Wednesday, May 4, 2011

To hell with Someday

by Juliet

My mother's recent death --and before that, her long slide into ill health and dementia-- taught me precisely the opposite of what my ever-practical and frugal parents would have intended: I'm more determined than ever to live for today. I'm planning on spending my money and my time with abandon and joy and love.

I should mention that I'm a capitalist's nightmare. Shopping malls give me headaches. My stereo is at least twenty years old, and my TV is a cast-off relic the neighbors put out on trash day. I still own (and use) a VCR. My wardrobe might gain or lose a few pieces over the years, but if you compare conference pictures from five years ago to today...well, let's just say I'd prefer the internet didn't have such a long memory.

So I'm a natural saver, and I understand it's important to pay one's bills, and save for a rainy day, and to put away for retirement.

Still, I can't help but notice the following:

1) People sometimes die unexpectedly, never able to enjoy their savings
2) Conversely, a lot of people get progressively ill until they die
3) A whole lot of people never get to enjoy what they've worked so hard for because, by the time they're ready to, they're too old, too sick, or too dead.

So whenever I get too practical, too sensible, I remind myself of the summer I spent in Italy.

My whole life I had a fantasy of studying art "someday". Though I've painted all my life I had never taken an actual class in the subject I loved, because art seemed far too frivolous to pursue seriously.

Then one day, in passing, someone told me about the Florence Institute of Art. My fantasy surged up and took hold of my heart. I tried hard to talk myself out of even thinking about it.

I was self-employed at the time, running my own business. I had no such thing as paid vacation. Work wouldn't get done. I had a young son. There was no legitimate reason to go.

But when I looked into it...it became impossible to say no. I discovered it was affordable (the dollar was strong back then). My six-year-old's father agreed to pay his way. A friend of a friend put me in touch with someone who had a cheap apartment for rent, three blocks from the Duomo. For the price of a plane ticket, a good friend agreed to come along and look after my son while I painted.

I ran out of "someday" excuses, and wound up spending an entire summer in Firenze with my son, one of my best friends, and thousands of the most beautiful, artistic, people in the world.

It still counts as one of the best times in my life.

I don't remember the expense, or the work I didn't do, or the hassle of traveling -- with a child, no less. Instead, I remember the scent of linseed oil and the glistening skin of the artists' models (with no air conditioning, Firenze is a sultry place in July.) I remember holding original Da Vinci drawings in my hands. I remember meandering down the paths of the Boboli gardens, and laughing with my son as we tried to eat our gelato before it melted in the heat. I remember drinking wine in cafes with fellow artists from all over Europe. I remember my son being coddled in restaurant kitchens, playing with local kids in the city pool, and learning to shout "scuzzi!" as we navigated the crowded stone streets of the city.

I remember the magic.

So even though I don't really have the time, the money, or any legitimate reason for doing it...I'm planning on renting a house in the Italian countryside for my 50th birthday, in 2012.

I plan to dedicate the trip to the memory of my mother, a sweet, sensible soul who would have loved to go to Italy, "someday". She never made it.

Any adventurous friends willing to throw caution to the winds, shout carpe diem, and join me?

19 comments:

AnnaC said...

I'll be there...

Juliet Blackwell said...

Anna! So good to see you here ;-) And I'm counting on you to be there...!

amy kennedy said...

Wow. So beautiful, I won't be there -- I have my own diem to carpe, but, what an inspriration!

NoraA said...

That was beautiful. I want to be you when I grow up.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Ha! Nora, you crack me up! But thank you, I think ;-)
And Amy -- I love that we all have our own diem to carpe. Carpe away!

Mysti said...

Me me me me me me me me? Seriously, if there's room for another, count me in!!!!!

So needed this post today. Thank you Julie!!!

I've missed out on stock options, house purchases, and all the things that good Americans strive for. Still, I cherish my memories and the rootless life that led me back to someone very special. A head full of whack choices is a leg up for a writer, no?

Mysti said...

P.S. Tim Gunn says you're doing the clothing thing just right--basic pieces with class, just one or two trendy items to rotate through. You think Coco Chanel had a whole closet of hats? Or just the one or two perfect pieces?

Gigi Pandian said...

What a wonderful idea to do that trip in honor of your mom! I'd love to join you :)

When I was a kid, my mom took me on many of her research travels overseas. We were looking through some old photos on my last visit, and on one of trips when I must have been 12 or 13, she couldn't remember why on earth she had to go to Europe that summer, but we have so many memories about all the fun things we did. It's the good stuff that stays in our memories, and makes it all worthwhile.

Sophie Littlefield said...

me me me me me!! I'm putting it on the calendar now.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Mysti -- you just made my day! Me and Coco Chanel, that's the ticket. And yes, whack choices are the classic writer's training, in my mind ;-)And yes, come to Italy!
You too, Gigi -- I hope my son looks back on those travels with similar affection. I know it had a big impact on him, and brought us closer together. I hope he'll travel with his own kids -- or heck, I'll take 'em 'round the globe!
Sophie -- you'd BETTER put it on your calendar!

Nicole Peeler said...

Already planning on a summer in London, and Italy is just a hop and skip away!!!!! I will DEFINITELY go in for a stint with you!

Also a beautiful blog post. *hugs* You're a lovely lady!

Gloria Oliver said...

So glad you went and are going AGAIN! I had a similar experience but with Japan. Friends were over there and had invited me to stay with each of them. One was coming back to the US, so I had to go then or never to take advantage of the opportunity.
I hoped my husband would talk me out of it, he didn't (I wasn't too surprised, I'm the one who sticks to budgets). Then I was sure the voice of reason would be my Mom. No! She said I absolutely should go. So I did. And it was AWESOME!
Wendy is back in the US and Vaunda died a couple of years ago. She never returned from living in Japan, so if I'd not gone, I would have never met my longtime penpal in person.
These will be memories I will treasure forever.
(And luckily I went and it wasn't until I came back that the roof suddenly needed replacing, the water heater broke, and other unexpected bills reared their ugly heads! lol)
So if you ever get an opportunity, and you can in anyway afford it/make it work - GO!
(And if you're a writer, you MUST GO! More fodder for the brain!)

Juliet Blackwell said...

Thanks for that story, Gloria! It's amazing how, after doing something like that, you can't believe you tried to talk yourself out of it, right? Sounds like an amazing time.
And you're right, as authors we're BOUND to go!
Nicole -- it wouldn't be the same without you!

L.G.C. Smith said...

What a perfect thing to do. Lovely post, lovely plan.

Rachael Herron said...

"A whole lot of people never get to enjoy what they've worked so hard for because, by the time they're ready to, they're too old, too sick, or too dead."
Yes. Well said. And I'll be there (I HOPE!).

Pens Fatales said...

Julie, I take it that is your artwork? You are so amazing!! Great post - and I would love to come!! :)

Pens Fatales said...

oops, I was still logged in as Pens - sorry -- that was me, maddee on that last comment. :)

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