A change in plans

Three people share how they found a way to follow their passion.

As the year draws to an end, many of us take stock of our lives. We ask ourselves: How was the past year? What do I want out of the new year? Am I really doing what I love?

Photo: H.M. Cotton

Miriam Calleja Shaw

Pharmacist to Writer

“I’ve always enjoyed science. I wasn’t always intending to become a pharmacist, but when I worked in my parents’ pharmacy one summer, I became enamoured with it. There was a magic to it – that feeling of solving someone’s ills, of building connection, of learning about human nature.

Meanwhile, both writing and reading entered my life at a very early age. My parents always encouraged me to read and my school, Sacred Heart, strengthened my love for the written word. Writing was always a way to express myself. It wasn’t until my teens that I started writing poetry, and several years until I showed it to anyone. Poetry is my preferred medium because I can play with words so that they can have several meanings. I can be understood without being understood, I can connect. It is my medium and an extension of me.

Shifting from pharmacy to writing happened very slowly and with a great deal of sacrifice. When I decided to leave my full-time job working in community pharmacy I had to think quickly. When some of the fog cleared, I realised I needed to work fewer hours to have time and energy to pursue my other interests. I had put everything aside for work, and while I appreciate that this way suits some people, it just isn’t for me.

Working fewer hours meant making financial sacrifices too, so I sometimes took on side projects. One summer, after conducting a project to do with pharmacy and language, someone suggested writing health-related articles for their company. It was a light-bulb moment. I could join my two loves – healthcare and language. I had to build this side of my career, gain experience and skills, and look for gigs. It makes me so happy. There are bad days, and difficult clients but most days I can’t believe that I get to write for a living and teach creative writing. I love it. As for pharmacy, I worked in community pharmacy on and off after leaving my full-time job. I haven’t done that in almost a year now since I have been living in the US. However, I don’t exclude it for my future. There’s always that small pull.”

Photo: Jonathan Borg

Jessica Camilleri

Lawyer to Art Gallery Founder

“I’m a 23-year-old lawyer. I currently work in the field of data protection, blockchain and intellectual property. Funnily enough, I believe being a lawyer requires creativity. I always thought of the law in the same way an artist thinks of a paintbrush. It’s all about the way you use it. The end product very much depends on how much passion and time you put into the process of creating your end result. 

My grandfather was composer Prof. Charles Camilleri, so he definitely inspired me with his music and it is safe to say I grew up around a lot of musical and artistic talent. As I grew older, and went to law school, I always tried to keep that link to art in my life, and that is in fact why I chose Intellectual Property as one of my practice areas, as I feel very strongly about making sure artists know their rights.

I do feel that in Malta we lack artistic events, which is what acted as a catalyst for me to start Picturesque and give artists the platform they deserve.

I remember sitting in my room, while studying for my Civil Procedure exam and feeling I was not as in touch with my creative side as I used to be. So I said to myself: how can I incorporate art and creativity into my life, and make it a collaborative and social experience at the same time? – I always used to love the experience of visiting an art exhibition, or going to see a band play live, however big or small, so I slowly tried to make that vision a reality. So, I started recruiting artists and setting up Zoom calls with them, I set up a pricing mechanism, I set up the website and created some custom online marketing and boom! Picturesque was born  – an online and physical creative space. It’s actually kind of random how it all happened, but I enjoy every minute of it and can’t wait to grow as I gain more experience.”

Adrian Mizzi

Turnkey Contractor  to Wine Importer

“I was in the construction business for 25 years. The first eight years as a tile installer and the remaining 17, a partner in a turnkey company which I founded. However, with time, things in the turnkey industry took a turn for the worse, mainly due to lack of workforce, job responsibility within the workforce and the overall quality of the projects.

Meanwhile I had started to become interested in wine. The older I got, pints of beer turned into glasses of wine. I started to appreciate what I was drinking. Things progressed: from visiting wineries when on holiday, to going on wine holidays, then having a specific wine luggage for our travels and finally starting a wine course. Then a second wine course, then a third.

I started importing niche wines as a hobby. But, what started off as a spur-of-the-moment decision, taken while visiting a winery in Portugal, would in a few months give me the satisfaction I was totally missing from my turnkey job. I was close to 40 then and it dawned on me that, if I really wanted to pursue this, it was now or never.

I knew that shifting from having the luxury of choosing which turnkey jobs to take on, to competing in a saturated wine market didn’t make sense financially. But I was always a risk taker.

It’s what makes me happy that really matters and, with my wife’s blessing, I decided to go for it. First I had to fulfill all my contractual obligations to my clients at the time, which took me two years. Despite this long kind of “notice” period, it was ideal as I was phasing out turnkey while phasing in wine. Covid came, we had a baby boy and my wife also left her job to go freelance, so it’s been quite the ride. I founded Holy Wines. I now represent a total of 12 wineries in Malta and being able to do this full time is a dream come true.”

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