“The highest calling, perhaps, is to be true to oneself” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Matt Stata by © Jeannette Breward

“For my brother Matt’s portrait, we decided to go to the rooftops of Toronto. More specifically, to the Sky Garden atop a building at the University of Toronto where Matt is completing his PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, specializing in Molecular Plant Physiology. As a major green thumb, Matt spends a lot of his time maintaining the Sky Garden. He helped to establish it at U of T in 2009, and worked to build it into a full fledged garden in 2010 when they received a grant from Live Green Toronto. The food grown at the Sky Garden is donated to local food banks, and is also shared amongst the volunteers of the garden. It’s a pretty amazing place run by some dedicated individuals!”

Image and text by © Jeannette Breward

An Interview with Matt

Q. What is the best memory you have from a previous birthday?

A. Probably my 12th birthday party, where an unfinished basement sleepover (not sure who thought that was a good idea) turned into an every-man-for-himself battle royale in total darkness with projectile Life Savers candy as the weapon of choice. It’s the kind of birthday you just don’t get anymore as an adult.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. I haven’t really had a bad birthday… One rather odd experience would been the time I woke up to dozens of Happy Birthday messages in October (my birthday is in January) because some joker at work had messed around with my Facebook profile when I neglected to log out. That was a tad jarring, thinking I’d accidentally slept for three months.

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that surprised you most?

A. Probably an unexpected cake or batch of cupcakes. I don’t really expect a cake as an adult and it’s always a nice surprise.

Q. Is there a food or dish that you insist on eating on your birthday?

A. Absolutely. It is a fermented beverage made from malted barley. I believe it’s called beer.

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. It’s always nice to be the center of your own holiday. Sometimes, people buy you beer!

Q. Do you have any traditions or thing you always do to celebrate a birthday? What is it?

A. Nothing out of the ordinary. Certainly no secret society meetings where we review our plans for world domination and the birthday-celebrant’s role in said schemes…. No further questions.