Reinvention: The Ultimate Adventure
Not just a Plan B…a plan to be happy
I got my first real taste of reinvention when I came out of my freshman year of music school at the University of Michigan and realized that no, I was not meant to live the narrowly focused, ultra- disciplined life of a professional French horn player.
That growing sense of hmmm…this is not where you are meant to be…is unsettling and disturbing, especially when you don’t know exactly where you are headed, you just know this ain’t it.
I remember shedding some tears over “the wasted years” I’d spent pursuing a life I ultimately didn’t choose.
I was concerned I’d now be behind schedule in some cosmic way. How could I have as good a shot at doing something else, when I’d devoted so much of my life to breath and rhythm and tone? And woe is me, I was surely going to be letting down my parents, who’d paid for lessons and music camp and suffered through those hours of practicing reaching for the elusive high notes.
All this angst at the ripe old age of 19.
Reinvention is sometimes looked at as what you have to do in those oh-shiz-now-what times, when things go sideways and you’re left without a job, say, or without a marriage. Or a college major you’re feeling good about.
Hey, nothing wrong with reinvention in those moments, I’ve been there. There’s a crisis of sorts, and in order to move forward, you’ve got to rethink some things and get creative.
But categorizing reinvention as a contingency plan in response to life roughly demanding something of you has you miss out on a lot.
As human beings, we are meant to evolve. We’re meant to shift and pivot and change. We’re meant to be artists of life, painting and then painting some more on this canvas of ours we’ve been given. 👩🎨
Over the years, I’ve worked in different capacities with many, many people who yearned to design a different sort of life than the one they were currently occupying. And yet they held back out of fear.
Now mind you, I get it. It can be downright boot-quakingly scary to let go of the familiar, even if the familiar is less than thrilling. I do think it helps to know, however, that fear is the brain’s automatic response to uncertainty.
When you know you’re hard-wired to turn any kind of uncertainty into fear, it makes it easier to notice it, accept it, and then move past it.
And on the other side of fear?
Oh my, that’s where the treasure is, the rich bounty that’s there waiting for the curious and courageous souls who trust that things will work out somehow and take that first scary step into the next unknown.
Another thing people tend to get hung up on – myself included at times – is wanting to have a Big Plan all drafted with outlines and chapters and instructions. Preferably in a binder notebook that would lend it some gravitas.
Well, I didn’t have a Big Plan back when I decided to pivot from music to journalism, but I did have a General Direction, and that was good enough for me. While I was treading water at a community college and waiting to be admitted to journalism school, my Uncle Bill called with an offer to fly me to Dubai to work for him as a secretary if I could be there in two weeks. ✈️
I’m pretty sure my saying yes to that and landing in Dubai two weeks later would not have been outlined in the detailed Big Plan Binder if I’d had one. But my desire to take advantage of this unexpected opportunity turned out to be the perfect launch pad for my career. I worked for my uncle for three months, and then, when he relocated to Saudi Arabia, I decided to stay put instead of fly home. I decided I was going to be a journalist in this strange, exotic place.
I walked into the Gulf News, the English language paper that to this day serves the region, and I asked to meet with the editor.
“And why would I hire you?” he asked, looking amused.
To be fair, that was a totally sensible, valid question. I was 20 years old, fresh off the expat boat in a strange land, and my journalism experience was limited to working on the high school paper.
I pointed out the only woman writing for them was writing for the society page. I also noted that I’d bring a different perspective to a newsroom full of Pakistani and Indian reporters, with a Brit or two in the mix.
And finally – this was the crucial piece – I looked right at him and said, “I’m a good writer, and I promise you’ll be glad you hired me.”
Send me out on any assignment, I offered, and if you don’t like what I come back with, I’ll leave you alone. But you’ll like it.
That’s how I got my first professional writing gig.
The editor sent me to an international bridge tournament, and I knew nothing about bridge. I was so thrilled to have a shot at greatness, I didn’t wonder if I could do it, I simply considered how. And so I wrote a feature story about what it’s like to attend a high-stakes bridge tournament when you know nothing about the game. And the editor liked it.
I didn’t think of it as a reinvention at the time, but that’s exactly what it was. I had known myself as a musician first and foremost…and then I stepped into declaring myself a journalist. I didn’t have the education for it, I had no credentials, I simply had the desire and the will to make it so.
As I sit here now, decades later, I can see quite clearly how the young woman who was me came to a realization that her soul wanted something different, something in tune with her appetite for new experiences and cultures and ideas.
I wish I could reach back and give her a hug and let her know it was all going to turn out, because along the way there were some scary, lonely times.
But damn, did I grow. And flourish. Because I was stepping into a new expression of myself that was true to my essence. Not as the only possible expression, but one that felt exciting and right for me at that exact time.
Here’s my definition of reinvention: A new, true expression of who you are now.
And as a card-carrying serial reinventionist, I am on a mission to spread the word about what’s possible when you loosen your white-knuckle grip on things, allow curiosity to lead the way, and trust yourself to have it turn out.
If I hadn’t had the backbone to ask for what I wanted and risk failure, I never would have gotten that first job. My life story wouldn’t include that part, for instance, where I was sent to India with the Dubai polo team to write about being hosted and entertained by the Maharaja of Jaipur. I would never have been mentored by the wise and patient editor Aziz Siddiqui, or gotten the subsequent work as a freelance writer in a foreign country, where I wound up living for 3 years before returning to the U.S. to get my journalism degree.
So no, I don’t buy into the whole idea of reinvention as a Plan B. As far as I’m concerned, it’s part of an overall plan to be happy.
Reinvention is your birthright, and you have the option of exercising that birthright whenever you say.
It might not be easy, and it’ll certainly drive up some uncertainty and fear, but the rewards are great for those who choose to take life up on its crazy offers.
I’m thinking when I’m a couple more decades down the road, God willing, I might look back on this particular chapter of my life and want to give the current me a reassuring hug.
“You go, girl,” I’ll say, my wrinkled little fist raised in a triumphant salute to adventure. “You do YOU!”
And then I’ll have a wee nip of whiskey.
What’s a time in your life where you said no, this ain’t it, I desire something different…and then you made it happen?
I’d love to hear about your adventure, past and future. Leave a comment below and share with the rest of us.
What if sharing your story were exactly the catalyst another person needed to start her own brave new chapter?
Oh, and one more thing: If it’d make a difference to have a trusted guide help you discover and embrace your essence…and step into a new adventure, a new life…that’s something I love providing. Check out my Soul Spa service, or Moxie’s Mission 2.0. Reply to this email and let me know you’re curious, and we’ll chat. 😊
With love and moxie,
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