The fall of my 18th year, I left home to become a freshman at a small college about four hours from where I lived.
There weren't a lot of tearful good-byes. Not of the kind you see on TV commercials. I don't remember how my Dad felt. I don't even remember how I got to the dorms. I expect my mother drove me. She did most of the driving. At any rate, she probably said, "good luck!" and went her merry way home, after emptying the trunk of the car and helping me move in.
I remember considering that experience, of being away from the home and family, exciting and mysterious. Many of my school friends were off to college, also, but most of them chose universities or colleges closer to home. I was the only one, if memory serves, who ventured too far to travel home on a weekend, without making prior plans.
The first thing I did, that day, as I unpacked and arranged my 'stuff' in my tiny dorm room, was become someone else.
My 1st Reinvention
I never liked my given first name. It caused a good bit of misery and embarrassment.
As I was hanging a few things in my closet, that fateful day I started college in September of 1969, my roommate came in and introduced herself.
"Hi, I'm Sue," she said. She was shorter than I, and a little heavier, but her smile was warm and innocent and I liked her right away.
"Hi," I answered. "I'm Yvonne."
As I met new people across campus, and said that new name, my middle name, over and over and over, I got so comfortable with it, I began to feel like Yvonne. The girl who had graduated high school just a few months previously, whose name was on my diploma, and on my ID, and on my birth certificate (if there ever was such a document; to this day I have never seen my original birth certificate, though I've tried to locate it), faded away into the shadows at SUNY Delhi, and became a character from a play I once saw, and didn't like.
This new person, MY INVENTION, was more likable. She was calmer and harder around the edges. She strolled through the concourses of the school with purpose in every step. She met new people, learned to be whatever was needed, and worked hard every day to leave the old her behind.
My 2nd Reinvention
I became Yvonne so completely, it was hard to go back to being that other girl, every time I had to go home. I say "had to go home" because I never went home unless I had to. I wasn't homesick. Not in the least. Not one iota. I was glad to be away from home. I was ready for new adventure!
Of course, back home, no one wanted the new girl. Everyone insisted I be that other girl - the unhappy, shy, miserable creature created by circumstance - and though I resisted, though I insisted they let me be this new version of myself, I finally had to give in. The family was smug and self righteous in their decision to make me behave.
The old me, the one who always gave in, resurfaced and let the family win.
It didn't last. Yvonne enjoyed her freedom and independence. She let the old me, the other girl, have her moments, but as soon as I was within site of the campus at school, she shoved that old dismal creature aside and came out to bask in the sunlight.
Over the years, the family grew to accept Yvonne. They refused to call me by that name, though it's my middle name - it's not like I made a name up; I chose a name that was part of who I am. Still, they insisted my name, if not me, was still...well, what they said not what I said.
Outside of the family, the world knew only Yvonne. How delightful! Despite the stumbling blocks, and worries, and trials and tribulations, I became so much Yvonne, that I thought of that other girl rarely, and when I did, I shrugged her off.
And, over time, I began to itch for a change.
I was never going to get married and have children, until I did.
It was wonderful! The marriage didn't last, but I had three children and I know I would be totally lost without them, today. To them, I was and will ever be Yvonne. They know the story, they know the other girl, or at least, her name, but as their Mom, I am Yvonne, and Yvonne is the strong, determined, willful, sometimes stubborn, woman who raised them.
It was a reinvention of sorts. Given I had planned my life, until then, for singleness. I was happy by myself, for the most part. Unlike most of my friends, I did not see marriage as an option for my future.
When it happened, the birth of my first came before the marriage, but that happens so it wasn't that big of a deal. The marriage came almost 2 years later. It was ... everything I imagined it to be, and everything I, as a woman, did not want. Sigh.
I morphed myself into the world of stay-at-home Mom and I did enjoy that. I was overjoyed with my kids, and as I remember now, life was truly good back then. The problem was, the kids eventually grew up and went off to school and there I was. Yvonne, the independent, strong willed, stubborn, creative, determined woman...left with time on her hands.
Volunteering at school helped. But, not much.
There was something brewing inside and I finally gave in and went back to school. I matriculated into SUNY Brockport in journalism and began to fly!
My 3rd Reinvention
The moment I walked into the lounge in that wing of the brick building at SUNY Brockport where English, Journalism and Literature studies were taught, I felt as if I was finally...finally...home.
Not home in the sense of a place where you gather with family.
This was home in the sense of my whole being, my soul, and my purpose in life, were there, in that lounge, in that building, with those people. We were more than friends, and beyond family. We were parts of a bigger whole. It's hard to explain.
I only knew that ever cell in my body tingled with happiness and I could almost hear them whisper, "At last! This is our place."
I was more than reinvented, that day. My life was more than shifting from one thing to another. I was reborn.
And so it was, for two years. I traveled the 45 minutes from my home to the University three times a week, achieved honors, and graduated Magna Cum Laude. When it was time to leave, to walk way, I held my head up, strolled out the door and across the campus, to the car, along with my husband and children, who had attended with me, and I cried. Not loud sobbing. Just a few tears no one but myself saw.
All my reinvention abilities failed me, in those moments.
And yet, I did go on to reinvent myself again, and again. I will tell you more in September. Come back for Part 11 of the Power of Reinvention.
What I will close with today is the belief, as I have come to learn, that magic is a part of our soul. I believe we weave magic in so many different ways, our uniqueness is guaranteed.
Your magic is what makes you, you.
If I can help you bring it out, share it with the world, make a little money off of it, I will have fulfilled my role in the Universe.