The maxim, necessity is the mother of invention, brings to mind innovations such as light bulbs and bug spray. People invent things out of necessity, but they also reinvent themselves for the same reason. We all do it.
Reinventing myself started early. A teacher fed me a steady diet of C’s in conduct as I transformed myself from a wild, little runabout to a stay-at-desk young lady.
At a later date, I honed my skills and recreated myself into someone others wouldn’t ridicule. Refusing to remain the poor farmer’s daughter who shared space with the only remaining outhouse in the States—or so it seemed—my first step involved snagging a boyfriend who didn’t know my circumstances. (I was forced to look outside my school district.) My married sister, with her fancy indoor facilities, aided and abetted me in a cover-up. For the first few dates, he picked me up and delivered me at her house. I kept my very real fear of werewolves under wraps, and by the time he caught sight of the outhouse, the poor guy was smitten.
Back then, boyfriends defined us girls, and I unaccountably flourished. When the relationship didn’t last—quite a blow since small, Ohio farming communities sprouted happily-ever-after twosomes like fields of corn—I contemplated how best to fit in and realized I was clueless.
So I attended college where a speech class transformed me once again. I learned not to go “acrost” the street without looking, that “fish” should not be pronounced f-e-e-s-h, that I never “axed” a question but “asked” it, and that “sell” should not be confused with “sail” (as in, “He’d sail his own mother for a nickel,” and “Christopher Columbus selled the ocean blue.” My efforts at enunciation paid off; I began to sound and feel more educated.
Like many others in today’s economy, I created new versions of myself in the jobs arena. I worked as a secretary, a medical transcriptionist, a technical writer, and a teacher. I free-lanced for the Huntsville Times. Sometimes I held two jobs; on occasion, I requested that my full-time job shrink to half-time; at other times, I worked at home or not at all. I studied court reporting and dancing—contemplating careers in both—but, after nineteen years, ultimately majored in English, followed by a master’s in education a decade later.
As a teacher, I first taught English as a second language but decided to switch gears and try my hand at Spanish. Since I forgot everything I knew upon first learning the language twenty years earlier, I hit the books and taught myself. And I sent myself to an immersion school in Costa Rica. ¡Fantastico!
My latest makeover changes my path again in another attempt to mold the future to fit my needs. Throughout the years, I’d write with sudden bursts of creativity. In a go-with-the-flow mentality, I recently stopped teaching to concentrate on my inner author. I now possess half-written novels crying to be finished and picture book manuscripts begging for publication.
Everything I’ve ever strived for has required reinvention. I aspired to become a wife and mother—we farmers’ daughters all craved that—and, in actuality, became what I desired. A common enough occurrence, that act alone has the ability to transform all of us from selfish individuals to those able to put the needs of others first.
Proud of our enduring marriage, my husband and I have managed to periodically reinvent ourselves in order to work through rough spots. When couples don’t reinvent themselves, it’s certain death for the relationship.
Proud of my children as well, I’ve decided that worrying whether I’ve screwed them up is a waste of time. But can I stop? No transformation there. Middle-of-the-night anxieties continue to plague me. But daylight hours brighten the world and bury my inner angst as I witness the successes of my children and bask in their love.
Will I continue to reinvent myself? Life isn’t over so my answer’s yes. I’m still a work in progress.
Aren’t we all?