My god, what a life I’ve had! Taking the long view, the wide angle, the perspective of almost 60 years, now I can see what a charmed and fascinating ramble it’s been! I remember as a young woman of 21 just embarking on the adult pathway, realizing in a profound moment of clarity (while sitting in a hot car at a traffic light) that, for me, the most important thing was to create. To be creative. To make a creation. Without that, life was naught.
And then I got forced into the economic necessities of living a life independently, unmarried, out from under my parent’s roof, and the most important thing became food, shelter, clothing — survival. Creativity became a side gig — but it never stopped, still enchanted me, still wound its way sinuously into my imagination, issuing forth at various opportunities. I took photographs for local papers, for friends’ weddings, for myself; played trumpet and guitar in small ensembles; wrote poems and short stories that were rejected. I’ve since written books, screenplays, blog posts; created websites, short films, photo shows. All for my own personal satisfaction. These are just some of the creations I recall as I walk through my home from room to room, and find each space sparkling with some creation of mine, or the remnants or beginnings of some creation.
I am a creator. I have been creating all this time and have done everything I wanted–even while working that other job.
My life will end soon, at least the life of work that both fostered and obstructed my creativity. For some 33 years, I have chosen work that I did not enjoy (much) and that was not creative (much) so that I could both survive on my own as an independent woman, and create. I was enormously lucky to find such work and be good at it. That life of servitude is soon over. In 33 years, I have saved enough money to provide a modest financial nest, and so, my looming “retirement” signals a new creative season.
This is a bit terrifying, I must admit. What to do? Where to begin? First of all, it is a tremendous relief not to be financially dependent upon the success or quality of any of my coming creations. It won’t matter in the least if anyone likes or approves of them. This was the purpose of those 33 years of menial laboring: to have the remainder of my years devoted to pure creativity, purely for the sake of my own creative fulfillment. Stories to tell, ideas to lasso, projects to plan. Discipline to myself and my own creative muse, who leads me to trails and pushes me down the path. Even now, I find some hesitation, some doubt hovering near — who am I to think I can create? What if I fail, again? What if I find myself awash in humiliation and ego, shamed and shrinking from the taskmaking set before me? A tiny imp jumps inside screaming, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t! You’re not capable of creating anything good!
But there’s the response: it doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to succeed. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, not even me. It only matters that it is expressed into the world, shaped and formed by the mold I make for it. No one else in the history of the world can do this, and not to do it is a betrayal of my very birth.
It is the only thing that matters — to create. And in the end, my creations are the only things I will leave behind.
“What are you going to do after retirement?”
“I am going to create everything I want to create, with joy and abandon and no thought of where it might end up. I am going to plan my projects, be disciplined with my actions, and collaborate with anyone who makes me happy.”