Birthdays

It’s my birthday this week and I am turning 34. 34! It’s funny isn’t it, you spend most of your childhood wanting to be older, to be allowed on the bigger ride at the theme park, to watch a higher age movie at the cinema, to learn to drive, to get served in a pub, when it seems the entirety of adulthood is spent wishing you were younger, when you could eat all the food you wanted and your body did exactly what you asked it to!

To some of you, 34 will still put me in the category of a young whippersnapper, whilst for others, I’m rapidly approaching middle-aged obscurity.

I was told, when I turned 33, that I had reached an age of significance, this was, after all, the age that Christ died and rose again. Well, I don’t think the last twelve months quite lived up to that, but on the whole, it’s been a good year. I visited a few new countries, met inspiring people, and saw our business and podcast reach new customers and listeners.

I was invited to speak at a conference earlier this year, where I was asked by an attendee, what advice I had for young people wanting to use their lives to pursue justice. I realised, by the way the question was posed, that I was not identified as someone from within that category. Rather, I was being inquired upon as an old, grey-bearded sage, who may be able to share some wisdom from his many years of learning! The question caught me somewhat on the back foot, life still feels very new to me, particularly the current chapter I’m in. I told my young inquirer, the best advice I could offer was to avoid wasting time overthinking your purpose but rather to move into action at the earliest opportunity. To become a doer, as soon as possible!

Ambition is an important attribute to cultivate. I think we’re all tempted, at some point, to compromise and make reasonable decisions based on rationalised probabilities. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you were given the opportunity to talk to your younger self, would you spend it telling them to play it safe or encourage them to go for it, unabashed!?

Ambition is said by some to be the exclusive possession of the privileged, but I disagree with that. In November last year, I met a number of teenage girls who had been trafficked and exploited in ways few of us could ever imagine. They were now living in a safe rehabilitation center in Bangladesh, before being reunited with family. Some had only recently arrived, whilst others had been there a number of months and were undertaking a variety of educational training courses. I asked some of them what their hope was for the future. Understandably, those new to arrive were incapable of being hopeful or aspirant and sat quietly, whilst their peers shared dreams of becoming independent businesswomen and entrepreneurs. The unquestionable highlight of my 33rd year was the opportunity I had to return three months later and pose the same question to these girls. Almost all had since developed the ability to dream and express a newfound hope for their future.

It’s unlikely there will ever again be a period in our lives such as the one we are currently in, which affords us the opportunity to stop, pause and reflect, away from the noise of ‘normal’, everyday life. Have you taken the time to re-examine any unfulfilled ambitions?

CS Lewis writes:

“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth 'thrown in': aim at Earth and you will get neither.”

I hope that this year, my ambition is once more challenged, and I dare to dream bigger than I ever have before. That I aspire to be a better person and do all that’s within my power to see more people brought out of slavery and into freedom.

How about you?

Written by Bryn Frere-Smith

Founder of Blue Bear Coffee Co.