Today’s a special day in Chez Matthews.

Today is my daughter’s 20th birthday. No longer a teenager and fast becoming a smart, beautiful, caring woman. Much like her mother, I guess. I have a lot to be grateful for.

But the thoughts that came to me in the shower on the morning of this historic day were about the people you surround yourself with, and how much these can affect your life and the path you choose to take.

I’ve spoken about this many times… I make no apologies. I even get on my own nerves and sound like a broken record, over and over again. However, it’s one of life’s greatest truths. Who you surround yourself with, will determine whether you make it or break it. These people can single handily keep you stuck firmly to the ground or allow you to soar like an eagle on life’s thermals.

Are the people around you Pigeon Breeders or Wing Clippers?

So, the thought provoking question headlining this piece was brought about by something I am witnessing in front of my own very eyes, and I’m powerless to do anything about it.

You see, Daughter Number One, as I call our first born. Martha is her proper name, is a pretty young thing. A medical student with her whole life in front of her.

Unlike many who take to the medical profession, Martha has had to work hard. She’ll be the first to admit, she isn’t academically gifted, so the grades necessary to be accepted have been very hard to come by. We all know there are people that seem to breeze through school with straight A’s and do very little to achieve them, and seem naturally to excel in the exam environment. That isn’t Martha. No, she has had to work hard for every C or B and the odd A.

After achieving the grades necessary to attend University, the easy option would have been Swansea. They did her course; it was less than 20 miles away. Live at home. Easy. Not Martha. The qualification wasn’t respected as much, The European School of Osteopathy was her chosen Uni. Affiliated to Greenwich University, this little spot was in Maidstone, Kent. A mere 215 miles away, 4 hours on a good day. It might as well have been an outstation on Mars!

We’ve all been there (some a few less years ago than others!!), that time in your life when you have one foot in the past and one in the future. It’s a scary time. Having the confidence to let go of what is comfortable and to step into the unknown. As time passes and age helps you make better sense of these small steps, it seems incredulous to think we were so scared of that tiny step in time or life. But when you’re living it and feeling it, the thought process is fuzzier and the path is not always clear.

You find yourself standing on a cliff edge, with nobody around you to tell you what to do. You know you should jump, but your sub conscious mind is programmed to keep you safe and is screaming at you to step back. Your heart and mind are shouting jump. Now it’s all about who shouts the loudest.

The best line I’ve heard on this was by John Maxwell. He said “Jump and build your wings on the way down”.

To stick with what you know is the “EASY” option, the safe option. Man didn’t get to the moon by playing it safe! Women didn’t get the vote by playing it safe!

Nothing worthwhile ever happens when it’s safe or easy.

The nursing homes and death beds around the world are full of regret, and people who spent life playing it safe, and taking the easy option.

I hope to lie there one day, with a smile and say, “I’m glad I did”, rather than “I wish I had”.

Back to the cryptic title of this piece… Pigeon Breeders or Wing Clippers?

Pigeon Breeders spend hours, days, months, years, breeding these birds. From little hatchlings to big noisy beasts. They love them, care for them, feed them and nurture them. I’m told that like the old Corrie star, Jack Duckworth, they even talk to them. That’s not crazy, expecting a response is! After many years of careful nurturing, the breeders then take their prize possessions many miles from home, in the dead of night and free them to find their way back. They do this knowing, some may never come back. They do this knowing that the adventure they experience may force them off track and lose their way. Some will be lost but others will return, but only briefly before they do it all again. Their love, support and nurturing is unconditional and with the hope that when you’re set free, you never forget where you come from, and some day you will return, safe and well, but better for the experience.

The Wing Clippers spend their entire life keeping feet firmly on the ground. They can’t coax these animals to stay, they force them to stay by altering their genetic ability to soar. Cruelly or not, their purpose is to keep things where they are. To keep control over things. To keep things down. To suppress, to dominate, to dictate, to belittle, to manipulate.

So, the question again… Are you surrounded by Wing Clippers or Pigeon Breeders?

Back to Martha. She has a boyfriend. A decent enough lad, hardworking, but destined for life not far from home. The umbilical cord is still uncut. Unambitious, threatened by success, scared of progress, has a very plush comfort zone and enjoys unsettling and making others feel insecure in their choices. He’s disrespectful, thoughtless and has no ambition. He’s a Wing Clipper. Perhaps he doesn’t see it or is not self-aware enough to see it. Although at 23, you’d think he would realise that there’s more to life than rugby, overtime and drinking. I watch, from a distance, cringing and praying that she will see it for what it is. It’s not just him, there are lots of these kind of people about. In fact, they are in the majority and they threaten to take over the world and make the Pigeon Breeders extinct. These kind of people are interested in only one thing… Themselves. They offer advice on what is best for them. Everything seems well meaning, but it’s only in their best interests that everything is done, followed or given.

On the other hand, I watch my wife Michele. She is 100% a Pigeon Breeder. She’s selfless in her love and support. I think about some of the tight spots I’ve put us in, and the support is endless. Every business opportunity is always greeted with a shrug and raised eyebrows, but caveated with a, “You can do it babe”, every success is met with a, “You deserve it babe”, every disappointment or challenge, “You can get us through this”. She has never wanted to and tried to clip anyone’s wings. Her advice and support is never self-centred or in her best interests. Her advice sometimes puts her, and what she loves at risk, but it’s given to benefit the person receiving the support. She’s amazing, and I wish Martha could find a partner just like her.

As a protective Dad, the instinct is to wade in, say your piece and protect. In reality, life’s greatest lessons are the ones we learn ourselves. The ones born from hurt and failure. I’ll just have to be there to pick up the pieces.

Happy Birthday babe – now jump, build your wings, and see the future… We’ll always be there to catch you.