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Cleaning out my phone + from the vault: Class of 2017 get their revenge. 😂
The Wrapper-er gets wrapped. 😄
“JUST REMEMBER WHO’S MARKING YOUR SOLO PERFORMANCES!”, I kept yelling sporadically.
Darling Girl, who aches with hope, here is what I say to you:
Fill the room with ALL of you. Not pretentiously, but without apology.
Speak with every ounce of who you are.
Succeed. Oh, succeed because it is your life’s path.
Speak. Because you have so much to say that is innate and bursting forth. Speak all of your words, not just the ones that are curated.
Live, not clinically, not withholding, but FULLY. Messily, Completely. Utterly. Totally. Fully.
Don’t make space for a job, a misguided hope, a cultural implication, a relationship, a child, or anything else that is not there. Darling Girl, your heart, soul, and life will stretch to accommodate those if and when they arrives. Because that’s how life works!
If you live like this, in the ghosting of a hope, then you are living in deficit, and on misplaced reality. My beautiful, sweet, strong, gritty one, you live NOW, not for a time in the past or in the future, and certainly not on something that is grounded in only “what ifs”.
Travel. My God, travel and see all that you can, because you have the freedom and license to right now. You are only you at present, and it is absolutely right and true without being selfish. Travel and step into the world, as it fully embraces you as you are. Not as a wife, a mother, a partner, but as all of you.
Travel because it is embedded in the human spirit, that very curiosity that inspires and fires all of the imagination and softens us to humanity, whilst setting us alight. The need to be free, even when you have your own place in the world, is as real as breathing.
Feel. With every ounce of you heart, not just the spare corners, and certainly not just the safe ones. Whilst you get to pick how your mind responds, you cannot tap human emotion. The heart yearns for what it yearns for, to be connected. Do not hold back because you don’t feel you’ve earned the right because you are NOT something.
You are allowed to fall in love with children and be a mother even if you are not a mother. You love with intensity even if you are not in a relationship. You are borne of love, and it is yours to live. You are a woman of the world, and you affect it, and interact with it, any way you choose.
Life will keep moving and you will need to be a part of the change, fleeting, slow, circular, sudden, it is all impermanent.
You can cry, and laugh, and shriek, and run, and dance without any fear that you need to be a little more quiet; you do not need to earn the right to be human.
You already have. Completely. Humanity is a birthright.
Do not let that gloriously beating, beautiful heart stop or harden.
Cry your tears.
Feel your grief.
Celebrate your joy.
Share your love.
Walk through it with integrity and authenticity.
Grief never leaves our cells, we just learn to carry it better. We are all grieving something, either graciously or not. But nor will the absolute, unquenchable desire to live ever leave us either.
Which will you respond to? The fear of being hurt, or the fear of not fully living?
Make new meaning every day.
Change is in the minute, on every breath. Hold too tight, and you will only find pain.
Darling Girl, I love you more than you will ever know.
I have no idea the scope of my joy. It comes forth when I think there is nothing left, it fills the crevices of darkness with light, like water finding tiny gaps in mountain faces.
I will do everything possible to give voice and life to this persistent joy.
I will create each day, with the wild abandon of the free in my heart, knowing the creativity spurns forth the most unknown and untapped of understandings and reflections. I will see what is truly bothering me and giving me joy within my creation…teaching, composing, writing, loving, caring, living. It is all creation.
I will cry, oh I will cry! Cleansing my strong heart of all the anguish and pain that an unknowing world might put upon me.
I will sing with a voice so utterly mine, the air around me will change.
I will love with a heart gritty and real, wild and honest. I will love with a playfulness and an honesty that will unravel both myself and the ones being loved.
I will fill the world with more colour than I can handle.
Because joy is an entity and spirit that needs keeping alive, and I will do everything with a vital truth and realness that will be astonishing even to me.
Because we must take care of the joyful ones, the silent warriors that choose to live with the grace of joy, even in a world which does not always welcome it.
We must celebrate those who look as if everything is pure and easy, because it takes great courage to be exquisitely joyful.
I will do everything I can to bring forth this joy!
