Life in a rush.
The Rome Termini Station.
Lately I seem to have come across a bevy of 55-63 year old men who are having some regrets about the trajectory of their lives. They are affluent, well educated and have spent the last twenty-five to thirty-five years of their lives pursuing safe, secure and financially rewarding careers in jobs that they essentially find boring and mundane. Routine is another word that often comes up in conversation.
They would like to have been photographers, writers or film makers. They made a different choice and now they are confronting the realization that they missed the right opportunity to jump off the train before it got up to speed and made jumping unsafe; even dangerous.
In most cases their kids are grown and they have put away enough money to survive for the rest of their lives. But in the course of having real careers they have also come to crave not only the security of a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly job but also the money that comes attached to the deal.
While they might take a leap into the unknown and leave work to pursue their life long passions most will chaff at the idea of not "retiring well" and will keep working until they burn out entirely or retire for health issues. Shot knees. Bad backs. High blood pressure. Exhaustion.
I'd like to be able to make some little homily to make it all seem like a worthy and elegant trade-off but I can't and I won't. Everyone gets to make their choice. Everyone has to live with their choices. And the grass always seems greener on the other side.
I've tried to have it both ways but that doesn't really work either.
At some point you move in one direction or the other. For the artist it always seems too late to change gears and find a way to quickly make enough money to offset the perilous and ill paying journey of a life time of experimentation and risk taking before old age sets in with a vengeance. Poor artists.
On the other hand the late 50's seems too late to leave the routine of a job and paycheck behind in order to embrace the uncertainty of an artistic calling that seems ever aimed at youngsters and madmen. Could you give up the Mercedes in the driveway and the charge cards for the spouse? Are you willing to be considered "eccentric" by society in general?
I have advice for you if you are younger and on the cusp of making these sorts of life altering choices. Don't believe that security trumps excitement, passion, power and purpose. If nothing else, accepting the challenge of doing your own art on your terms will give you stories to tell long after the rest of the nursing home residents have taken their medications and fallen into a fitful sleep. Waking from time to time to regret that life was short and they traded the spice for pablum.
I know a film maker who is constantly on the edge of financial dissolution but he's making his work and plying his craft and he's still having a blast at 55. His credo? "I'll do this right up until the day I die!" What employee would say the same thing about their job?
It's not too late to save yourself. Drop the spreadsheets into the trash can on your way out the door, grab your camera (or pen or paintbrush) and live. Everything else is peppered with regret.
Why have I written this? Because I've been on the other side of the table having coffee with at least a dozen different people in my age cohort who agonize over their choices and include me in their introspective conversation. What can I offer with authenticity but my own journey?
And no, it does not matter which brand of camera you pick up....