Dreams Into Reality: Venice, A Beautiful Crumbling Mess
Beautiful Bridget Gleeson is today’s inspiration as she took her dream of living in Venice and turned it into reality, not once but twice.
Some of us wait for the best part of our lives to take a step in the direction of our heart’s desires and often it means unlearning a lifetime of ‘shoulds’. It takes courage to follow your dreams because often you are going against a lifetime of doing things a certain way but that didn’t stop Bridget Gleeson at almost 60 moving from New York to Venice.
‘Our’ Bridget, (I say our because when a woman takes such a brave move she changes the lives of all of us) today made a second dream a reality, taking her beautiful heartfelt photos of Venice and sharing them with the world in her shop. I’m the happiest woman on the planet to celebrate this moment and know that those of you who love Venice and haven’t been able to travel this year, will love nothing better than having your favourite city on your walls, made with love and care from a woman who dared to live her dream.
Over to you Bridget…
In the past couple of years, what belief or habit has allowed you to move to Venice and start a new life at nearly 60?
I think it all started when I began to change my belief from I should have done this move 10, 20 years ago, this dream had passed me by, to the real truth of the matter. Simply put, it’s really never too late, you get to write the story of your life, nobody else. It’s up to you. Believing that can be very hard at times, yes. But once I began to think about it that way, so many new ideas and opportunities start to show up in my life. It was a whole new way to look at my dream, like a riddle to solve. A test of how can I make this happen? A good bit of blind faith and “what’s the worst thing that could happen” didn’t hurt either! I also started at that time the habit of starting to do one small thing every day, or sometimes every week, to keep the dream alive and moving forward. Small changes and habits over time have a cumulative effect, and can really make things happen for you. That was tough for me because I’m typically a 0-60 kind of girl, and often with no patience! I think knowing that 60 was not too far around the corner gave me that extra nudge. I’d read or heard about other woman who were doing the same thing, making a dream come true in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond and I thought, “Why not me?”
You have an exciting new project sharing your beautiful photos with the world. What happened during 2020 and the Covid pandemic that encouraged you to bring this to life?
When we first arrived in the summer of 2019, Venice was warm, sunny, and packed to the gills with people! We were busy settling in and seeing friends and doing a bit of travel and just getting situated. It was a busy fun time, but not much time for my creativity other than a fabulous photography retreat in Puglia in the autumn. Venice 2020, and Italy for that matter, was a whole different time, sadly enough. The quiet of lockdown gave me the time to really think about things and life in general. When we were finally allowed to wander more than 200 meters from our apartment, there was literally no one around. Aside from the markets and stores, there were very few people here. In that void of people and tourists, and as we went to do errands or walk our dog, I started to notice things I hadn’t before. That’s when my camera came into play. I started to take it with me everywhere, and see Venice through its lens. Photography shows you how to slow down to the moment of what’s right in front of you. Without the crushing crowds, I started to see the beauty of Venice everywhere, and it was incredible. Then as I started to share more on Instagram, people began asking about my photos and the seed was planted.
How has creativity influenced your life and your relationship with yourself and others?
Finding this new creative outlet has let me quiet down my busy, hyper brain and catch my breath. It’s made me appreciate the small details. It’s my new daily gratitude list, but in photos, which I love. My life here made me start to dream of different ideas, and this brand new project comes from my love of Venice, but really wanting to share the beauty of the entire city. Especially in 2020, when so many miss La Serenissima and Italy and are counting the days until they can return. I completely understand that longing. I’ve met many wonderful, talented good-hearted people doing beautiful things with their life and creativity, and sharing it on Instagram. The friendships and the spark of creativity I get when I see all these brilliant ideas come to life, what a gift it has been!
Share with us the meaning behind your series A Beautiful Crumbling Mess?
This first series in my new print shop came about one afternoon while I was looking at my photos, I realized I had very few shots of the places people typically want to see when they check off all the boxes. I completely understand that, but Venice is found in the small Campos and narrow calles too. Venice is 16 centuries old, can you imagine?
So in some places, it feels like the city is crumbling down around us, bit by slow bit. It certainly felt that way last autumn after the disastrous grande aqua and the subsequent flooding. Yet, there was still an overwhelming sense of beauty in that crumbling mess—the red-brownish colors of the endless brick, next to the changing hues of green in the canal. The tiny delicate flowers in the cracks, and the flowing vines, wrapped and entwined in the exquisite ironwork you find all over the city above doors and guarding windows.
I want people to see the beauty in all of it, and then find the beauty in their own lives, where it may now be hard to uncover and see. It’s a series that reflects beauty, but also persistence and determination. It must take a bit of toughness for those small shoots to poke thru the brick and flower! I chose to believe we can all show up to bloom again, embrace your crumbling mess, at whatever age, and own your story.
I imagined during this process of moving from New York to living in Venice and starting a new life, you often felt scared, overwhelmed, or confused. What did you do to keep moving forward and believing in what you were doing?
Moving is stressful, right? I’d moved overseas before with my husband, but it was a corporate move; somebody else was in charge! This time, we were on our own! There was self-doubt, oh god, what have we done, overwhelmed by all the things and yes, confusion. I just kept thinking about what I wanted, and that kept the doubt for the most part away. I also had a strong memory of the last time we were in Venice, which had only been several months before. We’d been going to Venice on holiday for a long time. Each time for a little longer and when we lived in Switzerland, several times a year. The last time we went, we stayed a month. On our last night, after an evening shared with friends, we were crossing over the Accademia Bridge on a cold clear January evening. The city surrounding the Grand Canal looked dreamlike, as it often does in the winter months. I stopped to take it in and suddenly felt overwhelmed by emotion.
I started to cry a bit, and my husband asked me, “What’s this all about, are you okay?” (He knows how sentimental I am, and, well, the Accademia Bridge will do that to you.) I turned to my husband and said, “I don’t want to leave. It’s almost like I can’t leave. Next time we come to Venice, we’re coming for good.’’ I wiped my tears, sighed, and we slowly walked back to the apartment we were staying. I took in every last sight one last time before we headed back to New York City in the early morning.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying be careful what you wish for, well, I have to say it’s true! Within six months of sending that proclamation to the universe into that winter sky, we found ourselves living in Venice.
Photo Copyright by Bridget Gleeson
What would be one tool, habit, or piece of advice you would give to another woman approaching her sixties that wanted to take a leap of faith?
Leap! Have 100% faith in yourself, know that you can do whatever you set your mind to. I’ve learned in the last few years how incredibly important mindset is. What you say you can or cannot do is how things will turn out. That said, I think it’s so important to find other people to support you in whatever it is you want to do. My photography and this project would have never come to life if I hadn’t had a group of wonderful, kind, smart encouraging women supporting me along the way! It’s also so much more fun than doing it on your own. I do believe it’s important to think about what you want, what’s your big why? Do your research, be prepared like a good scout, and then go do whatever it is you want to do with your beautiful messy life. It’s waiting for you, trust me on that.
Thank you Bridget for sharing your inspiring journey with us!
Follow her on Instagram.