Fabienne Francotte cut out pages of her notebooks and shared it with the world. The result is I Don’t Know But I Remember at Saskia Fernando Gallery in Colombo (February 21-March 20, 2020). Inside the gallery, images of women lined the white walls. Some peered back at me straight on while others refused to acknowledge me. They are pretty and mysterious, and they are all real–women Fabienne had met in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world. As an artist, as a woman, Fabienne stripped herself bare–like “the creatures in [her] notebooks, [she is] vulnerable, bearing the scars of life with dignity.” A stunning 60 year-old-woman, Fabienne lives unapologetically. When I am 60, I want to be full of joy and life, just like her.
At 37, I am crippled with fear and anxiety. I can’t commit to my writing career full-time, worried that without “legitimate” work, I could not afford to have a room or money of my own. I stubbornly refused to quit my job–it brings me an illusion of independence while using it as an excuse for not writing. Fabienne is an inspiration to me, as a woman, as a writer and as a creative. This is my tribute to her. I am 60 in 2020: I don’t know, but I remember.
I am 60, and I am the product of our global village. Before the age of 11, I had lived in Japan, Taiwan, and Canada. As a young adult, I moved to the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Hong Kong to pursue my career as an academic librarian. Then I moved to Sri Lanka with my husband to expand my horizon as a writer. In my 30’s, the global village started to close in as its citizens erected walls. The physical walls weren’t nearly as effective as the psychological and mental ones. Invisible, albeit nationalistic borders were created to separate those who are different, those who don’t belong. As a woman, as an Asian, as an expatriate who calls wherever she is home, I shifted from one stereotype to the next, fighting one bigotry after another. I did not fit into any boxes as a young person, and now, as a 60-year-old, I have long ago given up on the idea of boxes and borders. Like my cat, I nap on top of cardboard boxes and ignore all boundaries, visible or not.
I am 60 and a woman writer. I do not live in the shadow of my own self-doubt; I do not question my creative abilities. I have money to buy pens, notebooks, and antique jewellery. I have a room of my own, with my favourite writing desk and teak shelves filled with inspiring books. I start projects without worrying whether or not I will finish them. When anxiety strikes, instead of succumbing to it as it did in my youth, I kill it and feed it to my work. I am 60 and I work fast–I don’t have time to procrastinate. When I was 30, I felt I had at least 50 years ahead of me–the work could wait. Now at 60, I am lucky to have 30 more. I need to finish my work now so I can make more.
I am 60 and I love myself. Though my youthful looks have faded, I embrace a new beauty that has emerged. I wear black, which flatters my figure. I put on the most outlandish and beautiful earrings I can find to offset the black. I don’t care about what other people think of me; I approach anyone as a potential collaborator and a friend. I have boundless energy. I am not afraid to give parts of myself away. I offer my love and support unconditionally to those who benefit from my attention. I am 60, and I am living my best life.
Thank you, Fabienne, for showing me how to live my best life.