Top 10 Ways to Reinvent Yourself

Most people, at some point in life, think of reinventing themselves.  Whether it is tweaking your style or a complete life overhaul, we often strive to make ourselves better – or at least different – than before.  But the age-old question is; How does one go about this metamorphosis?  Change is a frightening exercise. When it is forced upon us, we have to go through the steps of re-learning and acceptance.  But what happens when we force it upon ourselves? It can be a magical process once we see the other side.

I was wickedly shy as a child and tween. I was afraid to raise my hand in school, even though I knew the reinvent shyanswer to the questions.  I remember the outgoing, confident kids being awarded the big parts in the school plays and being chosen first on the kickball team. Not necessarily because they were the most talented, but because they were self-assured.  Growing into a dorky teenager with braces added to my awkwardness, pulling me deeper into this introverted self.  The thought of going up to a stranger and introducing myself to them was terrifying.

However, on the inside, I was playful and humorous and even a bit of a rebel.  My circle of friends and family knew about those characteristics.  However, no one on the outside did. At that time, I was desperate to reinvent myself from the geeky duckling into the proverbial confident swan.  But how does one go about doing THAT?reinvent old new

In this particular case, I made a big decision to reinvent myself at approximately age 14. I was tired of being shy and I knew that I had more to offer to the world than being a human taking up space. Rather than loathe myself for not living the existence I desired, I decided to reinvent myself.  My pathway to confidence started in an unusual way….

I had fallen in love with a kiddy band from Scotland called the Bay City Rollers. They were the epitome of sappy sugary teeny-bop music…and I adored them.  Their core fan base of predominantly prepubescent girls came with a pen-pal club of like-minded international fans donning their tartan. 

 

That’s right, before the internet and social media, people actually wrote physical letters to one another on paper and mailed them inside an envelope with a stamp!  At one point I had pen-pals in 30+ US states and a dozen countries.   I tell you this story because it was the beginning of a metamorphosis.  Writing those letters became an outlet where I found my creative self.  The playful, humorous self.

I had a pen-pal in a far-away suburban Chicago location.  Actually, it was not far away at all in the grand scope of distances (an hour drive?). But it seemed FAR away back then. My friend (whom I had never met – sounds a little like Facebook, doesn’t it?) invited me to visit for a weekend slumber party.  My mother, I presume, phoned her mother and everything checked out in Mom-world. 

I sat at my little writing-table before that weekend and I vowed not to be shy. I wanted to be the cool girl from out-of-town. I visualized being the one who would bust into a Bay City Roller tune on cue and the one who instigated a rousing game of “truth or dare”. What did I have to lose? No one knew me. There was no history between us. I did not run the risk of being typecast.  Remarkably, I WAS that girl….and the magic happened.  I loved the energy of the “alternative me” and saw my new gang of friends a few more times that summer.

The metamorphosis happened seemingly overnight. However, I know it was a process. I went back to school in the fall ditching my old ways, looking prettier without my braces, and a sporting a new level of confidence.  And so on and so on, strides were made into adulthood to keep improving.   Do I still feel awkward in a roomful of total strangers? You bet.  Do I power through and leave with new contacts or friends? Often. Of course, a bar on premise does help the situation.

Having tackled reinvention several times in my life, I began to wonder how I could help people with ideas for reinventing themselves. Here are my Top Ten (okay, top nine):

Change careers:  Are you stuck in a dead-end job you thought would be more rewarding? Possibly no room for advancement? A dying industry?  The longer you stay there the more that job becomes a part of you. And if it is a negative influence, it can eventually take over your entire outlook on life. After all, most of us do spend the majority of our awake hours working. Know that even after decades, it is never too late to change your career.  Work for yourself by starting your own company. Get a degree online.  Take the first step. The rest will follow.

Move to a new city or country:  Sounds scary, right?  And often #1 on the list goes hand-in-hand with this one.   But I know of no better way to reinvent yourself.  In this case, no reinvent moving vanone knows you. Can you leave much of your past behind and work on the person you wish to be – revealing only what you wish to reveal from your former self. 

