Opportunity Is the Mother of Reinvention

My roadmap through life must have fallen in a blender while I made margaritas in college, but despite the zigzagging, I could not be happier for it.

by Karolyn Sherwood • More.com Member { View Profile }

Remember those women you went through school with who seemed to be completely in control of their lives? Career at 22, marriage at 26, baby at 29? Their 30s included promotions and another child or two. You know, they’re ones you wanted to knock out every time they showed up at another charity event looking fabulous. I was never that woman. My roadmap through life must have fallen in a blender when I was making margaritas in college. I could not have predicted the path my life would take, and I could not be happier for it.

I just turned 49 (no, really!), and it’s only in retrospect that I can see what a gift I’ve been given by the randomness of my life. A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker? My résumé makes that list look downright logical. I was raised by a single, working, high-achieving mother. So what did I want to be when I grew up? A stay-at-home mom. I did that for a few years, too, with four wonderful sons to prove it. I’ve been married, divorced, and remarried. Short of a joining a witness protection program, it seems I’ve done everything possible to reinvent myself — a few times.

In today’s world, with the economy and job market providing so many, ahem, career opportunities, many people have had to take jobs they would never have considered if life always went according to plan. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing if a person goes in with an open mind and a good attitude. Whether a woman reinvents herself out of necessity or desire or pure chance, the key is to embrace change and look for the positives. As Steve Jobs said in his now-famous commencement address to the Stanford University graduates in 2005 about life’s random events leading you somewhere remarkable, “You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect the dots looking backwards.”

Julie, a good friend of mine from high school, was fired a few years ago from a job she loved. After 12 months of fear, shame, and unemployment checks, she took a job she didn’t want just to pay her bills. It hasn’t been an easy road for her, but in a delightful twist of fate, she fell in love with a coworker, and they are getting married next spring. One of my neighbors whose been out of a “real” job for more than a year has created an online business that’s paying him more than his last job. He has acquired contacts and computer skills that will serve him well if — a big if — he decides to return to the corporate world.

Mine has been a twisted career path, to be sure. The most important reinvention, though, has happened on the inside. Through the uncharted maze of my life, I’ve encountered people and situations that have helped me see the world differently. I had four little boys by the time I was 28. When other women my age were going out to clubs, meeting/dating/hating men, and reading The Color Purple on their quiet nights home, I was changing diapers and reading Dr. Seuss to my sons. I wouldn’t have switched places with them for the world, but it was very challenging at the time. I was harried, hurried and impatient. Each day seemed filled with mini-disasters to conquer. After my kids left the nest, I finally had time to grow up myself. What I was too busy to realize when I was younger, is that everyone else has their own challenges and goals, too. Now patience has returned to my life, issues seem more manageable, and I am at a point where I can help others. 

I call myself a Slumdog Novelist. Like the boy in the movie, I could never have predicted that all my dots would lead me somewhere glorious. I try to pass on the lessons I’ve learned about life, love and family through my books. No one knows what tomorrow holds, but it just might be something fabulous that you’ve never even imagined.

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