Today is my 50th birthday. I have had a hard time with this one. My 40s were amazing, the best decade of my life. Turning 50 has made me feel remorseful. It isn't just the getting older part that I am struggling with.
I often feel like I am at the beginning of my journey. That I am where I should have been twenty years ago. These sentiments are related to my craft, silversmithing. I am at a point where my technical skills are catching up with my vision. I am developing my own voice. Underneath everything, there is the fear that I started down this path too late in life. And that I am crazy for thinking I can do something with it.
I am inspired by people like Lisa Congdon, who took her first art class at 31 and is now a successful painter and illustrator. She has written about getting older (we are about the same age), determination, and perseverance.
In one blog post, I felt like Lisa was speaking to me personally when she wrote:
That painting class changed my life. Not in a big explosive way. And not overnight. But it set me on a trajectory that led to what I do today. Fifteen years later, I am a working artist. At first it was a hobby — a hobby that gained momentum and grew exponentially as I grew artistically and as I began to share my work on the Internet, which was relatively new at the time. Then several years later, in 2007, I left my job and began my self-employed life.
Along the way, there was no guidebook for me. I was self taught, and I'd never gone to art school. I was intimidated by the art world and had no clue about the worlds of illustration or licensing. Even selling my work on a platform like Etsy (also new back then) felt overwhelming. But over the course of time, I asked a lot of questions to whoever would listen and I read as much as I could. I tried new things. I kept a blog. As awkward as it felt, I began to spread the word about what I was making through all the ways that were available to me — in hopes that people would buy it, or want to hire me for an illustration job, or ask me to be in a gallery show.
And for a few years, all that effort felt frustrating. Stuff happened (the sales, the illustration jobs, the shows), but it came slowly. My income didn't add up to as much as I wanted or needed. But the art-making part was so fulfilling to me (in a way I had never experienced) that I kept at it, with the hope that some day I would hit a tipping point and begin to make a regular, full time income as an artist. I was determined.
I have been thinking about and planning my birthday for some time. I told Roger that I didn't want a party or a big to-do. All I really wanted was to be someplace else. I envisioned taking our little trailer to a remote lake and spending a couple of weeks camping with our dogs.
Things often don't work out the way you think they will. As it turned out, we had to change our plans and see my family. So Roger and I drove to North Idaho, with the dogs, and trailer in tow. While it hasn't been the trip I pictured, it has been lovely. We are situated on ten acres of beautiful forested land not far from the Canadian border. The dogs spend their days playing or basking in the sun. Roger and I spend our days quietly- cooking and doing a few chores. In the afternoon, I work in the little outdoor studio I have set up.
In the evening, we sit on the deck and watch the hummingbirds take turns at the feeder. They have such fierce hearts for such tiny, delicate creatures. Hummingbirds will even take on crows and hawks to defend their territory. I marvel at their spirit and determination.
I look towards the next decade. I know where I want to go, but am not sure how I am going to get there. The path will be full of hills and valleys, a few bends, and likely some brambles and thorns.
I believe the key is determination paired with daily work. I aspire to have the heart of a hummingbird.
50 will come and go. I will work in my studio today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
Roger and I will have a lovely dinner tonight with candles and champagne, set outside on this exquisite piece of land.
One more day will pass. The dishes still need to be done and the dogs have to be fed. There is joy in that simplicity.