Today is my aunt and godmother Collett’s birthday. To many people, she is a well-reputed publicist, manager, and producer in the South African arts scene. To others, she is simply a stranger that they have not and will never meet. To me, however, she is someone that has shaped the course of who I am, what I enjoy, and where I want to go with my life.
Since I can remember, Collett has been taking me to theatre shows, musical concerts, openings – almost every form of performing art imaginable. Before I was a legal adult, i had probably seen more theatre than most legal adults could claim to have seen. I witnessed everything from major productions off of Broadway to new shows in their first week in a tiny, smoky theatre. Some shows were fantastic. In others, the only fantastic aspect were the snacks served at interval. Nevertheless, Collett got myself, my brother, cousins, family, and pretty much anyone else she could possibly pin down for the time required to go and see as many shows as they could fit into their schedule. And then a show or two extra, just in case.
This exposure to the arts throughout my formative years has left its mark – I have an undying love for music, theatre, film, and almost any other form of expression. Ballet’s a little iffy, but it can be done from time to time. I have learned instruments because I heard them play in shows and liked how they sounded. I wrote because I felt that I too could tell stories like the ones I had seen.
Arguably the greatest thing that Collett has taught me is that one should never be afraid to pursue the things that one loves. Whilst other people were getting the degrees that they felt they were supposed to get, to go into the job they had been told was good, Collett went out and took a year to experience England. Whilst there, she managed to learn from one of the best managers of theatre at the time, and found that she had a passion for the industry. She has never looked back. It may have taken a while, and many dues had to be paid, but Collett is now regarded as one of the best in South Africa in the job that she is passionate about. That, to me, is true bravery. I hope to be half that brave.
Collett has always been around to help me do so. We would always try to plan regular meetings, be it to see a new show, watch a movie (the infamous Lord of the Rings viewings spring quickly to mind), or, as I grew older, cups of coffee and a chat. We would talk about everything and nothing – what was on our minds, who we thought would win the latest season of South African Idol, what I wanted to do with life, or Formula One. Collett has been watching over me from the day I was born, and for that I will always be thankful.
So, she may have a couple more wrinkles than years past, and her devotion to Michael Schumacher may have been corrupted into a love for the pretender that is Lewis Hamilton, but my love for this amazing lady will never change. Happy birthday Collett. I hope that you have many more, because this world would be far darker without you in it.