Ambitions I’ve had a few but then again too few to mention. But then again maybe just one. My ambition to be a cartoonist. Not new information to regular readers (you know who you are). But prodded to the front of my brain by an article in last Sunday’s Observer, headlined Heard about the Private Eye cartoonist? I’ve confessed before that although I often admire cartoons they rarely make me laugh out loud. A few exceptions – The New Yorker, Punch of yesteryear, The Oldie and Private Eye, a magazine I admire but rarely buy. My bad I agree. Anyway the headline was enough to cause me to read the article. This in turn prompted this blog about being a cartoonist and, in addition, a few thoughts about unachieved ambitions looking back from my retirement years, oh and an excuse to print another of my Woodies cartoons, see below.
For anybody thinking about making a career as a cartoonist, as had been one of those unachieved ambitions, the article was hardly encouraging. It made me feel a bit better about never having really tried very hard to become a cartoonist. You might remember that I did try to join the Cartoonist Club of Great Britain but failed to fill in the date of birth section on the application form correctly and so gave up. Not the stuff of the determined cartoonist who would let nothing stand in his or her way of regular publication in Private Eye, for example. I don’t think it could even be called the first hurdle more failing to get into the car park where the hurdling event was due to take place and thinking oh bugger it, I’ll go for a pint (or whatever).
So no great effort on my part to achieve this particular goal, and now just an occasional bit of wishful thinking of the ‘if only’ type. I suppose retirement if you’re not very careful can become fertile ground for this kind of slightly self-pitying thinking. Most of my ‘if onlys’ fall into the if only I’d chatted that person up a bit more ruthlessly, followed up their email, begged for a chance, kissed butt, maybe but I was either too proud or too lazy to do any of that. I’ve had one or two opportunities, or at least ideas for getting my cartoons published, but yes, pride and sloth got in the way. Reading the article I’m inclined to the view that thank goodness they did. One cartoonist who was quoted in the article, Robert Thompson reckoned, no one in their right mind sits down and thinks, “I’m going to make a living as a cartoonist!” Private Eye includes about 50 cartoons in each edition, the article says, which sounds quite a lot but then they receive about 500 submissions. Most of those that are accepted come from their regular contributors. The (acting) editor says ‘Luckily most of those that come on spec are absolutely terrible and can be easily dismissed.’ So maybe not such good odds.
So does all this beg the question should retirement be the time in our lives when we take a few backward looks at what we haven’t achieved and use the additional time (so I have heard) and the financial security (so it is said) that retirement brings to try again or even in my case try for the first time to fulfil those unachieved ambitions? My first thought in response to this question is that old chestnut of, do you want your retirement to be a time of relaxation, satisfaction or at least acceptance, with whatever fate had handed out or should we be pushing, pushing at the envelope, self-imposed or otherwise? Do you want the hassle and will the sense of achievement be worth the stress?
I know the response from many of my friends, assuming I had many friends, but even from the ones I do have, the response would be for God’s sake relax. Something along the lines of you’ve worked hard for 40 or more years, now take it easy. If only it were that easy to take it easy. In the same edition of the newspaper (which was broadly devoted to the graphic novel, yes, I know cartoons haven’t got much to do with graphic novels but there’s some kind of connection) there was another article about Alison Bechet, entitled ‘I have to feel whatever I’m doing is impossible’, about her work as a cartoon strip artist, it’s an interesting article in many ways and I don’t have the space to write about her here but I was taken with one thing she said, “I don’t feel I deserve to exist unless I’m working.” I wouldn’t go that far but I definitely know what she means and puts it better than I might.
So back to those unfulfilled ambitions and the question could they, if revisited, provide the ‘work’ I need to help me ‘feel I deserve to exist’? I don’t even like it, as a question, in its broadest form. When applied to a specific unachieved ambition like making a big effort at this stage of my life to become a cartoonist, now knowing a bit more about the failure rate, it just makes me feel weary. Thank God (or whoever) I don’t have to do this to be financially or even emotionally solvent. As far as my cartoons are concerned I’ll just keep posting the odd one (I have about 100 of them) from time to time. I did have a brief flirtation with posting them on Instagram – I managed one and then found the whole thing so tedious that I gave up, at least for the time being.
So overall, not much hope of me sparking into life around this particular ambition, and, right now, I can’t even be bothered to look back over my life and identify maybe other unachieved ambitions that might turn out to be that legendary missing link in retirement, the one/s featured in so many past blogs. But as far as my retirement goes, probably any unfulfilled ambitions are likely to remain unfulfilled.