No Regrets – by Robin Archbold
The subject matter, especially the first two regrets, resonated so powerfully with my wife, Jo and I (49 and 63 years old) that we’ve decided to change our lives before it’s too late.
Regret 1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Regret 2: I wish I didn’t work so hard.
I have had a love affair with words, written, spoken and sung, from a very early age. I took a 30-year hiatus as I attended to my careers and family. I returned to writing and performing poetry after my divorce in 1998. Twenty years of real estate and three bouts of depression later, I sold my agency in 2006 to pursue my creative dreams at the age of 53. I was fortunate to have the support of Jodie who worked as a nurse educator and then nurse practitioner while I gained a creative writing degree and performed my poetry and storytelling at major festivals and other venues throughout Australia. Now it’s her turn.
Jodie’s always had an aptitude for art, but was discouraged by her high school art teacher’s opinion of her work as ‘too cute’. In her early 20s, a chance tour with famous illustrator Alan Lee (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Faeries with Brian Froud) of his barn studio in Devon validated her passion for fantasy and folklore. She renewed sculpting and drawing her favourite subjects. For the next quarter-century she learned and honed a range of skills.
Her current focus is on pencil portraits. At the beginning of the year, she tentatively asked on Facebook if anyone wanted her to do a portrait for them. She received 20 commissions before the end of the day, but because she works full-time, only does one every few weeks. What she can do with blocks of femo—the plasticised clay—and paintbrush and pencil is the stuff of fantasy. She was always ahead of the trends; steampunk, owls, foxes. She always knew what was coming. She’s worked her way up the nursing ladder; from private care of aging British lords in English country manors, to remote aboriginal settlements on the Gulf of Carpentaria, to nurse practitioner at Nambour Hospital and project management for the new Sunshine Coast University Hospital. Experienced and highly proficient as she is, stress is ever present and takes its toll.
The Turning Point, The Plan and The Leap
Time, health and willpower run out eventually, and windows of opportunity to make dreams come true close with age and infirmity. Jodie wants to spend more time with our 11-year-old daughter Ella before she leaves home. In October this year, Jodie quit the high-powered career and took a well-earned break. She has a two-day position as a nurse practitioner to return to, and I am a sessional academic at the University of the Sunshine Coast.There is a base level of income to pay most bills, but nothing for frills. We have a little house on the Range at Mapleton with a modest ocean view and a lovely studio we made in our beautiful garden. The plan is to combine our successful career experiences and well-honed skills to create and sell our creativity from home via the Internet and other avenues. We have no delusions; according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average annual income for a professional writer is $12,480. Artists are similarly poorly paid. This does not encourage someone to leave a well-paid job. It will require brains, application and teamwork, but our skillsets and combined experience should stand us in good stead.
There is still a degree of trepidation of course, but leaps into the unknown are sometimes the lesser of the two evils, despite the fear. Most people have a dream life tucked away, but choose the ‘safe’ option. We all have a ‘What if?’ or ‘If only’ as demonstrated by Bronnie Ware’s ‘Regret 1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself.’
We’re both creative on a number of levels; with a combination of excellent presentation skills, sales and promotional acumen, and very high professional standards with proven work ethics. Jodie’s far more organised, efficient and disciplined than I am, and I’m more entrepreneurial. If we utilise our skills cooperatively, we can succeed at our new venture.
My contribution will consist of freelance writing and editing, writing novels and eBooks, running school poetry, writing and performance workshops, writing programs through libraries, and fees for performance poetry and storytelling at festivals and other venues.
Jodie’s will be to produce drawings, paintings, and portraits, some of which can be used to produce prints to sell online or via markets. She can also run various artistic workshops in her garden studio, an enterprise for which she’s perfectly suited.
So, here I sit writing this story for Pastiche, for which I’ll receive a small payment. Well-paid Woodford gigs are coming up, and there’s an eBook to publish and a first novel to complete. After Christmas, we formulate the business plan that we’ll put into practice next year. The goal is to see if we can make the dream a reality.We want to live a life true to ourselves, rather than one daywonder what might have been if only we’d had the courage to take the leap.