Fairy stories tell of reinventing oneself (or being reinvented). The Ugly Duckling becomes a swan. Cinderella becomes a Princess. Luke Skywalker becomes a Jedi knight. In the past, real humans were often stuck in their assigned social role forever. The poor stayed poor, royal children were forced into political marriages, and hunting and fishing provided uncertain sustenance for many throughout their lives. Nowadays, modern life requires constant reinvention. Given the life expectancy of Americans today, two career will be necessary. Given the instability of job security and financial markets, many will have to reinvent themselves against their will and before they expect to. Among pressures brought to bear are job loss, a move to an unfamiliar place, becoming a parent, a change of lover, getting married or divorced, going to jail or emerging from it, going to college or going back to college, learning new skills by necessity, adopting a child, losing a spouse or close family member, getting a serious disease… the list goes on and on.
Each reinvention of ourself starts tentatively. Let’s face it, we’re scared when we don’t know where we’re going or how to get there, and that’s true of any age. First of all, where are we trying to go? How do we get there? Would that cost money? How would we acquire it? What would be expected of us? What do I expect of myself? Are we capable of this? Who is depending on us, what forces us to move forward faster than we feel comfortable doing? And so on. We all know how this feels. It feels awful. If feels like falling down a bottomless pit.
Can we avoid this anguish? The answer is, no. Probably every person reading this blog has reinvented himself or herself at least once and in most cases, it was not by choice. You didn’t get the job. You got dumped by your boyfriend. Your parents died in a plane crash. You got cancer. Once in a while, like Cinderella, you get bumped from your familiar situation into a much grander one, and it’s a huge and thrilling positive. But usually, self-reinvention is the result of an unpleasant surprise that shoves you forward – into the unknown. It’s what you do as a result that develops and defines your character. However scared you are, you can’t hide and vegetate and eat Oreos all day. You have to recreate a meaningful lifestyle for yourself, and only you can do it. Baby steps are the answer. Just start and keep toddling along and pretty soon you’ll be walking steadily and then heaven help the rest of us, you’ll be zooming into the stratosphere as a fascinating new you.
When will you be called upon to reinvent yourself? When will I? I WONDER. DO YOU?