Janet Kelly, 61, is a writer and started writing novels in her 50s. She has four published books as well as a number of scripts in development. She tells us how much she’s enjoying her life in her early sixties. And answers our Q&A in the way we love with long and meandering answers.
Where do you live?
What do you do?
How do you feel about being this age?
I am thoroughly enjoying being this age, never having really thought I’d make it this far. I’m still in awe of the fact I am in my sixties and having a good time. It’s like joining a secret club where the admission fee is age and experience. There are the occasional lapses of memory and physical limitations – I have been aiming to run a half marathon but my knees gave up – but these are probably more down to an excessive lifestyle than my years on this planet.
What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?
The confidence to be who I am and grow into myself without worrying what other people think. For example, I grew my hair out during lockdown and am now completely grey, and loving it – particularly after years of constant trips to the hairdressers to get the roots coloured. I’m embracing the opportunity to be as natural as possible.
I do have a constant nagging feeling that time is very short but I was born with a sense of urgency so I think older age has just enhanced my need to go and do things.
I do also feel a sense of wisdom about life and people. We’re all experiencing the world in different ways and tolerance is so important (not that I always have it!). My view isn’t anyone else’s view and so I think age has helped me try and understand we are all different and need to celebrate that fact – every single person has something to offer.
What about sex?
What about it? Highly overrated in many ways and a mechanic of nature to get us to reproduce. Once the hormones are out of the way and we can see it as a pleasure to be taken as and when, rather than an overriding drive to find a mate, it can become a pleasure amongst many other pleasures rather than the bee all and end-all. True intimacy can come from great friendship, hugs, empathy, and connection. It can include sex but doesn’t have to.
I treasure my good friends and look forward to living a long life with all of them so we can continue to look backwards as well as forwards. As I’ve got older, I recognise that no one person can fulfil any emotional need, this comes from personal growth and connection with a range of different types of people. Romantic relationships aren’t as important, probably for the same reasons already mentioned – once that need to reproduce is removed from the biological psyche the options for finding fulfilment expand exponentially. Having said that I am far more tolerant in my relationship with my partner than I might have been 20 years ago and enjoy the small levels of companionship and partnership rather than the big gestures.
How free do you feel?
I am very lucky to feel free in most ways, partly because of the accident of birth and living in the UK with all it has to offer – not least its amazing language and diversity – but also because things that used to worry me no longer keep me awake. We’re here for a very short time and all of us, very likely, will be dead in 100 years. This is a sobering thought and makes me look at all those who are striving for great wealth and power with pity. The real secret to success is the ability to enjoy the life we have at whatever level we experience it.
What are you proud of?
Many things but mainly my children and particularly my grandson – it is a different relationship to being a parent. On a personal level, I am proud of overcoming adversity and difficulties and finding the ability to keep reinventing myself. I started writing novels in my 50s and have four published books – one for children – and a number of scripts that I have written since turning 60 that are in development. I am now following a career that I should have started in my 20s had I not been influenced by a need to chase the dollar.
What keeps you inspired?
As an eternal optimist, I think it is the fact that my next ‘big project’ is around the corner and that there are limitless opportunities to become involved with things I love. I enjoy connecting with creative people who have energy and drive, and who make things happen. I am inspired to be part of that.
When are you happiest?
Walking my dogs on the seafront or meeting friends for coffee and talking about what we will be doing in our older age. I live near the sea and it always calms my mind and reminds me that we are all in this together. The sea has always been there and always will be – while people come and go. I love doing new things – such as taking my husband for a spitfire flight experience, which was just awesome, all that history and incredible engineering.
I also love gardening and get very excited when new shoots arrive in the spring or I get to pick some homegrown vegetables. Seeing a new runner bean or courgette is like Christmas! My chickens also make me happy as they are very much underestimated.
Where does your creativity go?
I have really started to enjoy my creativity in recent years, starting with my writing and then moving into art and music. I started up the Saltdean Jazz Band where I live which is aimed at amateur musicians who might not be able to play anywhere else as they are either rusty, don’t know enough about music or lack confidence. I play the saxophone and finally have a place to develop my musical creativity, getting more involved with solo improvisation which I find exceptionally hard but exhilarating. More recently I have been undertaking art classes and put myself forward to have my body painted by an artist as part of a campaign to get women to love the bits they hate.
Rather than hide my blobby tummy and cellulite I think it is time I celebrated the fact it is all a result of my life experiences and need to be recognised. Not only that, my body works – it does its jobs – and I’ve been very rude to it over the years. It’s time to apologise to it for being the workhorse it has been and say thank you. Without it, I’d be nothing.
What is your philosophy of living?
Do the best you can with the resources you have. You won’t always get it right but somewhere along the way there will be nuggets of gold that make the journey more than worthwhile. I get up every day looking forward to something – whether it is collecting eggs from the chickens or preparing for a walk, a holiday or a major work project. Time shouldn’t be wasted – and by that, I don’t mean we can’t sit and dream for hours on end because that is not a waste!
It happens. For some, it happens far too early, particularly for those left behind. For some, it happens in horrendous circumstances and for others, it is just the last breath, the full stop. I hope my end falls into the latter but I’m aware we have no idea of what might be meant for us. So don’t waste time worrying about the next stage. It will come when it’s ready.
Are you still dreaming?
Without my dreams, I’d have achieved nothing. I spend time before I go to sleep each night dreaming of what might be. Some dreams are possible, others a little more unrealistic. Although I’m not one to ever say ‘never’.
What is a recent outrageous action of yours?
I got so drunk on my 61st birthday that I fell over, cut my head badly, and was taken to hospital in a pizza van. I still have the scar which I wear with a kind of pride that the consequences weren’t much worse. I was more upset that we lost my birthday cake. We think the seagulls ate it.