The Path Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference – Robert Frost

From the time we are born we grow old. This age thing is something that we all must face. As we travel the age path no two journeys are the same. There are stories that are frightening as we hear of tragedy, sickness, trauma, and desperation. Then again, we hear stories of jubilation and celebration, often as aging sparks a renewed interest in life. These stories happen to other people, what about our own? We only travel this path once for there is no cure for aging, so we do not expect to travel a second time.

              Reflecting on the road I have travelled so far; it has been an interesting journey. I was lucky to have been born into a loving family who held good values which were instilled in me from an early age. I have my parents to thank for that. I am kind, thoughtful, and intelligent and I have a passion for the things that interest me. I sound good, don’t you think? Well, that is not enough to propel you through life as our aging path requires different values and attributes.

              My turning point in life was two catalysts, one was turning sixty, and the other was a deep-seated desire to step off my path into the unknown and try something different. Turning sixty was a wake-up call as before then I was complacent as I went about my work and personal life. In my career I was a high achiever, I rose to heights I never thought possible. I had influence, and I was successful in most things I set my mind to. I received awards and recognition from my colleagues, peers, employer, and government agencies. I felt special and this gives you a sense of security and reinforcement that you can achieve anything. That is great and so many people would love to have that recognition. Do not get me wrong I appreciate these achievements and would not have wanted anything to change, and, in a way, this is what made me start thinking about other choices. At this time, I was happily married to the most inspirational and creative man, who I will now add is also struggling along with his own less travelled path of aging. The stability of a relationship allows you the opportunity to take chances and look for opportunities outside the well-worn path.

              There was a feeling in me that I could try something new and see where it took me. With these thoughts circulating wildly inside my head I began to explore new territories and experiences. I knew there was a creative urge and I had dabbled previously in drawing and painting. I had used charcoal which enabled me to put structure around my visual images and with the left side of my brain I was able to draw upside-down portraits of classmates. These surprised me as when I turned them around there was a perfect portrait. I asked myself – ‘did you really draw this?’ With this achievement I began to think about what you see in the world can change and perspective gives way to fantasy. Having drawn these surprise portraits, I ventured into landscapes and became fascinated with buildings surrounded by trees. Somehow this contrast between nature and manufactured structures made me think of the contrasts in my own life and how choices for relaxation and holidays were a blend of these two images.

              It was not until I started a watercolour class with an eccentric artist that my creativity began to be unleashed. Watercolours enabled a free-flowing creation that resulted from the delicate stroke of the brush with a snippet of paint on the tip. The gradual increase of colour gave rise to images of flowers, water, and sky. Slowly guided by eccentricity I was experimenting with colour, shapes, and design all adding to a new path and a new direction. Social outings with classmates at local Lebanese restaurants enabled us to support each other’s efforts in this newfound experience of exploration.

              Alas, the path became muddied as I tried to combine work and creativity, and each suffered from a lack of attention. The big six zero loomed and I began to think of other ways of stepping off into a less travelled path of creativity. Then I found words…the saying goes that the first step on the journey of a thousand words is one word. I always liked to write, most formal scientific writing but I loved the new world that opened to people when they began to explore their abilities to put words together and make something inspirational. In my work, I had been teaching nurses how to write policies, many of whom had never really written a sentence before, let alone something creative. This is a fallout of technology and electronic charting in health care, choosing from a drop-down list that generates a sentence is not writing and it has taken away the ability of humans to write and put meaning into their writing. To watch these nurses, examine documents and re-write in their own creative style was such a joy. I guided them through basic grammar and how to make their work interesting, appealing, and readable. This gave me such satisfaction as I saw the power of words really work and create excitement.

              This inspired my own exploratory path as I ventured into the uncharted territory of creative writing. I had always been an avid reader devouring books was something that took me into unknown worlds of fantasy, fortune, and reality. I had favourite authors whose words inspired me and others whose ideas drove me into situations unimaginable. So exciting. I decided to take the challenge and see what I could do as a creative writer. This was something that would certainly either distract or enhance my journey through aging in my later years. Seeds of doubt entered my thoughts, did I have the imagination, where do the ideas come from, could I inspire readers with my words, was my vocabulary strong enough? Only one way to find out.

              Where do I start? Obviously, do a course I thought. Which one? Who is the best? Should I join a group? Do I do face to face or online? Which is the most convenient? All these thoughts played havoc in my mind, and I was becoming totally distracted. Unsure of what to write or how to go about it I started to draw on my own thoughts, experiences, and observations to think about stories where I could be creative. This was certainly a less travelled path and feelings of failure started to surface. Having been a high achiever and successful for most of my life this was a scary choice. Fear can also propel you to succeed, and I became determined to make a go of this. I started writing ‘blogs’ if that is what you call short stories inspired by a situation. Travelling gave me inspiration and all I needed now was to put my thoughts and ideas into words.

              Determined I embarked on an online writing course for fictional writers. Wow-what a journey that turned out to be. I had exercises that pushed me to explore my feelings, feedback that was challenging to accept and other students’ work to comment on. All of this was a challenge and it made me determined to do it and look for opportunities that could help me navigate these unchartered waters. However, I was still looking for that idea, story, or thread to write about.

              Sometimes ideas come from the most unlikely sources or experiences. Using an idea inspired by landscape I was wandering through Hampstead Heath taking note of the beauty, the wildness, the unforgotten paths, and the historical buildings, the idea came to me. I was fascinated with this wild beauty. I read all I could about the history, the characters, the buildings, and the ghosts. Do I believe in ghosts? Well, something inside me told me that there was a possibility and if you let your imagination run wild of course there are ghosts. The ghosts are the spirits we have, our guiding angels who help us along untrodden paths.

              I have come to find solace in ghosts or spirits and to use them as my guide. By taking chances and walking on an uncharted territory these spirits have enabled me to see a new path and opportunities for creativity. My ghosts are in Hampstead on the Heath, and they have inspired me to create characters, situations, and plots that have formed themselves into chapters and soon into a novel.

              So, from one less travelled path leading to another, and another, and this certainly is my inspiration for my journey forward. I live for the day I see rewards for my efforts whether that be in Sydney, London or Paris is yet to be revealed.

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