Coordinating family, intimacy, relational commitment and a career is a high wire balancing act for several women. During the course of one year shattered with loss, I would create my own improvised, instructional manual that addressed life’s changeable high wires: how to maneuver out of one life, one job and one identity under Herculean pressure. I didn’t know that this pressure and adversity would serve as a catalyst for my reinvention, and that I’d emerge as the woman I’d only envisioned.
At thirty-five, I was a senior editor with a demanding, 60 hour week schedule and a seemingly solid marriage. One afternoon I returned home only to learn it was no more. At that moment, I prepared by staying focused and minimizing emotion so I could take action. Fueled by a “nothing-to-lose-I’ve-already-lost-it-all” instinct, I emotionally released my relationship – then I wrote a letter of resignation to my supervisor. By nightfall, I had composed a wish list of cities, careers, and companies that resonated with me. That listing activity yielded more focus and provided direction for my new life.
Living Well is the Best Revenge
I told myself repeatedly that in my circumstances, living well is truly the best revenge. It would necessitate an enormous reserve of energy to pull off, and I made the irreversible decision to go forward. In the following week, my closest friend in New York helped me define my skills, abilities and personal desires. Energy breeds energy, and simple discussions with friends bring forth revelations and results. I viewed each day as an opportunity rather than a crisis and devoted more time to my professional interests and passions. While I jockeyed for job interviews in Seattle, New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, my best friend generously launched my website and cheered me on toward urban reinvention. Within weeks, I had offers to work in Chicago, but my house had not sold and I was unsuccessful landing an apartment in the Windy City. On a quiet Monday in July, my cell phone lit up with two calls that impacted my reinvention in a single day. I learned that my house sold and the new owner’s mortgage had been immediately processed. Could I be completely moved out by the end of the week? The second call was a job offer to write, edit, and manage a fledgling education department for a successful medical surgeon in Chicago.
When in Doubt, Say Yes to Everything
My gut instinct fiercely asserted one truth: I should say yes to everything regardless of logistics, my unpreparedness, and the impending fear that I’d be trading my domestic lifestyle for a gypsy existence. I purchased a one-way ticket to Chicago and jetted 500 miles away from the complacent life I had known.While change is not easy or comfortable, confronting the discomfort feels exhilarating and fueled my transition. I slept in my car and rented a hotel room until I landed an apartment while working full time, living out of a suitcase, and navigating America’s third largest city. In the process I met dynamic people and found I was capable of not only starting over, but also falling in love. I also learned to love my impassioned, internal drive which showed me new potentialities and reinvented who I was.
Don’t Stop at Success: Keep Evolving
Starting over is a humbling progression; it gave me permission to succeed and I discovered I had more to learn. It’s been my innermost desire to get smarter as I age which is perhaps a way to go against the grain of getting old. I began to see that intellectual development and transferring my knowledge to others was an opportunity to evolve once again. I applied to graduate school, was accepted, and during my first year was invited to teach inner city college students the empowering nature of writing, communication, and public speaking. Today, blissfully outside the corporate world, it feels like the familiar, inextinguishable energy I had is finally put to its highest use. I now hold a Master’s degree, teach students the value of written words, and edit at a renown university press. Reinvention is hard won but its rewards surpass the struggles. It reminds me that there’s an art to balancing on life’s high wire. It’s about testing our boundaries and risking it all without wavering.
By Tisha Nemeth-Loomis, a Chicago-based educator, writer, and editor http://www.tishanemethloomis.com