We’re excited to highlight some of the amazing people in our Perennial Gen community and beyond in our “Rooted” feature, where we ask someone five questions about their midlife experience. Today, we’re chatting with Jeanna Carley. Jeanna Carley is the artist behind Sawdust Heart Studios, LLC. She was born in the rolling hills of Tennessee, grew up in the great city of Atlanta, Georgia (great except for the horrible traffic), and now resides in the Sunshine State. She is an artist and professional life coach, as well as a small business owner of two aviation companies, which she runs with her husband, Dennis.
NOTE: We will be holding a drawing at the end of this month where we’ll give three lucky winners a pack of Jeanna’s gorgeous notecards. To enter click here to send us your name and snail mail address. (U.S. addresses only)
PER GEN: Jeanna, what has surprised you most about midlife?
Midlife surprises for me have had nothing to do with time lost, challenging life transitions, or even putting my cell phone in the fridge. The biggest surprise has been how difficult it is to find quiet and beauty in today’s world. I have found it takes an enormous amount of discipline to seek beauty and peace on a daily basis. I like to playfully refer to myself as a “tree-hugging Christ follower.” As such a person, seeking beauty through nature and moments of pause are crucial in enhancing my life experience. I am amazed at how overwhelmed I feel after reading headlines.
Beauty and nature helps me to offset the weightiness of this sad world. So I find myself fighting to find moments of mindfulness, when the wind becomes quiet and I hear the contented tweets of returning winged friends singing to celebrate spring. Those are the moments I find so few and far between now. Must everyone be so loud and angry?
PER GEN: What women have been role models for you?
I was fortunate to have strong relationships with my grandparents during childhood. Each Saturday afternoon, we would head to my grandparents to hang out and eat Southern cuisine. I admired both of my grandmothers, albeit they were very different from each other. My maternal grandmother was extroverted, loved a good time, and adored adventure; yet she would often choose paths which were not necessarily the healthiest. I learned early on from her that choices have consequences, and some consequences (good or bad) can last a life time. My paternal grandmother was as predictable as crocus blooms in springtime. You could always count on homemade “cathead” biscuits and chocolate milk for breakfast. It was also my paternal grandmother who role-modeled kindness and compassion, embracing the simplicity of life, and living peacefully in your faith until your journey ends. It was between the extremes of these two women where I unknowingly began to learn what balance meant in life, and I’ve been seeking it ever since.
PER GEN: Can you briefly share about your creative journey?
I was always an artsy-tartsy kid. I loved playing in my room, and was always creating some new production each day. I loved creating different restaurants, each having a particular theme, special music, and hand painted menus.
I performed on stage for the first time at the age of six. I sang a solo of the song “Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be?” With a speech impediment for saying my “r’s,” my voice teacher thought it would be adorable to make me sing the most R-laden song she could find. I sang the song, dutifully and maybe a bit red-faced. But then I had to sing it a second time because the microphone hadn’t been turned on for the first attempt. Despite this rough initial performance, my love for theatre grew. I did the usual Drama Club activities and honed my craft through high school. And as the seasons of life unfolded further over the years, I was heavily involved in with children’s and community theatre groups directing, choreographing, and doing set design.
After relocating our aviation business to Florida, business boomed, which was great. But it also meant my artistic desires took a back seat. But through our business I met many wonderful and unique new people. The interesting new characters we met provided the fodder for a script idea which kept circling in my head. Weekly, my husband would hear me giggle to myself and say, “I’ve gotta get this stuff down on paper!” Five years later, I wrote, produced, and directed a wonderfully fun play called “Hangar Rats.” I rented the local historical theatre, cast talented people, and made an amazing memory. It was a successful show (which actually made money!), and it remains one the best risks I have taken in life. I feel so much gratitude each time I reflect on the experience.
But after so many years of theatre involvement, I found myself realizing there was not much I had left to experience in the industry. I also found myself struggling with the growing layers of politics and agendas in committees and between actors. There came a point where I reached clarity, and realized that my time with theatre was coming to a close. I longed for more time to seek beauty, a place to embrace peacefulness, and to communicate my thoughts in other ways. I woke early one morning with a strong desire to pick up a paint brush. So for fun, I pulled out my dust-covered art supplies and began to paint. Immediately, my heart lifted and my soul breathed a huge sigh of relief—I was beginning my next transition of life.
God never wastes anything. When he plants a passion in your heart, it never dies. I am now in a purely supportive role with the aviation businesses, and am enjoying marketing and developing my own business, Sawdust Heart Studios, LLC. I am blessed to have my husband as my biggest cheerleader, who pushes me forward with great excitement. I can clearly see the pathway behind me that I have walked, where all my experiences aligned to culminate in this wonderful season of creativity.
PER GEN: How would you hope that family and friends remember you after you’re gone?
My hope is they remember how much I loved them and celebrated them as part of my life. I hope they remember me as excitedly pausing to listen to the song of a mockingbird, rescuing a turtle from the middle of the road, and embracing others with warmth, generosity, and thoughtfulness. I hope my memory inspires them to seek their purpose and their passion. For when those two are things are in sync, life is joyful and fun. Lastly, I hope my legacy brings a smile (or better yet, a giggle) whenever my name is mentioned.