‘Can I be completely honest with you?’
Conversations that start like this can go one of two ways: they can leave you feeling deflated or they can spur you on to greater things. My friend D doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. She’s the one who tells it straight when you ask for her opinion. She’s also the one who gives you her undivided attention and support when you need it. And the best home-made scones.
‘I think it’s time DIY Woman spread her wings,’ she said.
She went on to list the events of my life over the past decade: divorce, recovery from serious injury, the realisation of a long-held dream to live six months in France, full-time study, and a new career as a writer.
You have reinvented yourself. That’s what you should be writing about.
Looking back over the DIY Woman posts of the past four years, I can see what she means. The website – established to help guide women through the early stages of separation and divorce to the happy-ever-after – has evolved into a much wider discussion about life at any age.
My first tentative steps into the blogging world coincided with my voyage to another land: a land of baguettes, bad coffee and bonhomie. My six months’ stay in France – with no commitments other than those to my absent host families and their animals – gave me time for introspection. It also gave me the time to work on my website.
A lot of thought went into the design of the DIY Woman logo.
I wanted a retro look to suit my original vision of a purely monochrome palette à la theminimalists.com. My friend Waz designed the logo to resemble the keys of an old-fashioned typewriter, with the archetypal DIY Woman incorporated into the O.
I wanted a smart, sassy, capable woman with a retro vibe to match the black and white theme. An engaged and thoughtful listener who wasn’t afraid to make her voice heard; a monochrome image with a splash of red lipstick that made sure she would never fade to grey.
A friend recently expressed some concern about the faint whiff of 30s subservient housewife about her. But Australian women in the 1930s were breaking out of their traditional roles at a rate of knots. They were entering politics and joining the full-time workforce in growing numbers. They were even getting themselves a university education.
For me, DIY Woman represents the can-do attitude demonstrated by these women and those who have come after them. My own mother studied microbiology at university in the late 1940s. She worked with Weary Dunlop in her early 20s. She didn’t think she was anything special. But she was the first of a line of university educated women, of whom my sister and I are the fortunate second wave.
I have recently gone back to university after an absence of three decades.
It has been one of the most stimulating, worthwhile and financially rewarding decisions I ever made. It never occurred to me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it. Whether by accident or design, my mother managed to instil in me the self-belief that made it possible.
I remember in my first week at uni the second time round, sharing a table in the caf with two of my cohort. They were drinking coffee and bemoaning the ageing process. ‘I’m going to be 24 in a week’s time,’ sighed one. ‘I’ve just turned 28 and it’s been all downhill,’ groaned the other.
I burst out laughing. ‘Sorry to eavesdrop, but I’ve just had the two best years of my life.’ We went on to have a rollicking discussion about the concept of growing better, not older. By the time we left for class, I think I had convinced them that life was not a downhill slide after the age of 27.
My evolution from married caterer to unmarried writer, from novice traveller to French long-stay resident, from DIY wannabe to DIY Woman is so much more than the story of surviving divorce. It’s about thriving and wanting the same for those I care about; about forming new relationships and nurturing old ones; about engaging with the world around me.
DIY Woman is one of the ways I do this.
Your feedback tells me I’m writing on topics that connect with you and I’d love to hear more about what interests you. I plan to write on issues that engage me, such as changing course later in life; raising boys to be good men; books and writing: reality television. Yes, it’s an eclectic list and I would welcome your suggestions. Communication is one of the most important ways we can gain insight into one another and make ourselves heard.
DIY Woman’s evolution over the past four years has brought about some changes. There will be less emphasis on separation and divorce, and more on the trying-to-live-your-best-life than the living-happily-ever-after. The process of creating a new tagline has begun.
Today’s DIY Woman is about being mindful that our time on earth is finite and making the most of it. And when her resolve falters, this DIY Woman can rely on the support of friends like D to make sure she stays on track.