A Contradiction of Old Age
INTERESTING STUFF – 31 October 2015

Unexpected Passions

From time to time through the years of this blog, readers have written to tell me that although their job, the way they made their living, had never been much to write home about, they had another life.

They came alive, they said, when the day was done and there was time for their passion, the thing that defined - and may still - who they are.

It is my experience that the most interesting people are those who have a passion and now, a filmmaker who apparently agrees with me, is bringing that idea to the screen.

Kevin Gordon is an experienced documentary producer/director. His feature-length doc, True Son, an official selection of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, was well reviewed in Newsweek.

Gordon's latest project is a web series titled “Shine On” about people with typical day jobs but an unexpected passion outside of work that they live for.

”By day they are your co-workers and servers,” writes Gordon on his Kickstarter page. “By night they are rockstars in their own domain. A 76-year-old farmer who tears it up at the local speedway. A piercer in a tattoo parlor who rocks the Roller Derby circuit. A nursing assistant who dominates at underground hip hop dance battles.

“Their goal is not to 'make it' but simply to have a few moments in a week where they can leave their other lives behind, bring time to a standstill, and do what they love.”

Those first three documentaries Gordon mentions, are still in production but we have today a three-minute trailer titled A Need for Speed about the dirt track race driver, Ken Micheli, who is 76 years old. Take a look:

If you are as eager for the series as I am and can help support the effort, Gordon's Kickstarter campaign is open for two more weeks where you will find another short trailer, this one about the roller derby skater.

What I particularly like about these stories is that they inspire us to follow our bliss without being icky sweet.

What about you? Do you have a passion that would surprise us? Was it your job or after-work life that animated you? How did that change when you retired?


At 76, I just got my first sports car, a 2016 Mazda MX-5. I'll show "A Need for Speed" teaser to anyone who questions that buy.

Fortunately, my work was closely aligned with my passion; so, no split personality for me! I always thought it would be terrible to be trapped in a job from which one could hardly wait to escape. Different strokes....

At 80 and 72, my husband and I love to scuba dive and make underwater movies. The passion we share for scuba diving and movie-making has fueled our vacations and weekends while we worked regular 9-5 jobs here in Boston, MA. I do the editing of the raw HD footage and my husband is "Cecil B. DeCalhoun." He's the director in other words. These days, he's retired but I work 32 hours/week with a research lab that's trying to find the cause of, and cure for, ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Our most recent adventure was making a movie at Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros in the Bahamas last August. It involved five crack of dawn dives to a submerged beach at 185 feet with our crew of 6 folk of similar passions, wearing as little scuba gear as possible. The final cut will appear on Small Hope's YouTube channel in the near future. We made our first movie of the site, wearing similar minimalist scuba gear, in the early 1970s.

Our boat, Easy Diver, is up on the hard in the boat yard for the winter, but our eyes are turned to the warm weather of 2016 for more of what we love to do: scuba dive and make movies.

When I retired from my profession, I did a few part-time gigs one of which was as an assistant to the owner of an adult educational art studio. I took a year-long class that included 5 other women. The experience was one of meditation, movement, and vocalizing (both conversing in a circle with the talking stick controlling our exchanges and a form of singing/chanting).

I came away from that experience with a tool for my own enjoyment--I don't know if I would call it a passion. I began a pen and ink "meditative exercise" that produced surprisingly interesting images. It began as just dotting (stippling?) on paper and images emerged.

I do not draw as such, but at some point the markings (which are now more often lines and contrasts of black and white) I see how a line drawn or a dot placed can make the image a face, an animal--something recognizable and if I am careful, I can make that happen. I ruin some by over-thinking or going too far.

I learned in the year-long class to not critique my own or other's art. So, a "mistake" that causes the image to change sometimes just produces another image.

I am utterly astounded that I have such a steady hand at this practice--the artwork is
quite intricate and people want me to put it on display at a gallery. But, that takes a kind of energy that I do not possess as well as money for framing/prep.

