The big Three-O.
The milestone of crazy women everywhere.
- The sum of the first four squares, which makes it a square pyramidal number.
- The code for international direct dial phone calls to Greece
- The total number of major and minor keys in Western tonal music, including enharmonic equivalents!
- A semiperfect number (adding up some subsets of its divisors --e.g., 5, 10 and 15-- gives 30)
- The atomic number of zinc.
- –30– is used to indicate the end of a newspaper (or broadcast) story, a copy editor's typographical notation.
- The number of days in the months April, June, September and November (and in very strange and unusual circumstances February—see February 30)
- The number of cars in the F-Zero franchise.
- The minimum age for United States senators
- The pearl wedding anniversary!
- The number of tracks on The Beatles' eponymous album, usually known as The White Album
But I think one thing is certain. When I look back, I will always know that I spent my 20s "figuring it out"-- and hadn't truly figured anything out, until now.
... aaaaaand I am also pretty certain I will be saying THAT sentence again... many times over. For the rest of my life.
29 was a year of great overturn-- over the last year I have made some new resolutions, taken a conscious new course of action in my life, my career and my relationships...
Crucially this: this may come a surprise to those of you who know me as a "person who sings," but for whatever reason, singing has been a source of extraordinary emotional potency for me, and not always in a positive way.
I am going to let you in on a very personal experience, and I think you shall relate on some level.
There is hardly a time I can remember when did not sing, with purity, and coming from a place of utter spiritual exuberance. I would sing around the house, in the shower and in the car almost unconsciously, I poured and poured over role models, I Singing was, in truth, my primary source of joy.
When my father died in 2001, my mother made an observation: I had stopped singing entirely.
No more did I sing blithely about the house.
No more recordings.
No more music, it would seem, at all.
For you see, there was nothing to be joyful about.
It was entirely subconscious, but as I look back and unfold the deep layers of so complicated a time, I recognize that I stored the enormity of those feelings--all my confusion and anger and sorrow and grief-- in my voice. It was lodged there, a ball of delicate string growing more tangled and entrenched in itself every day... and I didn't even know.
So what did I do?
I denied I was a singer.
I denied more lessons, any formal higher training.
I sewed up my throat and (with no regret whatsoever) got my degree in classical acting (and even subconsciously suggested I choreograph the Christmas pantomime so I could avoid singing one of the leads!)
My true nature caught up with me when Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White would not allow me to hide anymore... and I suppose the rest is sort of history. Whoever would have thought? Not me.
But here is the crucial revelation:
If I continued to say "I am not a singer" over and over again, that statement accomplished a few things:
- It sent that exact message to The Universe, (and The Universe raged against my mind, and responded with a palpable vengeance...putting me into more and more confrontational situations with this GIANT LIE!)
- It declared that everything I DID achieve as a singer was a "miracle" and...
- ...everything I did NOT achieve was "not my fault" because I was "not a singer..."
It was a shallow attempt to "get off the hook" to absolve me of any form of personal responsibility.
It was not the behavior of a woman.
It was not in line with my true nature, my deepest desires, or the essence of my morals.
It was the behavior of a scared little girl.
So, with the help of a few dedicated (and very compassionate) people, I decided, quite consciously (and with gut-wrenching, sometimes literally paralyzing terror), to become the singer I knew I was.
To throw myself in head first, and know that if I truly failed, at least I would always know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I failed honestly.
To accept responsibility.
To accept myself.
...isn't that what this whole business of life is all about?
We all do this-- with our careers, our relationships, our everyday interactions with our inner-consciousness. There's a wonderful quote from Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail where Meg Ryan's character Kathleen says
"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave..."
After a few months of soul-crushing work:
Carnegie Hall called...
Then Caramoor Music Festival...
...and then what for me was the job of a lifetime singing Maria in West Side Story with the San Francisco Symphony on the history making, first-ever symphonic recording of the iconic piece.
Somehow I think The Universe might have been saying
...Not that anyone probably believed my bulls*** in the first place...
And so, I, like so many before me, have spent my 20s truly becoming myself.
I stand before you today truly owning it all.
Owning my strengths.
My deepest and more profoundly wished-for hopes and dreams.
As I spent the very last day of my 20s singing "Tonight" and "One Hand, One Heart" and "I Feel Pretty" out across the San Francisco Symphony, I felt my cells actually turn over. At the stroke of midnight, when some of the greatest musicians in the world sang "Happy Birthday" I felt it: life would not, could not, ever be the same. For when you not only take responsibility for you life, but for who you truly are, the world unfolds itself before you like a flower.
It is my belief that it is our primary objective, our most crucial human vocation, to continue this process throughout the course of our lives.
I vow to do so.
That is what a true birth-day, is all about.