Living the Dream - The Tonic www.thetonic.co.uk

Living the dream – are our later years the perfect playground for creativity?

We don’t peak until late middle age, so say the experts. So how about realising those long-held dreams?

Have you heard about the U-Shaped Happiness Curve? It’s a phenomenon of sorts that economists have recently ‘discovered’. Apparently, life satisfaction declines from our early 20s until we hit our 50s. Then it turns around and rises, right through our late adulthood.

After a lifetime of trudging to work, chasing the dollar and paying the bills, perhaps you are a little wiser and financially safer, so could now be a good time to pursue those things you wish you had done in an earlier life?

I’m talking about those artistic and creative endeavours that once interested you, but were put aside in order to bring up a family and to cater for their needs. Like being in a band, making art, writing fiction, taking to the stage – letting your creative juices and inner-personality flow. We all have them, don’t we?

Perhaps that a lifetime of learning and graft can be applied to whatever creative activity floats your boat

This U-shaped pattern has been found in countries and cultures around the world; a version of it has even been detected in chimpanzees and orangutans! For sure, this is a huge generalisation, but the point is that an individual’s life goes through many phases, and that once you get to around 50 opportunities can open up. We realise that (all things being equal) we don’t shrivel up and die, and perhaps that a lifetime of learning and graft can be applied to whatever creative activity floats your boat.

Claire spent her life raising kids and teaching. She had always wanted to be a singer. With her husband John, who is a talented musician and producer, she is now spending a great deal of her time doing just that. Making music, releasing records, performing live and doing the sorts of things she had only previously dreamt about. They aspire to carving out a livelihood doing just that, and it seems to be working.

This year they launched an EP, and are gigging around the country including performing at the world famous Cropredy festival in Oxfordshire, an event organised by folk-rock legends Fairport Convention. It’s hard work being a DIY artist, but for Claire it’s the fulfilment of a lifetime’s ambition:

“I met John through music, at a band audition. Music has always been a huge part of both our lives. We’ve always prioritised writing, recording and performing but when we started Dandelion Charm it was clearly the best project either of us had ever done. In a way that made the decision to leave teaching easier.

I was terrified about turning my back on the so-called security of my career, but I don’t regret it in the slightest

“I’m not going to lie; I was terrified about turning my back on the so-called security of my career, but I don’t regret it in the slightest. Dandelion Charm is our life and now that I can devote more time to the business side of things brilliant opportunities are opening up for us. It’s a real cliché but it’s a dream coming true and the best bit is knowing that I have made it happen for myself after many years of facilitating others.”

My friend Patrik has always been a great writer of songs on his acoustic guitar, and who regularly posts them on his Facebook page. He moved to Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada a couple of years ago with his wife and teenage son, and was finally persuaded to get on the open mic circuit, to sing and play his songs in front of an audience.

He doesn’t harbour huge ambition, or kid himself that he’ll be rich and famous through his music at this stage in his life. To find a creative outlet has become the goal itself; from writing the songs and learning that craft, to performing them live. It’s what he always wanted to do, and now he does it. Who knows where it might take him.

Although she studied Fine Art at college, she wasn’t confident enough at the time to develop her creative impulses

Another good friend of mine Sian also spent her life raising a family and training and working as a psychotherapist counsellor before she became inspired one day to pick up a camera and start documenting her life and the life of those close to her, particularly her daughters, Alice and Martha. Although she studied Fine Art at college, she wasn’t confident enough at the time to develop her creative impulses. But not only did she discover she had an eye for photography, she eventually fully immersed herself in her art, and is now an award-winning documentary and editorial photographer.

Nic works in app development. Tongue-in-cheek he says “I had a full-on mid-life crisis,” and decided to re-visit his first love, acting, as he approached 50. After auditioning for a part in Joe Orton’s black comedy The Ruffian on the Stairs, which he fully expected to fail, he went on to become one of the lead actors in a run at the long-established Brighton’s Little Theatre with the venue’s in-house company. The challenge of being on the stage after a 25 year gap, and the buzz of performing in front of a live audience thoroughly whetted his appetite for more. Subsequently he’s being out and about, auditioning and performing, and looking for paid work.

It had been almost 30 years since I was last on a stage, but now it’s a regular occurrence and I bloody love it

Personally, I joined a choir!! Not any old lets-do-some-contemporary-pop-songs-in-a-choir-style, but a ‘voice ensemble’, directed by a full-time professional, performing original works that fuse the sounds of the Balkans with the Caribbean, and the Middle East with Gregorian Chant. It had been almost 30 years since I was last on a stage, but now it’s a regular occurrence and I bloody love it, even if it is just a hobby alongside my normal work.

I always wanted to sing (and even sang with a couple of bands in my youth), but work and life got in the way. I may not be quite fully living the dream, but there are moments, as there are for many people who are actively being more creative and artistic in their middle-to-late years, where those dreams really do come true…

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Jeff Hemmings

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