So I’m trying to make lemon butter right now and my phone is having an epileptic fit in terms of notifications + messages as my Year 12 Music kiddies are getting in touch to let me know how they all went. Abandoned lemon butter “gel” on the stove, salvage it later, I’m right in the middle of all the hustle, excitement, nerves, and celebration of my Class of 2017 musos. I keep telling myself each year that this is the year I won’t get so over-the-top nervous + involved in all of this. But that’s a load of BS and I know it.
Class of 2017, my little United Nations of such different personalities, all so much loved by me. Congratulations to you all. You’ve truly made it over the finish line.
Love from a proud Mama Kwokkie.
So this was my office today, courtesy of my Year 12 kiddies! The helium tank apparently made it onto school grounds at 7:00am, and they were done + dusted and hiding in the upstairs music room by 7:30am, ready to capture my reaction. 😝
On first impressions, balloons were SENSATIONAL. 😎
But it was only when I looked closer that I realised with horror that they had suspended the contents of my office…highlighters, pens, scissors, USBs, Kwokkie doll, my mandarin and muesli bar for recess, sticky tape, everything. If I needed anything, I had to harvest it from the ceiling. 😂
Note my very classy monochrome outfit, as promised! I felt totally different all day! 😆
“Come here, sweet mandarin!”
Have mandarin. Happy.
When I started at Pulteney, we accidentally began a tradition of wrapping Year 12s on their birthdays. It all began when the very FIRST Year 12 to have a birthday in my class received a terrible mark in his Musicianship test, and I unwittingly returned it on his birthday. In order that he didn’t remember the day for that moment, I emptied out my top drawer and as a class, we decorated him with all all the celebration paraphernalia we could lay our hands on…streamer, stickers, glitter, feathers, Post-its, and a sparkly hat.
The tradition stuck. Each time we had a birthday, my 12s would ask, “Can we go get the streamers, Ms Kwok?!” So I’m always totally stocked up.
This year, I realised that my little celebratory proteges had grown into themselves more than I could have predicted, and I got a dose of my own creating!
On the day of my birthday, my 12s snuck in early, filled the music room with balloons, wrapped everything (including me) in streamers, sang “Happy B’day” in 2-and-a-half part harmony, and baked brownies for me. 🤗
But my favourite bit? How totally UN-surreptitious they were about the whole operation. Stealth they have not. 🤣
I could literally hear them from a mile away, “SHUT UP! SHE’S COMING!” 😆
I am re-reading “Present Over Perfect”, by Shauna Niequist. Her simple, direct, honest writing is a joy to read, and I find myself surprised at how differently I am reacting to different chapters.
The chapter titled, “Throwing Candy”, I read this morning tucked away in a little side street cafe with a cup of coffee. It transported me.
Shauna describes how one of the playful traditions of a retreat she went on was throwing candy into the river where people were kayaking. She describes her reaction:
As I watched from the deck of the lodge, I put my head down on the wide railing, and I began to sob.
Because I used to throw candy, right in the middle of it all. I used to throw candy no matter what. I used to be warm and whimsical. I used to believe in the power of silliness and memory-making and laughter.
And then I became the kind of person who threw candy as long as nothing else was going on – as long as it didn’t get in the way of being responsible. I threw candy at approved and sanctioned candy-throwing time, after all the work was done and things were safe and lunches were made.
And then I got so wrapped up in being responsible that it was never the right time to throw candy.
And then, the worst thing: I became the kind of person who made fun of candy-throwers…please, who has the time?! What is this, kindergarten? I’ve got a list, people, and a flight to catch.
What a loss – for me, for my family, for our community, for all the joy and laughter and silliness we missed out on because I was busy being busy.
…I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realise that the best thing about me was that I was organised. That I executed well, that I ran a tight ship, that I never missed a detail. I want to look back and remember all the times I threw candy, even when it didn’t make sense. Especially when it didn’t make sense.
…And that’s why I’m throwing candy every chance I get.
