The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Diary by Jo Caruana: Embracing adventure. Finding balance

Sunday, 5 September 2021, 08:29 Last update: about 2 months ago

Jo Caruana is an entrepreneur, magazine editor, performer and environmental advocate. She is the Founder and CEO of the Finesse Group (@byfinessegroup), as well as a member of the Comedy Knights troupe, and a co-producer for The Shrinking Violets theatre collective, which she launched with four of her best friends. Together with her husband Bruce and dog Pip, she lives between Malta and England, and works remotely with clients all over the world. Follow her on Instagram @jocaruana.

"COVID hit me hard in those early days. My company (then WriteMeAnything) was on track to have its best year yet, but lost 95 per cent of its projected income from a Friday to a Monday when lockdown was announced. Similarly, my longed-for May wedding in the gorgeous village of Selbourne (England) was cancelled with mere weeks to go when it became clear that no one would be able to get there! I can't say that I have fond memories of those weeks in March 2020, but they certainly set some interesting things in motion.

I have been lucky that work had always poured in. Since starting my career as a copywriter and journalist back in 2006, I have never been bored and always been busy. I don't think I stopped for breath once. So, when things came to a grinding halt last March, I had something new on my hands: time. Of course it was terrifying. My business supports a fabulous team of women - writers, PR specialists, managers and executives - and I sat up at night worrying whether I would be able to pay wages and save jobs.

But if there's one thing I am grateful for, it's that I have always had that fretful freelancer's mindset about that illusive 'rainy day'. So, when the rainy day came, I had a little buffer and, instead of panicking, encouraged the team to get inspired: to read books, listen to podcasts, take courses, find mentors. With no meetings or rehearsals to go to, I was finally able to think about what I wanted to do, rather than react to my manic to-do list. In some ways it was magical. I got certified in the incredible American 'Storybrand framework', crafted the type of business I knew I wanted to run going forward, and pivoted. Today our business is fully remote, global, sustainable, purposeful, and very exciting. I'd be lying if I didn't say that that time was an absolute gift.

Tying the knot: Jo and Bruce on their wedding day

Thankfully we still had our best year ever - just not in the way I expected. Today we're back to being rushed off our feet in some ways, but I for one know I am more balanced than ever when it comes to 'work' and 'life'. The businesses keep coming too, and we recently launched a number of our own projects: the Finesse Writers' Club for aspiring writers, the Finesse Writers' Retreat for in-person training and, soon, an array of targeted online courses for the international market. 

As for the wedding? Well, we still haven't been able to bring our friends and families together in the gorgeous Selbourne garden we chose for our day. But we did get married! Bruce and I tied the knot with just a handful of beloved people around us last August and it was magical. Of course I wonder what that 'big day' would have been like and hope that we do get our party eventually. But, for now, we're focused on other things - and on staying true to one of our vows: 'to always have adventures'.

A life of adventure on a canal boat for the newly married couple

In fact, somewhat unexpectedly, the last few years have turned me from someone very routined and structured, into someone living a bit of a mad, uncharted adventure - and I love it! Among other things, Bruce and I have moved our home and businesses onto a wide-beam canal boat in southern England, and it couldn't be more fun. It's forced us to simplify everything, become acutely aware of our surroundings, focus, and pause. It's also taught me more about resources than anything 'environmental' I have lived so far. Existing off-grid with only solar panels to power your hairdryer and a limited water supply will do that to you. I have become conscious and grateful for every kilowatt, and think off-grid living is something everyone should try their hand at as we realign with what's going to be sustainable for the planet going into the future.

Because that future is coming and we need to be ready for it. I balk at the way mindless development continues and our island's beauty - natural and otherwise - is slashed. It's oppressive and maddening. How do we still not have a plan we can believe in? Why are citizens forced to fight for what should obviously be protected? My mind boggles, and I worry about where it will end. But I have also found my own peace with what I can control and the impact I can have. I strive to do good in my own world, and fight a little each day to make it a better place. I love what the last 18 months have taught me, the realities they have shown me, and the paths that have opened up to me. So onwards let's go - with kindness, hope, and a sense of adventure!

This series is conceived and edited by Marie Benoît who contributes her own Diary occasionally. [email protected]

  • don't miss