 

Take up a new hobby or sport:  You don’t want to do anything drastic but you always wanted to learn to ____. Fill in the blank.  Paint? Write? Surf? Dance? Act? Skydive? Ski? Speak French? Now is a perfect time to learn. Take a class, join a group. Tap into that creative or competitive side and watch a different kind of metamorphosis emerge. And chances are you will make a whole new group of like-minded friends.

Change your style or your hair:  Go from conservative to wild! Get some ink (just remember that idea is pretty permanent) or try a temporary tattoo to see if you like it. Or tone down your punk rock goth look to the professional you want to be. Dye your hair pink, buy a wig, cut it all off.  When you dress the part, you begin to feel the part. And once you feel the part,  you have replaced the old with the new.

reinvent handshake 2Mend Fences:  We all have fences to mend and messes to clean. Some are tiny and some may consume us.  Whether it is family issues or legal messes or work mate/manager muck, they exist.  Some people hold a grudge for life.  Why? Wouldn’t  it be fantastic if you could reawaken into a new person during your clean up? Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness.  Reaching out to commence the process of clean-up eliminates some of your distractions and emotional stress. And it will most likely change you into a more magnanimous person in the process. 

Take a spiritual journey:  No, you do not even have to be religious to be spiritual.  It is something you can do right in your hometown at a spiritual retreat or something grand and life changing like bathing in the River Ganges in India or walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Regardless, you will discover something new in your inner-self and you will return reinvented in some way.

Volunteer: Some of the most generous, nurturing people I have met in the world have worked to help other humans/animals/our earth/less fortunate. Volunteering can be amazingly easy – in your own community for a couple hours a week.  Anything from delivering meals to the elderly to being a role model for kids or simply walking dogs at your local animal shelter. Or you can go on exotic voluntourism trips anywhere in the world, such as building wells in Kenya, helping orphans in India or working at an animal sanctuary in Costa Rica.  

Spend less – save more:  This really touches on financial reinvention. But hey, let’s face it, that is a big part of life too.  Some people feel they live paycheck to paycheck and simply cannot get ahead. But take a long hard look at your finances.  Do you spend money on things you do not need?  New technology when the old stuff worked just fine? A new car when you could have replaced something in the old one for a lot less? A $1000 pair of shoes??? The list probably goes on. We are simply caught up in the mass consumerism of “keeping up with the Joneses”.  Or drunk buying on Amazon. investmentWhat if you cut a few things out of your monthly budget and put that money away for something to help you make more money? Perhaps a property investment or a fund for your early retirement.  Financial success can certainly be reinvention. 

Some of the most successful people in the world have reinvented themselves time and time again. Don’t be afraid to try it yourself.  It might be the best thing you ever did for yourself!  Enjoy your journey!

reinvent yoga

Yeah, that’s me. Searching for Nirvana in India. It’s a process.

 

The Orphan Who Changed my Life: Monday Musings

I volunteer for a foundation that helps orphans in India called The Miracle Foundation.  I have been going to India since 2005 on “ambassador” trips to work as a volunteer at various orphanages for a week or so.  We have varied targeted projects when we are there.  Usually we are a group or 10-12, mostly folks from the USA, since the foundation is headquartered in Austin, Texas, USA.

Some of the people on these trips are first timers. And many return again and again.  The experience is tragically difficult and absolutely life-changing at the same time.  India has a way of assaulting your senses the moment you arrive.  I have traveled all over the world and have never experienced someplace so “foreign”.

The sights of color and filth, the smells of curry and sweat, urine and flowers, the stifling heat and smog from burning trash which wraps itself around you like a boa constrictor and takes the life out of you certain times of year.  The cacophony of sounds screaming all around you all day long….the call to prayer at the mosque, the children cheering during a cricket match, the constant horns on rickshaws and automobiles raging all day and night. And the crows. I find the crows haunting.

India punches you in the gut and then wraps her arms around you in a loving embrace.  Oh India, you gawd awful seductress.

