I'm a godmother to an incredibly smart, knowledgeable, funny and caring four year old boy named Atticus, who, since his kindergarten days, has the ability to hold a conversation and out-talk the most talkative television presenter. He also has a knack for asking 'why' constantly and genuinely seeking a response for his knowledge tank. Atticus has a two year old sister, and when she was born I held her twice before boarding a plane to Europe to chase my dream of being a filmmaker.
Now I label myself the Invisible Godmother. The role of a Godmother is to be in the godchild's life to mould and shape their decisions through wisdom and moral guidance. Being on the other side of the world makes that near impossible, and Skype doesn't cut it. Hence, most days I feel guilty that I am not able to be there for my family.
I love my life in Malta! The thought of re-locating back to Australia gives me the worst kind of anxiety, and I have my reasons for feeling this way. Personal reasons aside, much more doors have opened for me since I re-located just over two years ago. I can travel all over Europe when I want to attend a film festival or a workshop or when I just want a new country to film in. A weekend in Rome to get away? No worries, Ryanair does cheap flights and it only takes a couple of hours, let's leave Friday night.
Of course, since I left Australia two years ago to better myself, be closer the rest of the world and give my career wider opportunities I have grown so much, and I'm richer for these experiences. But I know I'm not alone in my creative artist guilt. I can't possibly be. When we first relocated to Malta the realisation that I wouldn't be able to spend time chatting face to face with my ageing parents or watching my new born niece and young nephew grow up – in what is the most beautiful time if their lives – hit me hard.
Every milestone photo my family posted online really hurt. I smiled but there was a sense of missing that stings. I vented and confessed this guilty feeling online via my Facebook page status one time and received responses from friends in Australia. Numerous friends shared their stories of being away from family too and told me you just have to keep going, despite always feeling that guilt slip in. Even being hundreds of miles away from loved ones brought out that feeling of guilt, one friend told me, so imagine being hundreds of thousands of miles away.
But in this day and age opportunities for people to travel to far-off places for creative pursuits is easier than ever. We constantly leave friends and family behind as we travel the world to chase what sets our souls on fire. It must have been harder in previous generations, horse and cart journey's across countries took months, as did long distance boat trips across continents. These new technologies also bring more pressure for you to relocate if you want to succeed, go wherever the market is strongest, go wherever you will be more accepted.
From my experience and travels for film, the place to be located or a frequent visitor to if you desire to work as a serious and progressive artist with multiply connections to the wider world and the art scene is either LA, New York, Berlin or London, and some other smaller places in Europe. These smaller countries, like Malta, which has a good tax offset to attract foreign production, can be used as base if you prefer the European ideologies and the most sun, which me and my fellow filmmaking husband Ivan do.
I would also like to mention that when i have down periods in my creative work due to finding myself stuck in a 9-5 job cycle, which can last a month or two, the guilt I feel for being away from my family is worse. I ask myself "did you move this far away from home to be doing this work?" My thought process then shifts me back onto my goal, because really that temp work is only there for the short term, to help me eat and pay rent, not part of the filmmaking goal.
But not all is lost. I have thought of ways to get past my guilt and so far I have three solutions and it all comes back to building your own profile, working for yourself, and making your work and business self-sufficient.
Firstly, on my short once yearly visit back home, I will rid myself of guilt and regret by not booking myself in so much with film related meetings, events and my own film screenings. If I do these things I find myself on social media marketing my Australian events, while my mum is talking to me about her life, or I am locked in my room writing that last minute press release while we have visitors. I become an anti-social workaholic who is eating up family time. Part of this point is also turning off my phone and being in the moment at family scenarios. Even if it's to watch TV with my parents and debate the news headlines – things the filmmaker self does not have time or desire do in Europe. Phone off, wifi off, just so I can saviour moments san-regret as I fly back to Europe half a world hours away from them.
Second, to address the issue raised above, as well as not booking myself all over town, I will see who and what is worth my time when I return home and only agree to meet those people. There are people I meet in Australia when I return home and then never hear from again until my next visit. Not even on social media. It's a big effort to go out of your way for people on your two weeks back home once a year and maybe some people are not worth the effort.
Lastly, to demolish guilt I plan to visit family more than once a year. To do this I'm working my ass off in Europe every second without much rest (or a social life), not just on my filmmaking projects and our company but also in setting up a way to become a self-sufficient business person. Sell my work online, teach online, make extra cash by selling other things online though a shop is the goal. This will give me the cash I need to go from Invisible Godmother to the Frequent Visiting Godmother, and if all goes to plan I should make it back in time before Atticus' 10th birthday. Without any guilt.