What you always wanted to do

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.

10 thoughts on “What you always wanted to do

  1. “she’s doing what she always wanted to do. Not many of us can say that.”

    What do I [you] want to do? A dear friend was brow-breating me with that question on the telephone the other night and I was grumpily refusing to give her a straight answer.

    Education theory tells us that the first step in achieving what you want to achieve – having the life you want to have – begins with articulating your goals.

    Why is that so very hard? Life is whizzing by pretty fast, and sometimes it seems that there isn’t all that much time left to “get it right.”

    But I just can’t commit to one big distant goal. The best I’ve been able to manage is to set short and midterm goals – a whole panoply of them. Some of them are writing goals.

    I suppose what someone could say of me is, “She’s doing heaps of things she always wanted to do, most of them in a disorganized, partial way.”

    Committing to one big thing means NOT committing to a whole bunch of things. But what it comes down to is, I like my many projects in my busy eclectic life.

    Thanks, Ev, for a thought-provoking post!


  2. Dear Jennifer:

    Yes, it is sad, isn’t it . . . I always wonder though, if it doesn’t all come down to attitude. It’s never too late to pursue something new (or old :)), especially if you have regrets. But maybe it’s easier and less scary sometimes to admire those who are pursuing their dreams rather than join them?


  3. You’re very welcome, Sockpuppet. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Personally I think the conclusion you arrived at (“I like my many projects in my busy eclectic life.”) is very wise.

    Enjoying what you do, whatever it is and all that it is, and not constantly looking back at what-could-have-beens and if-onlys is crucial to contentedness. Besides, like you said, there’s always a new project to tackle or derive joy from. And if a person really feels like his/her life is missing something, like I said above: it’s never too late. I really think a lot of time is sadly wasted contemplating things a person wished they’d done when they should just go and do them now! 🙂


  4. Hi, I knew Ellie when she was in Dublin, we studied German together. I’m so delighted that her dream came true, she had such a wonderful voice. Please pass on my best wishes to her.

    Michael Comerford.


  5. Dear Michael,

    Thank you for coming by. I would’ve welcomed you sooner, but I’ve been away. I remember Ellie talking about you (all good :)) and I will definitely share your greeting/well wishes with her.



  6. Hi,

    I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Ellie in London, Onterrible a few years ago… and I have sadly and completely lost touch with her!!! I am now in Vancouver, BC and I would love to meet her again….. we have ALWAYS talked about goals and going after the things we want to pursue and I am so HAPPY to see that ELLIE continued to pursue her dreams!!!!! Please tell ELLIE that ANCA, Derek and Gaelan have been trying to contact her for a while now….



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