Throughout history, failures or setbacks have often led creative people to discover something greater or better than the original plan. At the very least, valuable lessons were learned. Friday fudge is about creatives persevering past the obstacles, and finding delicious rewards for their tenacity and effort that they could never have imagined or hoped for in the first place.
It’s almost been two years to the day now since I found myself in serious creator doodoo leading up to the final ‘crunch time’ at college.
I was enrolled full-time in a graduate certificate program in e-publishing (web design, online publishing, and online media production) at an accredited school within commuting distance from home.
I was there to upgrade my technical skills to enable myself to become an online creative entrepreneur.
I decided at this point in my life it was time to try and make that dream a viable reality; I was no longer willing to put it off.
It had been 27 years since I last shuffled or scurried down the the halls of a post-secondary institution as a student.
So there I was, having made it to the final leg of my educational odyssey with a resolute plan. Instead of working on 6 separate final projects from scratch, I thought of a way to create three different final assignments from one source – an outdoor country flea market held weekly in a popular tourist destination on the outskirts of Lachute, Quebec, north of Montreal, Canada.
When I called the contact number listed on their website, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the flea market was open year-round. It was mildish for the month of March in Eastern Canada, but still…winter in these parts. The gentleman I spoke to assured me that the flea market would be open for business that day.
I remembered the event fondly from my youth, having visited on a few occasions while vacationing at our family cottage.
During those summer excursions, we found the place hopping with activity – a great carnival atmosphere mix of people – farmer vendors selling delicious local produce, bargain-hungry tourists, local crafters, clothing, shoe, jewellery retailers from the big city, garage sale ‘professionals’, antique dealers. Even livestock was sold or auctioned off. Around the noon hour, a local country band provided upbeat entertainment under a big tent right beside the main canteen area.
With excitement, I proceeded with my preparations. I would create a video interview montage for the final assignment for my Dynamic Media class, a photo essay-perhaps of the livestock auctions-for the Photography course, and I would interview some local vendors and visitors alike and take extensive notes and more photos for a final journalistic piece I needed to write and then publish on a website I had built myself for a third course.
My professors all approved the proposals for each respective project. I was good to go.
The day of the event arrived. My husband volunteered to accompany me to lend a hand in case I needed help with some of the recording equipment while conducting my interviews and such.
We left on that cloudy morning in the second week of March, travelling an hour and a half to our destination. When we arrived mid-morning, the place was pretty much deserted.
Not at all like my childhood memory in the slightest.
The loud rush of my blood pressure rising filled my ears. Where were all the booths, the vendors, the people? We circled the car around the parking lot, vacant except for literally a fruit and vegetable stand and a long table piled high with miscellaneous, not-so-gently-used garage sale items. Two men stood close by wearing dirty plaid hunting jackets, looking entirely bored.
My eyes met one of them as we drove slowly past. He summarily spat on the ground beside him and sniffed loudly while his companion took a long draw from his cigarette pinched between nicotine-stained fingers, watching us with a slight hint of a smirk on his unshaven face.
The realization hit me that, although the website stated the market was open year-round, most of the vendors and visitors must only congregate here in the warmer months of spring, summer and fall, for obvious reasons.
A wave of nausea hit me as I realized the consequence of my assumption.
I should have tried to set up specific interviews with a few vendors directly. I should have asked more details from that man I contacted from the website. I should have…
Despondent, I asked my husband to just drive to the local coffee shop a few blocks away. In the Tim Horton’s parking lot, I gave in to the hot tears as they slipped down my cheeks.
“Your profs will understand,” my hubby tried to console me. “You can file some ‘incompletes’ and I’m sure they’ll let you make up for the missing work later on this summer.”
I sat gnawing on a knuckle for a few moments, knowing if I went back home now, there was a very strong possibility I would just give up altogether.
It had been hard enough to muster up the courage to go back to school after all these years in the first place. What kind of fool was I to start a brand new creative career at midlife? I had already been through quite a few life challenges over several consecutive years and had managed to persevere to this point. But I was oh-so-tired.
It was right then that Plan B came to me.
We ended up driving to Montreal, which was only another hour’s drive. There was an outdoor shopping mall in the east end we had visited the previous year, with many eclectic shops, frequented by local and tourist bargain-hunters alike. Surely I could try and get a few interviews and some video footage as well as snap some interesting photos to use to complete my three assignments?
One could definitely label this as going with a gut feeling; the idea came out of the ether. It felt better to me than returning home empty-handed.
When we got there, we parked a short walk from a store where I had bought a cute handmade bracelet on our last visit. Pushing my nervousness aside, I walked in and approached the woman behind the counter, told her about my predicament.
She was very understanding, having embarked on a new creative career at midlife herself. The unprepared, spontaneous interview went really well and ended up giving me the raw footage to produce an inspiring profile of two local women artists who are pursuing their writing and singing passions, as well as successfully running the business selling their own handmade jewellery.
The end result was so much better than I could have planned or imagined. Despite my computer hard drive biting the dust during the first week of exams and having to buy a new laptop and reinstall all my software programs and redo some of the work I had lost, I managed to complete all assignments in time for the professors to submit my grades by their deadline. My video montage project earned the second highest mark in the class!
My photo essay project was well-received too, and I graduated that spring with honours.
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield
Have you ever experienced a setback or made a ‘mistake’ that led you to a better creative discovery or outcome? Feel free to share in the Comments.The yummy fudge used for my photo shoot for the Friday Fudge banner above was generously provided by The Cheddar Stop in Carleton Place, Ontario.