#007 How to Reinvent Yourself (Travel - 1)
Do You Have to Move?
The year I’d entered the sixth grade, I’d just moved from southern California to central Wisconsin. I had very little extended family in California, but in Wisconsin, aunts, uncles, and cousins poured out of every fissure in the landscape.
My new family pre-accepted me, and this bowled me over. I didn’t have to prove myself to join the group. I was born part of the group. I’d never experienced anything like it before.
I don’t know if I thought it was Wisconsin culture or if I was just so excited, but when I got to school, I couldn’t stop talking about my cousins. About two weeks into the school year, I sat at the lunch table full of girls, and one of them told me that she’d had enough. I needed to shut up about my cousins already. They weren’t that interesting!
So, I did. I shut up so thoroughly that, a week later, a few girls crowded around me and begged me to start talking again (some even asked me about my cousins). I shook my head. I was determined not to annoy anyone ever again.
That was the first time I’d tried to reinvent myself after a move. I’d always struggled to feel accepted by the people around me, and after spending the summer with my cousins, I thought I’d finally learned how to be myself and be accepted at the same time. It only worked for a couple of weeks, and then I got hurt.
Between that day and the day I left for college, I was free to reinvent myself at any time, but I only evolved to the extent any normal kid evolves during those years. I say “only” because I desperately wanted an exterior self that represented my interior self, but it felt out of reach.
Is it too dramatic to say that other people’s expectations felt like a massive weight on my fragile soul?
College didn’t fix that, nor did a marriage. I wouldn’t get the self I wanted until I moved from Minneapolis to Philadelphia.
When I arrived in Philadelphia, I was in my mid-twenties and about to finalize my divorce. I got a corporate job, bought a house, did a lot of karate, and whined a lot online. I followed that with new clothes, new hair, new friends, new hobbies, and a new guy.
I finally embraced a truer version of myself.
I was rejected by a good number of people, as I’d feared would happen for so long, but it was ok because new people accepted me, and I was learning to accept myself.
The way I saw it, I’d shaken my life up like a snow globe and was willing to accept whatever new configuration it took after the flakes settled.
Years later, I wanted to change again, and again, I worried about challenging the expectations of my friends, but not as much. I gave up my corporate job, went to graduate school, and became a professional Reiki practitioner. This time, I did it without moving.
All week long, I’ve been stumped about what I want to say about relocation and reinvention, escaping the expectations of others and the fear of rejection.
I thought that relocation and reinvention were undeniably linked. We’ve all heard stories about people running off to a new place and becoming a new person. Just last weekend, I watched the docuseries based on the diaries of Andy Warhol. In the first episode, we see him leave conservative Pittsburgh for New York City, where he reinvents himself as one of the greatest artists of his generation.
Warhol relocated only once, though, and he continually reinvented himself throughout his entire life, and now I know what I want to say.
Relocation is not the catalyst for reinvention. The catalyst for reinvention is pain. Warhol only moved once, but his diaries tell a story of ongoing pain.
My own reinvention story is also about ongoing pain. I shook up my life like a snow globe because it was too painful to keep it the way it was.
The desire for change is the natural response to a painful situation, but we don’t always know exactly what needs to change.
Sometimes, the only thing that makes it feel better is burning everything to the ground and starting over. (I don’t mean literally. I’m not advocating for arson here.)
Sometimes it’s our location. Sometimes it’s a relationship (or several relationships). Sometimes it’s just an outlook or how we talk to ourselves. The only way to know is to try a few things and see what happens.
I’ve left everything and started over multiple times (not always by choice). The losses were never as bad as I thought they’d be and the gains were better than I expected. It’ll be ok if you make a big change. You will come out on the other side.
When have you reinvented yourself? Are you ripe for reinvention now? Let me know in the comments.
This is part 1 of my series on travel and relocation. Does it really add meaning to our lives or are we better off staying home? Please subscribe to see more.