Reinventing Myself

At the age of 49, I am starting over, dreaming of a new kind of life.  I thought I knew how my life would unfold, but I was wrong.  Now I am thinking about doing things that I had always considered impossible.

Self image is a funny thing. Our view of ourselves changes over time, and we go forward based on who we are and who we wish to be. As a child, I was the oldest, in charge of the little kids. As a teen, I was a good student, aiming to graduate high in my class. As a young adult, I was a business woman, managing companies in designer suits and chairing civic activities to keep my picture in the paper. Then I got married and had children, and I spent 20 years viewing myself as a wife and mother, to the point that when I finally went back to work five years ago, I was ashamed to admit it. Then one day I woke up to the fact that my marriage was over and my children were nearly grown, and as I looked forward, I realized that I had no self image left. Wife and mother was ending, and  there was nothing on the horizon. I had spent so much time and effort working to raise my children that I had never dreamed about who I would be when they left. I was completely lost.

I wallowed in lost for a while. I throw the best pity parties. I had spent half my life relying on my husband for income, my children for activities, and other parents for friends. I had lost my desire for a career. I had abandoned my civic activities. What kind of work could I get with a giant hole in my resume? I reluctantly began shopping my spotty resume around to local businesses, filling out job applications as if I were 20 and trying to move up from burger flipping, dressing in my one nice outfit while trying to make a chubby middle-aged body and graying hair look like something you’d like to see at a reception desk. It just wasn’t working. My one job offer waiting tables was from a nice kid who thought I’d be a good motherly influence on the younger wait staff. And even that fell through.

Help came from the most unbelievable place. I joined Facebook to check out what my teenagers were doing. What I found instead were friends from high school and from my early twenties, people I had lost touch with over the years. None of them knew mommy-me. They knew me when I had plans to conquer the world, and in their eyes I still had a chance to do it. I began to remember myself as someone more than a wife and mother, and I started thinking that maybe it wasn’t too late to try something new.

And so, slowly but surely, I am reinventing myself, and I guess I’m not quite sure what I will be. My last child will graduate in three years, and if I haven’t found things to take the place of ballgames and rides and fund raising, I could find myself staring at the walls with only cats for company. My dreams for the future have never included becoming a cat lady.

For twenty years now, all of my dreams have been for my children. The first child achieved my goal for him and is headed straight for success. The second has so many goals for herself and sets the bar so high that she has no need of my dreams. The last one is such a free spirit that setting goals for her would be like tethering a bird. She doesn’t know the destination yet, but she was born knowing the flight path. I’m the one now who needs a dream.

For the longest time, I didn’t even have a direction. I felt like I stood at a crossroads, and I just turned in circles with no clue which path to choose.

How did I decide what to do? I don’t have a clue. One day someone made a suggestion, another friend thought it sounded good, and I said okay. I don’t know if it’s the best choice. I don’t know if it will work out. I just know that, as I slowly move forward, I’m beginning to dream.

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