Second Time Around

Here we are - another New Year! Given that with the passage of every year, it is statistically more likely that any given reader of A Story A Week will be younger than I, I'll refrain from making too many comments on what the passage of yet another year 'feels like'. But there is something a little bit special about this new year; for me it will be the one that is known in Japanese as the 'kanreki'.

The term refers to the fact that the traditional calendar is based on a 12-year pattern which cycles five times, giving an overall 60-year structure. My birthday later this year will be my 60th, so this is 'my' year.

Now I'm not really sure just what this is (or was) supposed to signify. Perhaps in the old days they were thinking that 60 was a kind of natural limit for life, and that anything after that was 'bonus time', a second childhood as it were. Well, living to 60 is certainly no big deal these days - as my parents will no doubt testify! - but I'll take whatever I can get, and accept the 'accolade'.

During the past year though, I have been giving this approaching milestone quite a bit of thought. My living situation and my work have been quite stable for some years now, and bit by bit the feeling has been growing that it might be time to shake things up a bit. All around me these days with ever-increasing frequency, I see friends and acquaintances reaching retirement. They have worked hard (presumably!) for many years, and are now at a point where they will make a major change in the way that they spend their time day by day.

Because I am completely self-employed, and am not a member of any kind of pension system, a traditional 'retirement' will not be possible for me. And I'm not overly bothered about that. Hang up my tools, and get involved with a hobby? That makes no sense at all - my printmaking activities are my hobby! But having said that, I do have to confess that there is one aspect of my work that might be ready for a change. It might be time for me to 'let go' of some of the jobs.

When seen from a logical rational point of view, I am quite clearly trying to do too much by myself. Carving, printing, design preparation, bookkeeping, office work, newsletter, publicity, and studio construction, not to mention things like laundry and housework ... this is nuts. It's a lot of fun, but because of my reluctance to let other people have a hand in the work, I end up limiting what can be produced, and the list of prints that will never be made, the books that will never be written, and other projects that will never get off the ground, just grows and grows without end.

Now eventually, somewhere down the line, I will have to let go of some of the work. Age will take care of that. But which would make more sense - calling a young printer for help because I can no longer pick up a baren myself, or get him in here to work together while I am still capable of doing good work to guide him? The answer is pretty clear, I think.

I'm really not sure just how to proceed in this direction, as - of course - financial considerations make it very difficult to 'share' the work. More hands means more mouths, and everybody needs to get paid for their contribution.

So that's my challenge for this upcoming 'year of change'. Keep using my hands of course, but wherever possible, work out how I can start to use my head as well!


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