Confessions of a Mature Age Creative

Written by Julie Pepperell

Hello. My name is Julie. I’m a wife, mother, casual paint shop guru, and a mature age design student at a university. Yes, it’s true- I arrived late to the ‘get your shit together’ party and for anyone who doesn’t know what’s that like, for me it’s been a crazy journey of self-doubt, desperation and sometimes, loneliness.

Now, this isn’t because of how difficult the class work is, or even how demanding the study load is. One of the bigger issues is the disconnection I feel from the Art and Design industry culture. I feel like some people in the industry don’t think I’m the right fit. Whether this is because of my age, or my appearance, or the level of skill I’m at, but even that isn’t enough to deter me from giving it everything I’ve got.

Issam Hammoudi, (2018), Sickness [ONLINE]. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/NuzqLqEIRjM  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

In all honesty, the negative impact it’s been having at home is what makes me struggle the most. This transition I’ve had to make from being a full-time wage earner to a student, who only now works when she can, and the subsequent financial strain of this has been almost unbearable. There are other personal factors that have affected this experience, such as my need for perfectionism in everything I do and the juggling of motherhood duties. However, I’ve had to keep reminding myself that my academic accomplishments will outshine what has been sacrificed and that I’ll only regret it if I give up now.

For as long as I could remember, I’ve always been a Creative. I was that kid who made information posters out of coloured cardboard using colouring-in pens, and glitter for school projects (covering topics like The Solar System, Dinosaurs, The Platypus, Mermaids etc). Even when it wasn’t required, I’d just start making them because they were fun.

In my last year of high school, during a time when internet things weren’t in the Australian school curriculum, I taught myself how to code and create website layouts using bootleg versions of Photoshop. They weren’t overly impressive for today’s standards, but for someone who just wanted an online space to geek out about her favorite books, TV shows, and movies, it was a mission accomplished. However, I never knew enough about any of these things to even imagine I could pursue a relevant career, and when it came to opportunities for a formal education, at the time, there was none.

Now 15 years later, after my son turned one, I started studying applied design, and a lot of what we’ve learned I could see myself doing professionally. This was the opportunity I’d been waiting for. First, I could imagine finishing this degree, then use my ace skills to become a well paid creative professional with a heart of gold, and then start making a positive difference in the lives of other people.


rawpixel, (2018), Laptop, coffee, workspace and cellphone [ONLINE]. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/GYQBryEWh0Y  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

Beforehand, I assured my hard-working husband that I had intended to study efficiently, get assignments in on time, find part-time work to help with bills and other financial commitments and allocate time to spend with my family, especially our youngest, because as they say, blink and before you know it, they’ll be all grown up. I promised that I could do it all.

As I realise now, for the most part, although my intentions were pure, I had pretty much promised my husband, and myself, things I couldn’t live up to.

I haven’t been able to secure part-time work. I’ve seemed to only get weekend work, which also means I haven’t been able to properly allocate time to spend with my family, especially my husband, who works all week and only has weekends off.

Also during the week, when I’m not trying to stay on top of housework and worrying about how I’m supposed to get bills paid on time and getting food on the table, I’m spending hours upon hours scouring part-time work opportunities, writing numerous cover letters, trying to strategically word Selection Criteria applications and cold-calling creative organisations about work experience in their administration or assisting departments.

In this last term alone, this desperate need to help ease financial problems at home (and other family commitments) has cut into my study time, causing me to fall behind in my school work, and being the stubborn perfectionist that I am, I refuse to hand assignments in that I feel are just merely OK.

Unable to find sufficient time, money, and the right motivation to achieve finishing school tasks without inconveniencing things at home, I’ve often found myself hiding in the bathroom, crying my eyes out from exhaustion and disappointment with myself.


Luis Galves, (2018), Cry [ONLINE]. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/I8gQVrDcXzY  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

On these occasions, I would look into the bathroom mirror, stare at my own tear-strewn, puffy reflection and wonder: “How am I supposed to be a creative professional if I can’t even hack this? How can I convince organisations that I can do something extraordinary for them, if I can’t do that for my own life? Quit, Julie, this is impossible.”

And I almost did.

However, without thinking, I did something that always surprises me- because stupidly I forget that I’m not actually alone in this- I pushed through the uncertainty and asked for help.

It makes sense that misery always wants company because when you’re miserable and feel like you can’t move forward, you’ve isolated yourself from any sensible solutions to help you defog the craziness in your head. All I wanted was a strong enough reason to keep going and I had it all along. I had people who believed in me.

From my study buddies and teachers at school to my family who constantly remind me that they love me, no matter what I want to do or at what I age I decide to do it.

The friends I’ve made at the university, their guidance, perspectives, and sense of humour throughout this journey has been incredible. They provide something I could never do for myself, and that’s seeing the logic in my own mess and helping me fine tune what I actually mean to say. These wonderfully unique and strong-willed people know what I’m going through and have their own similar struggles that they meet face on every day.

Also, while my family may not know exactly what’s going through my mind when I’m feeling helpless, they know me and the potential I have to overcome these struggles. They’re forever patient with my situation and will always want me to succeed. And although financially we’re not able to maintain the lifestyle we want or need right now, we still have hope that things will only get better.

Now, a very wise person once said to me, ‘part of every creative’s journey is to question themselves and think they’re not good enough’.

This couldn’t be more true.


Hello I’m Nik, (2018), Difficult roads… [ONLINE]. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/z1d-LP8sjuI  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

How else do we evolve into the person we want to become and to do the things we want to achieve? Success really isn’t possible without hard work and struggle, no matter who or how old you are.

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Research & References

ABC Life / Carla Gee. 2018. Juggling motherhood and a career means I rarely feel good at either. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/life/juggling-motherhood-and-a-career-carla-gee/10325824  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

ABC Life / Grace Jennings-Edquist. 2018. Ever feel you’re not good enough? Overcoming perfectionism. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/life/advice-for-overcoming-perfectionism/10196258  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

Never Not Creative. 2018. Never Not Creative / About Page. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nevernotcreative.org/about  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

Dumbo Feather / Richenda Vermeulen. 2018. Why I run my business with love (and that’s ok). [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.dumbofeather.com/articles/why-i-run-my-business-with-love-and-thats-ok/  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

Explore / Uni Life. 2017. University as a ‘mature’ age student. [ONLINE] Available at: https://app.griffith.edu.au/explore-student-blog/university-as-a-mature-age-student/  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

The Irish Times / Lynn Ruane. 2015. Lynn Ruane: Being a parent and a student feels like an impossible feat. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/lynn-ruane-being-a-parent-and-a-student-feels-like-an-impossible-feat-1.2313844  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

The Daily Life / Lynn Ruane. 2016. How you know you’ve become ‘that’ mature-age student. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/how-you-know-youve-become-that-matureage-student-20160216-gmviab.html  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

Honey / Michelle Stephenson. 2018. Going back to uni – the pros and cons of being a mature-age student. [ONLINE] Available at: https://honey.nine.com.au/2017/09/22/15/51/going-back-to-uni-the-pros-and-cons-of-being-a-mature-age-student  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

AIGA / Ashley Rundall. 2018. Mommy in a Designer’s World. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.aiga.org/mommy-in-a-designers-world  [Accessed 7 December 2018].

ASIC. 2018. Women’s Money Challenges. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/life-events-and-you/women/womens-money-challenges [Accessed 7 December 2018].