Thursday, July 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom and Dad!

As another birth year comes to a close and a new one stands poised to begin, I find myself pondering our cultural ideas about birthdays, and the very nature of age...

If you'd asked me at 16 how I thought I would look, feel, think, and dream in my thirties, I doubt I would have said, "precisely the way I do now!" And yet, in the first moments of 36, I seem to myself exactly as I always have... as mentally and physically inspired, excited, and energetic about and in life as I was in my teens.

I'm not an anomaly. Many people I know and care about remark how 'odd' it is that they feel the same as they did when they were children... that they don't feel like they're getting older...

Maybe what's 'odd' is the meaning we assign to age and the way we imagine the experience of aging...

What would we do and who would we be if we allowed ourselves for a moment to consider 36 as 16... to pretend that 21 was in fact 60? Wonder, wild adventure, and unbridled passion aren't meant to be the exclusive playgrounds of the young. The creation of meaningful and moving poetry, music, and art isn't reserved for only the seasoned and experienced. I marvel at the profound maturity and vast knowing of many of my young clients; I am in awe of my father's dancing and theater-going three nights a week and my mother who- a month after retirement- enrolled with giddy enthusiasm in University courses on everything from Archeology to Occidental History to Eastern Mysticism. How much I learn from them all!

How are we limiting the possibilities of ourselves and others by the notions of age to which we individually and collectively cling? How many 8 year olds think they're too young for their ideas to matter? How many 80 year olds think that they're too old?

I'm also impressed by what a birthday is truly celebrating. When I consider my parents back in 1974 at 9:13 in the morning after a 17 hour labor (my first, official act of stubbornness...) I can't help but feel overwhelmed by the idea that this day is not about me...

So on my parent's special day, I wish you all the opportunity- whatever your age- to explore the endless and timeless possibilities of mind, courage, body, and heart that are available to you beyond what you've heretofore thought of as 'normal'. And to give thanks, in word or spirit, to those who brought you into this world... to those who made it possible for you to now be in the midst of this incredible gift and ride called life.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jennifer, once again, a point that resonates clearly! And you know there’s another facet to this - how we think about others. I never have understood why people would judge another person on a number alone. I think we limit ourselves and each other far too often in this regard. It's the same way I was limited in college by a respected professor who gently scoffed at my desire to write music. It really took the wind out of my sails, and I believed him to a point. I don’t think I would now, but when you’re so impressionable as I was and the professor is so respected as he was, it becomes a sad tale too often repeated. Who knows, I might be typing this by candle light if Edison had let the naysayers win. :-)

July 29, 2010 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Hamady said...

Wouldn't it be great to view professors as impressionable and college students as respected? After all, there's just as much truth to that as the converse... : )

Your point is well taken; many artists I work with recall experiences of their professors' opinions shaping and forming them. Thankfully, at the end of the day, it is we who decide whether their words will continue to 'stick' (just as it was us who decided long ago to take those words to heart in the first place).

Good luck!

July 31, 2010 at 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first thing that popped into my head when I read the first paragraph of your comment was how honest and transparent children are. Just last night I was telling a former professor of mine of my experience several years ago directing a childrens choir. My comment to him was that children are many times so honest and transparent compared to adults that they're malleable. I went on to tell him how I felt that I learned more that year about choral directing than any other year up to that point. Ironic on so many levels.

August 2, 2010 at 12:18 PM  

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