Today I counted up the number of times I have reinvented myself. If I’m really nit-picky, that number comes in at lucky 7. And I’m only counting post-schooling because I don’t think we really begin to formally invent ourselves until we hit the real world.
I started as a musical theatre/pop singer. Then I was a cocktail waitress. After 6 months of that I became a country singer. And when the road life no longer appealed I fell into a job doing independent record promotions. That gig found me chatting up radio folks every week which led me to my own gig on radio. Forget the two years at radio college. I had one day of training and BAM – I was on the air. Fun times.
After ten years of live country radio I morphed again, this time into a full-time mother and wife. I had never anticipated those shoes but when they arrived all shiny and new I slipped into them like a comfy old pair of slippers. Until a year and a half later when I was offered another radio gig (this time in Smooth Jazz). There I sit today, these 19 years later, augmenting my on-air shenanigans with a little singing and this wine soaked blog.
Lots of hats over lots of time. Some big moves, some small ones, some sideways and some full left turn. Yes … lots of hats.
But what if you wore the same hat your entire life? Or maybe only two hats? And through dumb luck or a mischievous Universe or even just plain old passage of time, you found yourself faced with a brand new and completely unfamiliar future. You found the need to reinvent yourself. Could you do it?
When I came off the road (the first time) after 6 years of touring Canada and singing my little heart out, I immediately procured a waitress job. I had a long-range plan (start my own country band) but the short-range involved rent and groceries and gas and the occasional beer (wine came later). So there I was in this cutesy pub, slinging brews and chips and the odd whiskey and this guys comes in and says “Hey, wait a minute. I know you! Didn’t you used to sing at Ruby’s?”
And I’m like “Yep. That was me. Sang at Ruby’s a lot, actually.”
And he says “So what the hell are YOU doing here?”
Well, I had a couple of choices at that moment. Slink into the woodwork or own my situation. I chose #2. “I’m paying the rent, thank you very much sir, so a really big tip would be much appreciated. I’ll even sing for it if I must.”
Yes, I was a gutsy young thing but I will tell you I was also more than a little mortified. Here I was, a girl with a university degree and a performance career and I’d even had a record out that got played on radio and there I was … SERVING.
In hindsight, I’ll tell you that little serving job paid more than any singing gig I’d ever done and it was fun, easy work. But it wasn’t exactly chock full of cache. Prestige. Accomplishment. It was just a job.
My pal G experienced the same thing but to an even further degree. Because her musical act won a Juno! Did some big honkin’ international tours. Were famous! But she still had to pay the bills when the music wasn’t, so she waitressed. And got recognized.
And owned it.
I love that about her. She owned it with a big fat smile on her face and a plate of pasta in her hand. She owned the need to reinvent herself “when required” to navigate life and all its demands.
Over the years I was privileged to work in radio with some formidable human beings. A few of them are still at it but many have moved on. Now whether they moved on because radio can be a cold, harsh bitch or because time was not their friend or because they just got tired of being poor – I don’t know. But move on they did. To Real Estate or IT or entrepreneurship or sales. They moved. They reinvented. They took ownership of their lives and changed lanes.
Because really there are so many damn lanes available to us. You may enjoy one for a great many years and then decide, or be forced, or just be curious to try another one. And ya know what? If that other one doesn’t work out there is yet another nother one to tackle. Life’s lanes are infinite.
So what then is the obstacle? The big fat stumbling block that so very often hinders reinvention.
Ego is the obstacle. Because if you have allowed yourself to be defined by one thing and only one thing it’s pretty damn hard to let that signature go. Especially if your signature has been something “prestigious”. Something with glamour or fame or social cache or whatever else may colour your self-worth. And if your ego wins the day reinvention can become darn near impossible. Unless say you are reinventing from a Countess to a Queen. Then it’s probably okay.
That was the dilemma with T. You see T’s husband was a big-wig investment dude. And when he traded T in on a younger model she was forced to reinvent herself. She still had money (and a good lawyer) and a country club membership and a Jaguar. What T didn’t have was a husband. And for some strange reason that lack of husband changed her social currency profoundly. For a few years T wallowed in misery and Chardonnay. And then she smartened up. She started volunteering. Anywhere and everywhere. She made new friends. She found new meaning in her life. She sold the Jag and bought a Prius. She stopped wearing diamonds and gobs of makeup and let her hair go gray. And she loved it! She loved herself. She totally fell in love with the newly reinvented T.
Well that’s easy, you’re gonna tell me. It’s easy to reinvent yourself when money isn’t an object. It’s almost like going on a cheap and cheerful holiday.
R wasn’t quite so fortunate. R didn’t get a big fat divorce settlement or even a younger wife. What R got was notice. Notice that is his career-defining job (the one he loved most) was coming to an end. Funding was done. Money was (more than) spent. Times had changed. whatever the reason, his services were no longer required.
Was R sad? You bet? Did R wallow? Only a bit. Did R reinvent himself?
With amazing gusto.
R moved two hours away and found a gig that had virtually nothing to do with his PhD, his history or his wheelhouse. R found a job that will require a huge new learning curve and lots of hands-on training. R found a job that will tap into his love of working with his hands and make him a few bucks. Even if it is not his dream job R found a job that will further his dream. His dream to live a contented, happy life doing something fun and productive. Sure, he’s going to have to work damn hard to figure out this new reality. But he is up for the challenge. His ego is not dragging him back to “What if? or “I shoulda!” or “It’s not fair.”
R is in full reinvention mode. And digging it.
Just so you know … R is my beloved. And the above is a true story.
And I am just so damn proud of this man.
He left his ego at the door and is facing a “new” life head on. He’s wearing a new hat these days and it looks damn good on him. And his re-invention has just begun. Who knows where it will lead?
I can’t wait to find out.