My little sister Ellie Higginson is an Opera singer and moved to Germany just over a year ago, after several extended trips to various locations in Europe. In many ways her artistic journey echoes my writing journey (and I suspect there are similarities between most artists whatever their mode of expression!); each exciting step is the result of many years of unseen work.
Ellie’s living in Goerlitz (a small town in the furthest part of East Germany, right on Poland’s border), singing under contract with the Opera theatre there. And now it’s audition season again and she’s eagerly looking ahead, working toward roles with other larger theatres—see, again, the writing connection: you get one gig, hurrah! But you haven’t arrived, you have to keep working, keep submitting, and repeat, repeat, repeat.
The Terrace Standard and its sister publication, The Weekend Advertiser, ran articles about her recently because having any kind of an International performing career—let alone an Operatic one—is exciting news to the people you grew up around, but when you you’re a small town girl hailing from, of all places, Terrace, British Columbia, Canada, it’s that much more newsworthy.
A man who read the article approached me in the grocery store the other night.
“I saw that article about your sister in the paper,” he said.
I said something witty, like “Hello and oh yeah?”
“It was really cool.”
There was something so genuinely pleased for her in his tone that I can’t really explain it in words very well.
“I took it to work and showed all the guys—‘This is Wilf’s sister, man. She’s living in Germany and singing Opera.’” (Our brother used to work with him.)
We chatted on for a few minutes more about where she was exactly and how she was doing. Then he shook his head, and repeated with just a touch of wistfulness, “It’s just really cool. She’s doing it—she’s doing what she always wanted to do. Not many of us can say that.”
Bam! I was at once so happy and so sad, because he’s so right. Not many of us can say that. Somewhere along the way of growing up, getting married, and/or having dependents or other responsibilities, it’s easy to give up on that thing we always wanted to do, that artistic or athletic or fill-in-the-blank pursuit that made us happy, made us feel uniquely us. I think that’s what we love about someone else accomplishing something unique or special—it’s a reminder: Following your dream, living your dream, is possible.
I feel very fortunate. Dreams are about the experience you have while dreaming, not “results” and while my dream isn’t over yet, just like Ellie, I’m doing what I always wanted to. I wish I’d thought to ask the guy what it was he’d always dreamed about . . .
I hope Ellie knows what an inspiration she is . . . I think I’ll give her a call this week and remind her.