First of all, happy birthday. It’s your 40th and I’m incredibly happy to say that this year, we’ve been together for ten years! A decade. I remember that I had to drag you out to celebrate your 30th, just a couple of months after we met, as you found turning 30 “so depressing”. I insisted, because your life was worth celebrating. On that warm September night in Tuscany, I had no idea of what was yet to come.
Over the years, I’ve seen you take on challenge after challenge, and blow them completely out of the water. I’ve seen you learn two new languages, move to new countries, start and run your own business and earn qualifications. I’ve seen you conquer stage after stage after stage as a musician. I’ve seen you create amazing contributions to this magazine as a photographer and illustrator. Most importantly, many times I’ve seen you stand up for what is right – and I’ve loved you more for each time.
Today, you’re days away from embarking on a new adventure. Just a couple of weeks after your 40th birthday, you will become a full-time university student, on a Music Performance degree – while still continuing to work as a music tutor. And despite witnessing your many previous endeavours, this is perhaps the single one time that I’m the proudest of you that I’ve ever been.
Throughout my life and career, I’ve met countless people who have given up on their dreams and aspirations. So many dreary faces on Monday mornings, so many glassy eyes deep with a quiet emptiness across from me in grey-walled meeting rooms, in open-space offices. So many excuses: I have responsibilities. It’s impossible to make a living doing that. It’s too competitive. Dreams are for kids. We all need to grow up, and think about the bills and the mortgage.
It saddens me that in our narrow-minded society, age often means that exploring, trying new things, embarking on unknown paths, discovering your dreams, is over. You’re meant to close the door on things you envision for yourself, and choose stability, security, settling down. You get a few years – not even that, a few summers while at university – to make experiences and dabble in going for your dreams, but that’s it. Once that fleeting window has passed, it’s time to put on the slippers and become a fully paid-up, card-carrying Adult with glassy eyes and a mortgage. Having a big birthday? That’s it, party’s over. Pick up your broken bottles and your broken dreams, and go home.
I call bullshit, and I could never love someone who wouldn’t call bullshit with me.
During these ten years, I have seen you fight for your dreams harder than I’ve ever seen anyone fight for anything. You’ve been relentless, creative, aggressive and beyond resilient in carving out your path. Your obvious talent was your only advantage in a world where being an immigrant and no longer being a teenager is hardly a plus. But sometimes, life IS fair, and skill and dedication do win. And this time, that’s exactly what happened.
It will be hard, because nothing worth having is easy. It will fill you with doubt, fear and insecurity (and I will be here through all of that, with Beck’s and vegan pizza!). But it will also be magical and life-affirming. It will make you grow like you’ve never grown before, and you will finally find your place. You have already found it. I can see it, when you think I’m not looking. I have always seen it. Only now, other people see it too, and more people will.
Enjoy your first year (sorry, second year: you might have been surprised at the university’s offer to let you skip year one, but I wasn’t, and neither would anyone who has ever heard you play). Don’t forget to invite me to all the parties – although I can’t promise I won’t embarrass you by being ridiculously, outrageously, over-the-top proud of you.
Header photo by Green Chameleon via Unsplash