Me too. That’s why I’m throwing those Freddos and Allens Jelly Beans with all the guisto I can muster. Bring on the Scratch ‘N Sniff stickers in my Year 12 Musicianship lessons, because they bloody well remembered to raise the 7th in a harmonic minor harmonisation! And believe me, the excitement that comes with those stickers is on par with finding a clean fork in the Centre for Senior Learning kitchen. Because in my job, students may be developing adults requiring all manner of respect, boundaries, and healthy challenges, but they are also human beings. They should never have the opportunity to stop being playful, and I need to model that optimism, that joy, that freedom, and that sense of forward thinking. At best, it is pure joy. At its most honest, it is the ability to adapt and fit to a changing world in a healthy way. Those little pockets of silliness and joy keep us human, keep us open to life and learning, keep us vulnerable to both grief and joy, and are absolutely essential.
Tonight, I went to a concert in celebration of Clemens Leske Snr + his wife, Beryl Kimber, and the work they have done for the Elder Conservatorium and University of Adelaide.
The coldest night of the year in Adelaide, in complete and utter contrast to the glowing warmth in Elder Hall.
A true celebration; an out-pouring of appreciation and love that could only be inspired by two very special people.
Elder Hall was filled to the brim with past students, friends and colleagues who had been deeply affected by these two exceptional people, for their contribution to music performance, to music education, and for all that they were as individuals.
I watched as people around me reacted to the pieces, the photos, the music, the memories, drawn back into some tiny, profound recollection brought back into full force and life by tonight.
I listened to every possible colour and emotion come into being in the very air of that hall; the same hall that had contained so much angst and fear from my university years, now changed forever by my own teaching, my own performances, the performances of my choirs and ensembles, and by moments like tonight.
Some part of that dormant hope, joy, and complete faith in music has burst into life through my own classroom teaching, made beautiful by the passage of time and learning through my students. Some impossible boundary has been crossed, some extraordinary sense of healing has taken place…each part of my teaching self built has been a part of my self regained in joy and completeness.
In teaching, I have become myself; in becoming myself, I have come to life.
There were some funny moments…
Lucinda Collins had to sit through a performance by Stephen Whittington.
That will remain one of the most awesome blips of karmic humour I will ever know.
But she also helped the fragile and beautiful Clemens to his feet when he wished to join Beryl to thank everyone who came tonight. I am 11 years beyond university, and creating a teaching momentum all my own, but that tiny moment of grace will also embed itself irrevocably in my heart, also.
And perhaps, one day, will flower into new grace.
But the tears began when I watched the fragile body of Clemens Leske Snr, lifted by grace, held by time, move as he made his way to the stage. Step by step, breath by breath, he moved with unerring humility and a different time to the rest of the world to join his wife on stage. And he thanked us…in a voice that I will never forget. The voice that guided me through my lessons when I was a teenager; so impressionable, so outwardly tough and inwardly unformed and vulnerable.
He was the teacher I had for the least amount of time. But he was the teacher who made the greatest impact. Through love, through compassion, through calmness and understanding, he lifted up my teenage heart into something polished and beautiful. He saw in me what I could not see, and found the spirit in me.
Nurtured through excellence, inspired through complete love for music; here was the reason he made the greatest impact:
He was the ONLY piano lecturer at university level that I learnt from to make me feel seen, valued and acknowledged; for all that I was at that exact moment in time.
I cried when I could not have him as my university piano lecturer because that’s what policy dictated. I celebrate the legacy of deep love of music he has given me now, in every lesson I teach, every day I am in the classroom.
It is clear to me that his voice, his teachings, his love of music, his care, his compassion, his quiet joy, and his integrity, are embedded in my own teaching. His spirit gives voice to what I do, whether I am aware of it or not.
Tonight, I am…overwhelmingly.
For that legacy, I am so joyful!
Seeing Clemens Leske Junior rake THE STEINWAY in a foot-stomping, no-bars-hold boogie-woogie; a rollicking addendum to the night that all of a sudden made us see the unruly, rebellious teenager he must have been; with a pure, complete, and raw love for his playing.
And then, this young man stood, mid-adulthood, against all the whoops, cheers and stamps of appreciation from the audience, and acknowledged his beautiful parents with complete sincerity and love.
What a lovely letter with all those gracious, appreciative thank yous. It was always a pleasure to teach you, so talented, artistic, cooperative, hardworking, and interested. I shall watch your career develop in the years ahead and wish you all success and happiness in your chosen work and in your life.
Best wishes, Annie.
It remains one of the most treasured things I own.