On one particular trip, we were at an orphanage in a remote area of one of the poorest states in the country.  So far from civilization that most Indians are shocked when I tell them not only do I know of it, I have been there.

Our assignment on this trip was to paint the children’s home with focus on their bedrooms. You see, in most Indian orphanages it feels more like a jail than img_2162a home.  There is little color, little air circulation, and sometimes little hope.  The house mothers are even called wardens at the government homes. Fortunately for a home under The Miracle Foundation’s care, there is a lot of  hope and happiness.   Our job on this trip was to make it feel like a true “home” with colorful paint and hand prints of all the kids on the walls painted to turn into butterflies.

Each volunteer had their own “family” of children for the week. They varied in age and sex so it felt like a family…usually made up of approximately 8-10 children. This group would help us with each of our projects throughout the week.

There was one gorgeous little girl of about 10-12 years old who stole away my heart.  We were connected from day one. She had coco skin, deep soulful black eyes and an incorrigible little smile.  The entire week she would run to me when we arrived each morning from our little girl-with-hoopnearby hotel.

She would put my arm around her and melt her little body into mine.  “Auntie, Auntie, COME” she would call out and take me off to see something. A drawing or a trick or her bed or some kind of small accomplishment of which she was proud.  She learned to master the hula hoop from me with rapid ease.

We got on with our projects all throughout the week, painting walls, painting hands and virtually painting their names across our hearts. There was also plenty of time for play. Time for games and crafts and even a field trip.   It was exhausting and exhilarating.   They blossomed under our love. And we, of course, grew extremely attached to them.

On the last night the kids performed on “stage” for us and then it turned into a Bollywood dance party.  We were so proud of them, our hearts swelling with adoration. After the show, they came out to get all of the volunteers to dance with them.  Holding hands, swinging them around, laughing, singing, dancing.  The evenings do cool off and you can see the stars forever.   The breeze kisses your skin and the earth feels like it sends vibrations through you from the ground. This exceptionally img_2210magical feeling of India is something I have never felt anywhere else in the world.  It is like an out of body experience.  It is so hard to describe, like the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes on that extraordinary day.

The last night is always the trickiest.  That inevitable goodbye happens without knowing if you will return to see them again.  The children asked us to promise we willimg_2214 back next year.  But how can you make such a promise when you live on the other side of the world? One never knows where life will take you.  And then your tears start to mix with theirs as you cry for happiness that it happened, yet sadness because it is over.

Keep in mind, most of these children are orphans. Unwanted! The “untouchables” in their culture. We constantly reminded them how important they were by giving them hugs and kisses and holding their hands.  Remember, all they own are a change of clothes (when one outfit is on, one is being hand washed by a house mother and sun dried in the courtyard), a school uniform, books for school and a plate for meals.  Most other things are shared.  The girls have little bits of jewelry made of plastic or a cheap metal. Because let’s face it, what is an Indian girl without bangles???

On that magical last night after dances and endless hugs, my girl pulled me aside from the madness. I crouched down to talk to her and she made me open up my hand and put it in front of her.  She tugged the little heart off her plastic beaded necklace and placed it in the palm of my hand. She closed my fingers around it and put her little hand over my fist and said, “Auntie, auntie, so you will never forget me.” I was choked with emotion in a way no other child had ever made me feel. Like I would EVER forget her??  I hugged her close and whispered in her ear a “thank you” which came out like a croak, I was so overwhelmed with sentiment.2013-03-11-11-01-51  When someone who owns NOTHING gives you something, your paradigms shift in the most powerful way.  That day I realized she did not have “nothing”, she was filled with love. And she passed on the best lesson I could ever learn.

It got me musing today….wondering where is that beautiful little girl?  Her particular home is not under the same partnership with the foundation, so they no longer take volunteers to work there. But maybe I can return on my own one day? She is a teenager now.  Is she still filled with love?  Is she happy and healthy? Do her deep soulful eyes still have the sparkle of hope? Does she know I often think of her? Did I help change her life as much as she did mine?  I hope so.

Monday Musings. Make this life count. Have a great week ahead.