“Either forgive or forget” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Will Nguyen by © Camila Gargantini

Will and I exchanged emails for a good few weeks before we finally managed to schedule a time for our shoot. And while he was a man of few words in his emails and over the phone, I felt very comfortable meeting him in person. Will is a local entrepreneur… a super nice guy, a bit shy at first but with a big heart. He just has a way to keep to himself but open up when the opportunity comes about. We had a lot of fun shooting and we couldn’t have chosen a better place for this portrait than the back entrance to his store, Get Fresh Company in Toronto. – Camila G

By © Camila Gargantini

An Interview with Will

Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?

A. To know me is to know that my life’s one big party, so my birthdays are nothing short of belligerent madness. But if I was to search for a more pure, wholesome memory, I’d say my 12th birthday. Or was it my 13th? We weren’t rich growing up. So we didn’t do anything extravagant, especially in comparison to the other kids at my school. My mom had me invite over only 5 of my best friends. She made us spring rolls and I think we ordered pizza. We sat in a circle on the living room floor, eating and staring at each other awkwardly. Maybe it was just awkward for me. I don’t think kids were as open to foreign cuisine as they are now. I was just wondering if they liked the spring rolls. Eventually we played some video games but of course I didn’t have the newest system. So when we all got bored of staring at squares on my TV, we decided to run around my building playing cops and robbers. And when we got tired of that, we dared each other to say “Bloody Mary” 3 times in the washroom with the lights off! So we all went in, huddled on the floor, shouted it out 3 times and screamed and ran out because we thought we saw a face flashing in the mirror. lol. I’m sure it was just our imagination, but it was sure funny. Anyhow, that’s the only sober birthday I can remember.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. I’m sure a girl broke up with me on my birthday before. I’m sure she thought it would be epic and super dramatic. Sadly for her, I forgot all about it! …Until now anyways. *sigh lol

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

A. In all honesty, I have a horrible memory. I don’t really remember my birthday gifts, usually because I never get any. I usually wake up forgetting it’s my birthday until someone calls me…or doesn’t call me. But maybe the most surprising gift ever…is any gift I’ve ever received. I don’t expect much from anyone, so anytime I ever get anything is always a surprise to me. I think I’m so caught up with moving through my life at such a fast pace that it surprises me that anyone ever slows down their life to think of me and get me anything. It sounds silly, but it’s true. Expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed, and always surprised.

Q. Is there one food or dish that you insist on eating during your birthday celebration?

A. Not particularly. But if there’s going to be cake, I’m going to need some nice herbal tea. My body doesn’t handle all that sugar the same anymore! lol

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

A. Progress. Everyone says another birthday is another day you’re closer to the hole (as in death). But I think of every birthday as a day closer to my goals and dreams. A new year should celebrate all that you’ve gained in the last 12 months, and all that you’ve summed up the courage to subtract from your life. Progress is always the key. Especially when you’re old. Progress keeps you young.

Q. Do you/your family/culture have any traditions/rituals/ceremonies that are performed to celebrate birthdays? What is it?

A. In all honesty, my family isn’t as conventional as I wish it would have been. I celebrate with each of my parents separately. And it’s never anything particularly special. My mom would always just cook me something she know I’d like and then leave me and my brother to eat it while watching TV. My dad would usually just take me to Swiss Chalet because that’s where he ate at least once a week. lol. Maybe there are cultural traditions, but they were never a part of my upbringing.