Things My Father Taught Me: Sean Hotchkiss

Sean Hotchkiss is a handsome devil. He is fearless. I admire the way he is always putting himself out there in new and different ways. I first learned of him while he was crafting posts for the Khaki Crusader, and later the GQ Eye and J. Crew, and it’s been great to follow along as he’s advanced in his career as a writer and a photographer.


IMG_8410As many who’ve known my father can attest, he was often the life of the party. But as I sit here, early on a Sunday morning, I am positive that the lesson he instilled so poignantly in me is the value of being alone.

The time (this time) before everyone else had risen was a sacred time for my dad. Anyone who happened to catch him in the driveway, sun beaming on the hood of his truck, fresh off his morning coffee run, would have seen him at his best. Our dog Casey would have been in tow, and a stack of morning papers might’ve been tucked under his arm as he entered the house, singing. He was always singing something if you caught him solo.

If you asked him about recent successes, he might have told you about delivering a boat from Maine to South Carolina earlier that year, riding only with his thoughts – each one skipping off into the breeze. Or one of the many Outward Bound adventures he’d embarked on where he’d spent time in the woods, pondering, relaxing, planning his next move.

As I got older, my dad invited me into these moments, and I saw the value in them first hand – the coffee run, the early morning boat ride when the ocean was like plate glass and the light careened in every which way, the short drive to the liquor store to stock the house for a dinner party – a small respite, a welcome pause before you’d have to face the crowds again. And I got a chance to invite him into mine – the lazy 9 holes before sunset, after which we’d stroll side by side through the woods, recapping the round as twigs crunched beneath our feet.

One of the beautiful things, I can imagine, about having a son is that time spent with them becomes almost like that time spent alone. Entire conversations take place without the exchange of words. You can relax in that same truly deep and unapologetic way. Miles melt under you as you cruise along, the radio turned up.

My dad was snatched rather abruptly from my life 8 years ago. There was little time to ask questions. There was little time to prepare.

The spring before he passed we spent an entire week at my childhood home on Nantucket together, just us – drinking, eating, telling stories. We were alone in that way only fathers and sons can be. Sometimes, I try desperately to recall individual moments from that trip, but all I can hear is his laughter.

So, as an adult, I never hesitate to indulge myself in these moments: the solo hike, the spontaneous road trip, the elevator to the rooftop as the sun is just creeping up over the city. I love the company of others (much like him), but my time alone recharges me, it gives me perspective, it allows me to reenter my universe with a renewed sense of purpose, and with a plan for what to do next. And today, in this world, in this city, that time is becoming increasingly scarce.

But know this: you can step away, you can power down. You can get away from it all – if only for a moment. (And you should.) I learned this from my father.

Sean Hotchkiss