Ponderings On A Milestone and A Life Collaged

Advisement: Long, sometimes droll, post on the vagaries of life and birthdays. Pass if you want !

My birthday is fast approaching and with it I also approach a milestone. I will turn 60. I've never been much bothered by any birthdays in the past but this one seems to be niggling at me a bit. It's now obvious that there are far less years ahead of me than there are behind me. Time is the only thing that we can never get back and I simply can't help but think back to all of the many woulda, shoulda, coulda's of my life... the paths taken and those not taken. I have been thinking a lot about the potential careers that I could easily have pursued had I known that the potential existed and had I had a push in the right directions.

I hope that by the time "the day" rolls around it will be anti-climatic..... just another day in the adventure of living. We all have some moments of "if I could have a do-over" I suppose and recently I have made a list. The one thing that always is on my list is 'being an artist'. I wish I had had a stronger level of self-confidence when I was younger (heck - now too for that matter!) and could have made myself figure out a way to make art school happen. In the next breath, however, I think that even if I had done that I know that I would have had financial concerns just as I had when I turned away from artistic pursuits in order to find a career that had more lucrative potential. I became involved in aviation for just that purpose (as well as to prove to myself and others that I actually had a left brain!) and although I think it was a good career in many, many ways in the end it didn't feed my soul the way I needed it to. Ultimately, I turned my back on the lucrative job and retirement plan to re-invent myself in a place that spoke to my heart. I guess I am happy that I made that decision because I have had a richer life because of it - and I do get to be more creative than that I could be when work schedules and the weather forecast wreaked havoc on my body as well as my soul

I distinctly remember when I might wake up with  puffy eyes and, by mid morning, they looked fine again. Now when I wake up with puffy eyes the puffiness remains- more or less - all of the time. I remember when sleeping would revitalize me; a time when I could work all week, play in the evenings and party on the weekends and still be able to get up and get to work on Monday. There always seemed to be plenty of time for everything. There was also a time when I could get up at 4am to make our "red-eye" ferry, shop all day and make a late ferry home and be able to go work to work the next morning with nothing more onerous than a bit fatigue. Now not only can I no longer have that kind of day but just going to the mainland requires a day or two of rest to get back into the game. I look in the mirror and see a more wizened face but on good days I feel no different than I did at 30. I remember asking my 'adopted' grandmother, Velma, what it felt like to be 90 and she said much the same as I have been thinking; that although she could no longer physically do all of the things she used to do in her mind she felt the sane as ever. Does that mean that our minds are ageless - is it that souls are ageless and simply change out the aging body?

I have moments when I feel like I simply have to choose one artistic pursuit and leave the others behind. Like I want to clear the decks and focus on a single thing. ..... but which single thing would I choose? I'm not sure I can do it and yet I feel like I should for some reason. I have visions of a pristine desk with very few items on it. A vase, perhaps, with a single beautiful bloom, a pad of one sort or another, some inks and pens and my IPod speaker (very small). I imagine that sense of order and discipline and wonder if I have that in me. My desk is generally overrun with all manner of papers, pens, inks, paints, books, glues, sewing machine, computer, and stacks and stacks of valuable art materials everywhere.  This too makes happy - it is, after all, me. 

At one point in my life I moved 9 times in 10 years for work related reasons. I never accumulated much and, until about 25 years ago I had no time and no place to collect much of anything. Even my furniture was often rented so that a move to the next post would be easier and less expensive. Maybe I hoard these precious art supplies now because I spent so many years when work and advancement was all that mattered to me. When I moved to the island I gave away my briefcases, my high heels and my chic business suits. I stopped having my nails done (that WAS a relief!) and found that comfort became me!  I don't think I would recognize myself if I saw a photo of those days!

I am grateful to have had the years I've had and to look forward to the years to come - but this passage, for some odd reason is more sobering than anything I have felt before.  Not all bad - just conducive to thoughtful evaluation.  

And what of you? Have you had any birthdays that made you more reflective? Have you ever thought that you should pare your interests down? What did you do about it? Share your thoughts with me.


  1. I remember 30 being a horrible shock, and 40 being very freeing up - I decided I wasn't going to be pushed around be anyone and would make my own decisions (and did so for a surprising amount of the time after that); sixty was a time to pause and take a different course (with care I was able to retire a short time after that). And I'm still 19 inside my head!

  2. What a great post, Marie, and so filled with that longing we all seem to feel with each milestone. I want to affirm that I love your art work and think of you as AN ARTIST! (But I also have those doubts and insecurities.) And I believe that the busy career days you experienced somehow gave you a deeper well in which to dip for your creative flow now.

  3. Such touching candor, Marie. I'm sure you wrote much of what so many of us think at some point in our lives.

    I'm just past 50 and due to the scare of my life (breast cancer) a few years ago, I, too, have reviewed my life and considered my own mortality. I, too, feel compelled to create more and to "work for the man" less. I don't dwell on "might have beens" even thought there are so many mostly because I've had a pretty good life and have been lucky in so many ways. I've had so much more in my life than I ever imagined possible. Now I'm working hard to find the energy and time to "leave a legacy" which, for me, is my blog and quilts for the people I love.

    I so appreciate your putting these thoughts on your blog. You're not alone. SO not alone.

    And, by the way, you ARE an artist. You don't have to go to school to be one. It will make a world of difference to you to be able to say "I'm an artist". You should practice saying it out loud ... to yourself over and over again. And one day when you meet someone new and they ask what you do, say, "I'm an artist" ... and then talk about your medium.

    I heard my daughter and her friends talking about this very issue and they're all about 23 years old. When do you start calling yourself an "artist" or a "writer" without being afraid that someone will challenge you or call you a fraud? What they have discovered is that by believing it of themselves and by projecting that confidence in being an artist of writer to others, it has meant that others take them more seriously and doors have opened that might not have otherwise.

    Just sayin ...

  4. Turning 50 was hard for me. Not because of my age, but because that is when my body started showing it wear and tear. My 60th is near also. I am looking forward to it because I really haven't enjoyed the 50's. I am learning to be more accepting of what I can do rather than focusing on what I can no longer do. I have found my voice and no longer jump when other want me to. I am also struggling with the "artist" name tag. I try not to dwell on the fact that I "should" have taken art classes when I went back to college in my mid thirties. My rational was that accounting pays the bills, art does not. But I still wonder - what if......

  5. This was very interesting to read, and well-written. I am turning 55 this year, and I often think many of the same things. I am not going to handle it very well, I believe. Even though I've never really been thrown by any other birthday (it's just a number, I'd say), this one has me thinking about my mother who is gone and the times in my life I feel I wasted a bit of effort, even though all of it has made me who I am! I'm very thankful, too, but it's natural to think about the inexorable march of time and feel powerless and a bit frustrated. But it's good in that it's helping me to remember to enjoy every minute! My life is really wonderful right now!


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