the kind of person I soon aspired to be. I asked my mother where she had learned the phrase “paddle your own canoe,” from, and she said that it was told to her by her own mother when she herself was my age. She told me that during her childhood her father had died and her mother was left on her own with three children to raise by herself. Days were hard for them because her mother received a very small salary. My mother told me that she and her sisters would often beg their mother to buy them sweets or toys or bicycles like the ones their friends had, but their mother would always say “paddle your own canoe,” since she could not afford to buy it for them. Soon my mother and her sisters started doing odd jobs like selling lemonade near the sidewalk and walking the neighbors’ dogs, and as they grew older they would babysit or teach other children after school, and so on. My mother told me doing work like was a valuable experience since it taught her and her sisters how to work for themselves and take responsibility to meet their own needs. But interviewing my own mother was not enough, I wanted to probe deeper and find out where this phrase, “paddle your own canoe” really came from. Searching on the internet, I found some interesting articles. From a website called (The Phrase Finder 2013), I discovered that “the figurative meaning of 'padding one's own canoe' began to be used in the early 19th century. This was what was in mind of the author of The Selangor Journal: Jottings Past and Present, 1807, when reporting the lack of community spirit amongst the coffee planters in Malaysia.” Also, the website claimed that “the imagery of self-reliance that the phrase conjures up was employed by the founder of the Scouts Movement, Lord Baden-Powell, when he used it as the title of a book in 1939.” Lastly, the article stated that the phrase “paddle your own canoe” was used in a number of “gung ho” ...Show more
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Summary

Paddle Your Own Canoe. For as long as I can remember, whenever I have asked my parents for a raise in my allowance or asked them to buy me a new electronic device, I would always get the same answer from them; “paddle your own canoe.” I would get angry and retort that if they gave me the money to buy a canoe first I would certainly learn to paddle it myself, but they would never relent…
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