If you want to do something, the time to start is today.
|Flood tide, by Carol L. Douglas|
A few years ago, I read about a retrospective show for a 103-year-old painter from Staten Island named Margaret Ricciardi. “She can’t still be alive,” I thought to myself. After all, she was born only three years after my own grandmother, and I’m a grandmother myself.
Yes, Mrs. Ricciardi is still kicking. Furthermore, she has a website, and it’s glossy and well-designed. I’m being passed on the highway of commerce by a woman 45 years my senior.
|Pine and spruce on the Barnum Brook Trail, by Carol L. Douglas|
Margaret Ricciardi’s parents and husband were immigrants from the same small Italian town. After marrying in 1937, the couple started a shoe repair business in the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. It eventually expanded to include a handbag and shoe boutique.
At the age of 70, Ricciardi started taking classes at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. Two years later, she enrolled full time. At age 75, she earned her BA in Studio Art. She continued to study at the college and elsewhere and in 2017 was awarded an honorary doctorate.
|Tricky Mary in a Pea Soup Fog, by Carol L. Douglas|
At an age when her peers were looking into long-term care insurance, Mrs. Ricciardi blazed off into the unknown. I’m sure there were skeptics, or reactions of amused tolerance, but she managed to work more than thirty years after graduation from art school. That’s a full second career.
We don’t all have great genes, but if you’re passionate about something, you will live a better, longer life. Research shows that not only does making art extend our lifespans, but that this has been true throughout history.
I have a very unique painting class this winter. Because it’s on Tuesday mornings, only one person is still working; all the rest have retired. They are truly passionate about what they’re doing. They meet on Mondays to sketch, Tuesdays for class, and Wednesdays for figure drawing. With all this practice, they’re progressing at warp speed. In turn, I’m scrambling to keep up with them.
|Dead Wood, by Carol L. Douglas|
“Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance,” wrote David Mamet. (Well, not at football, I thought, but then remembered this year’s Super Bowl winners.)
The retiree has advantages in the race to excellence. He’s not worried about earning his bread. He recognizes how brief and precious life is. He isn’t all caught up in the emotional muddles of youth. And he takes the long view on nearly everything. These make it easier to sit down and flow into painting.
Of course, those are also attitudes young people can adopt if they wish. The younger you start doing what you love, the more years you’ll have to enjoy it.