I just got off the phone with a new friend who is at a crossroads in her life. Confused, scared and worried, she called me asking – almost begging – for advice. For the last fifteen years, she had been a wife and a mother working a job to pay the bills until her husband announced he was leaving her for a twenty-six-year-old Pilates instructor.
After filing for divorce and moving back in with her parents, she looked around at the carnage of her old life…and was overwhelmed.
In her voice was a desperation from living a life of “have to’s” as opposed to “want to’s”. In her voice was the anger at seeing her husband walk away to find his ‘happily ever after’, seemingly leaving her holding the proverbial bag. And hearing her voice, I knew that she was ready to stop living that life, and reinvent herself to something better.
Now I’m not talking about going from a secretary to an executive assistant kind of better. No, honey. I’m talking about a radical change that equates to putting a nuclear effing bomb in the middle of your life, sitting back, lighting the match and watching it explode.
Divorce can make us feel like our life is over; that the dreams we spent years tending are now rubbish. We now question the very fiber of our existence; our dreams, our future…our past choices. We’ve been traveling on the same road for so long, a different path seems terrifying.
But if you want to change the direction of your life, you must reinvent yourself. And we’re talking about a whole lot more than a new haircut and a pair of pantyhose.
Reinventing yourself is the equivalent of doing a three-point turn in the road of your life and then doing donuts on the soft shoulder. It’s a little reckless, a little dangerous and even a little scary. At best, you’ll find another road you never knew existed and at worst you’ll still find a strength you didn’t know you had.
3 Ways To Reinvent Yourself After Divorce:
One. You have to sit back and think what you really, truly want to do. No, I’m not talking about being the lotion girl for Chris Hemsworth’s next movie. That’s just not realistic, honey. (That, and I already applied for the job and those bastards said it was a nine-year waiting list.)
Have you always wanted to be a lawyer, a writer, a makeup artist? Most women I know harbor some kind of dream that they haven’t pursued. My friend Marnie found herself a divorced mother of two at thirty-eight. She was riddled with debt and lived with her parents. But she found a way to go to night school and get her law degree. It’s been nearly seven years, and she is now a practicing attorney with her own home and a fiancée. It can happen. It will happen, but you have to find a way to make it happen.
Once you have really decided what dream it is you want to pursue, the hard work really begins. Because you can’t build a new blanket without wrecking the old one. I’m going to get down and dirty with you here because what I’m about to say is going to hurt.
Two. Sacrifices are going to have to be made to set your dreams into motion. One of my best friends Annie turned fifty-two and decided she simply couldn’t take one more day at her job. Her job, while earning her a great deal of money, was so stressful that it was killing her. She wasn’t close to retirement. She and her husband were separated. Her daughter was getting ready to go to college. But she took a hard look at her life and decided that she couldn’t live one more day with things as they were.
She was going to either have a stroke or a nervous breakdown. She quit. She had to use part of her retirement account to pay her mortgage while she figured out what she wanted to do, but after six months she decided to go back to school and be a Kindergarten teacher. It had always been in her heart, and it was where she wanted to go.
A teacher’s salary was severely less than what she had been making, and would barely pay her bills for the first few years. But she did what she had to do and made big sacrifices to make it happen. I see her now in her classroom, reading books at story time and wonder if she is the same woman I saw in the office every day for nearly fifteen years. And I know – she’s not. She’s finally living her authentic life and happy.
Three. This is going to be the hardest of all. I’m going to ask you to believe in yourself. Because there will be days when no one…and I mean not even YOU will want to believe that you can make it. But you will.
Most amazing success stories start with nothing more than a dream and the belief that they CAN make their lives better. If your dream is to open a daycare in the middle of a heavy suburban area and make it not-for-profit…then do it. It can happen.
Minerva, the woman in the beginning of this story, wanted to become a writer. She’d thought about it and dreamed about it her whole life. But her current job drained her of her energy and she worried that since she’d never written anything, she would never be able to publish. And I told her exactly what I’m telling you…in order to make it happen, you MUST BELIEVE. And then put every ounce of yourself into it that you can.
I once heard that the definition of success isn’t NOT falling down, it’s getting up ONE MORE TIME than you fall. It’s okay to feel the strain of an uphill battle. Just as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Reinventing ourselves as women has got to be the hardest thing we will do. Because it forces us to stand up, hold out our arms and scream, “Enough!” And that’s not exactly what most people want or expect from us.
But as Eleanor Roosevelt used to say, “Well behaved women rarely make history.”. So I say – if you are at a crossroad, if you are questioning if you are living your ‘authentic self’, if you feel as though you’re walking through sand to continue walking the path you’re on…then there is no other option but reinvention.
One day, not long from now, you will wonder how you lived so long in that ‘other life’ and realize that the dream you are living ISN’T a dream. It’s now your reality. So honey, grab a match and hold on, because once you light that bomb…there’s no holding you back.
More from DivorcedMoms