Tuesday, 24 June 2014

How Fear of Bad Spelling and Poor Composition Cost Me Twenty Years

I've felt a restlessness since I turned 40. It's not a crisis. I'm not unhappy. But there is definitely this feeling inside me that there's more; there has to be more.

To be fair, it started before the big  4-0. I think it came with the realisation that I was no longer in a career, I was simply in a job. A good job, mind you, one that has sustained me for many years. It has seen me marry, buy a house, have children, buy a new house, start my children in school and has even outlived a beloved pet.

But it was through all of those life changing, personal endeavours that my career came to a halt. I was no longer going somewhere. The opportunity to progress at work all but dried up and blew away. What's more, my desire for it to be anything more dried up and blew away with it! My career became a job, which became a means to an end.  And that, my friends, became sad.

I never really indulged the idea of quitting my job - I needed it. I still do, even more so now that husband has started his own business. But I started to think more and more about what it is that I actually like doing and gradually, over the last couple of years, I've started doing them: painting, drawing, writing and even a bit of gardening.

When I was about 20 years old, I told my bestie that I really wanted to write a book, but I didn't know what to write about. I have carried that thought with me ever since and found that when ideas started to spawn, I was so entrenched in my life that I was unable to do anything with them.

But in 2011 I enrolled in a writing course and I absolutely loved it. That gave me some direction for a children's book I had been thinking about and also led me to start a second writing project. Both are still works-in-progress,  albeit a long, drawn out, frustrating and seemingly endless progression!

My  husband, who was clearly tuned into my "I want to do that!" whining and whinging, bought me a load of art supplies for Christmas 2012. My  biggest fear was people - family included - seeing what I was doing. I was so scared of failing. The thought of somebody saying, or even thinking "why is she doing this?" was enough to stop me from doing it at all. I had every other excuse, of course, from the hassle of cleaning up, to not having the space and that the children simply wouldn't leave me alone long enough to squeeze a dab of colour onto a palette let alone create a masterpiece.

But one rainy day in January 2013, I took the plunge. With great instruction to the kids not to touch (or no iPad for a week!) and firm words to husband not to look, I set up my easel in the corner of the family lounge room and I painted a picture.

My first painting. The kids wanted me to add a shark and a starfish. I didn't.

And I loved doing it. Frankly, I was neither here nor there on the painting itself, although I was probably happy with it given how long it had been since I'd even held a brush (not counting fat, clumsy children's brushes with their wayward bristles and chew marks).

I asked my husband that afternoon if he'd mind if I left my easel set up in the lounge room as I thought I might want to do another painting soon. I did and the easel has been there ever since.

So I still have my job and that's not likely to change. But I've finally stopped with the "one day" mantra and just started doing. Outside work, family and the TV that I simply can't push away (you know the ones, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Ray Donovan) I make time for the stuff  that, in all honesty,  I wish I'd at least tried to build a career on when I was younger.

My life is now at a remarkable stage. I couldn't do these things when I was younger because I was so afraid of not being good at it. Maturity and a faint ticking clock have finally enabled me to just do it and care not about failing. Now, I feel that failing is not doing it at all.

Let's be clear: I'm not doing anything exceptional. It's not profitable, it's not polished and half the time, it's not even good! But it's fun. I like it. And that's the difference.

What about you? Are you doing the things that you really want to do?


  1. Love your reality check Lisa. Couldn't have put some of those words better.
    The reality is if life isn't dealing the cards you want you have to stack the deck yourself. Easy to say and 95% of people don't do anything about it.
    Its unfortunate that career ambition can be halted by a business structure/ lack of employee advancement or lack there of and what is more unfortunate is that so many companies still operate this way and think its ok.
    From the age of 40 onwards employees should be relishing their roles and passing on their abundance of experience onto others or expanding into different fields. Its amazing how when you talk to people across various industries what some companies have in place re succession planning, life work balance, internal training and simply a focus on employee advancement.
    I know of 1 company that has an internal University , has succession planning to the point the managers MUST identify their successor and then mentor them for 2 years and has a program in place to ensure each employee focuses on what makes them a better person outside of the workplace. Not all companies can do this to this extent BUT every company can do something and has an obligation to its employees. A Xmas party isn't enough! Really makes you understand what a working life should be. My comment is if the company isn't about making you be awesome or letting you be awesome then you have every right to question why you should stay there. The alternative is that in the next 5 to 10 years you will be either miserable at work or become obsolete to them and they will cast you aside with little regard.
    Keep focusing on what makes you happy Lisa. Your book , your creative talent. All sounds awesome and thats what you want to be all the time.

  2. Thanks for your feedback Danny, really appreciated and it sounds like you've been dealing with some fabulous companies lately. As you say, we just have to focus on what makes us happy. I hope you'll follow my blog and stay in touch.