When I turned 42, I was pretty darn excited. Seriously, as a nerd, that is THE number to reach. The answer to life, the universe and everything.If you’ve ever watched or read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’ll get that reference.
And you know what? 42 was pretty fucking awesome. But not for the reasons you might think. Oh I got cake, an R2 unit and my own set of full-size time lords, but what I got that really mattered was one more day.
One. More. Day.
I had a certain death experience that changed everything for me when I was 42. I was driving home down the 401 (a major highway in Ontario). I was burned out and debating what to do with my life and career.
Certain death experiences are profound. They can shake a person to their very core. You know. You KNOW, in the moment, that you are going to die. It’s inevitable. There’s no way out.
When mine happened, I was outwardly calm but inwardly enraged. I hadn’t even lived yet and now I was going to die. No goals on the bucket list hit. My kids would be without their mother.
I was on the highway. There was a car coming right at me, driving the wrong way and in my lane. With cars all around and a narrow shoulder, there was nowhere for me to go. The other vehicle was speeding. Police were behind. I was going to die because an impact like that would leave no survivors.
Clearly, I didn’t die. I’m not sure what happened but we missed each other.
We never see moments like these coming. We live our lives assuming that the days won’t run out. There’s always tomorrow.
It’s a safe and complacent way to live and we all do it. Who wants to spend time contemplating the value of their life or the impact of their death?
I realized that a lot of my creative burnout came from not living the life I really wanted. Facing the moment of my certain death put everything into focus for me. Crystal clear, no excuses, do-it-now focus.
Hi, I’m Paula Mould and my midlife crisis, generated by my certain death experience, didn’t give me a muscle car. No. A muscle car would have been awesome. A muscle car would have been easier.
For 23 years, I was a programmer and graphic designer working for e-learning and not for profit companies. For 17 of those years, I ran my own business serving those industries.
My work can still be seen in schools and libraries around the world. My work has helped countless children learn to read and so many people learn to read English. Some of my work has helped communities in Africa get clean water, or be gifted animals like goats.
But in the back of my mind, I was always an artist and writer.
My new work still has an impact. As the painter for www.imalive.org my art can be seen at Supernatural conventions throughout North America. The art gets signed by the cast of Supernatural and then auctioned off to raise funds to support the crisis counselling services offered by IMAlive.
My work is also used to support women’s shelters locally too.
And now I’m running a project called Finding Inclusivity where I’m interviewing 100 women. The project will culminate in a book which will contain their stories and painted portraits.
This time next year, there will be a gallery show where all the portraits will be hung, along with their stories and books will be available for purchase.
My goal with this project is to talk about belonging. About owning our lives. About how the limits in pop culture are so very wrong, and we as women are so much more than a trope.
Because, at the end of the day, the work I do needs to make a difference. Whether it’s talking about mental health, abuse or even shining a light on the need to belong, I am there with brush in hand and ready to go.