While not a passion and there are long spaces of time I do not take up the pen, there are other times when I "need" to have pen and paper at hand—times like political debates. It is a calming exercise and frees my ever busy mind.

My passion came naturally through my job as a teacher, but later in my career, a principal asked me to do a staff presentation on the topic of study skills.

Seventy-five seasoned teachers would be my audience,

Oh heck no!

I tried to get out of it.

This P wasn't someone you wanted to tick off.

He said I was the one to do the job and that was that. He wanted to hear from a new teacher, with new ideas.

Long story short, I went home, did research, made notes and did the presentation.

But in my nervousness, I let fly with some unrehearsed comments. Nothing rude, just side observations that cracked my fellow teachers up.

Oh no.

I just rolled on with my talk and the research, hoping not to get a letter in my file!

But the Principal just sat there with a Jack Nicholson grin on his face.

The teachers were egging me on.

Job done, I ended up thanking the principal for helping me get over being shy in front of my peers.

Couple months later, I joined a group of downtown comedians, to learn the mechanics of standup comedy.

We had to write a monologue, act it out, get feedback, and eventually go up in front of a real audience.

Doing standup forced every single shy bone to flee from my body.

Doing standup in Canada, USA, led me to presenting seminars at teacher conferences across Canada.

I continued to teach by day, and on weekends, comedic motivational seminars.

That was then,

Now, I do book readings of my books at local libraries, adult education centres, senior homes, and the passion never dies.

I love making people laugh.

Doctafill, I love that story. Mainly because I never took advantage of opportunities presented me to learn to speak to groups. I know I was presented the opportunities because I have never been shy in one-to-one and small, comfortable gatherings to put forth my opinion.

Doctafill, do you have anything on YouTube or online? I would love to hear you... I follow several humorists and storytellers online.

EasyDiverChris, I will check for your YouTube videos.

As for me, I don't call it a passion, but I love, love, love reading and learning about others passions. I appreciate that everyone shares via blogs, videos, tweets.

My interests in art and writing began in childhood and I guess I never grew up. One way or another, through college majors and all my different jobs, I stayed with writing, editing, graphic art, etc. Losing my last job as a managing editor sent me into a tailspin until I finally found another outlet on the internet, creating and writing personal web pages and then, as the technology developed, blogging. It's taken a long time to feel comfortable with screens instead of paper, and I miss the feeling of "connectedness" with paper. Still, I'd fight to the death for my computer and internet connection.

Linda C. No videos. I have some photos my husband took of me in Florida, NYC, Virginia Beach, in comedy clubs, as an opening act. Scary fun. My husband was always there.

I have dyslexia. Can't spell. Reading didn't happen until the sixth grade. I ended up as a teacher aid for kids with learning disabilities just like I had. But on the weekends I was very different. I volunteered 1 day a week helping rescuing seals. And I also did timing and scoring for SCCA (sports car club of America). Saw lots of Paul Newman. But both of these are too physically hard for me now so I rescue parrots and Persian cats.

This is not a nation that ever supported the arts, so it has almost been a tradition that actors, dancers, painters, even comedians had a "day job" which paid the rent and gave them time to support their real passion. During my stint working for a State agency, I knew numerous people, "civil servants" to the public, who in their "real lives" were accomplished dancers and artists and actors. They never seemed to feel oppressed, maybe because many of them gave short shrift to their paying jobs. In fact, this may be why many people view civil servants as robotic pencil-pushers. They just aren't seeing behind the bureaucratic facade to who these people really are. As for me, I was just stupid. I gave my entire heart and mind to my job and never had any spare time for private passions. As a result, I didn't develop any talents that would make my later life more interesting.

There's a song about this. "Rich Fantasy Lives" by Tom Smith. Give it a listen:

So don't be unkind to a wandering mind,
Just say it again if we missed it.
Some whispering poem was calling us home
To a place we know never existed.

My first passion was reading. No... it was stories. I suppose, one way or another, all my subsequent passions have been connected to that.

Debi...I have dyslexia also. I think it's wonderful you were a teachers aid...I know you understood and were able to help students. I admire that so much.

Big respect, Debi.

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