The Power of Reinvention
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.
I had a BS Degree. I was proud of what I'd accomplished. But, I didn't have a clue where to go next, or what to do next.
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.
Okay, following your instructions from Facebook to come share a reinvention story. You know most of mine. And like you, I've reinvented myself over and over. But for your readers I'll go back to a couple of years before we met, to the reinvention that probably made our meeting possible.
Looking back, I'd been dissatisfied with many aspects of my career for at least a few years. Appellate lawyer, outwardly successful, but also a combination of bored, detached, and occasionally downright miserable with parts of that role. The reinvention actually started in the 90s, when I resigned my partnership in the law firm, but continued practicing law as "of counsel" to the firm -- a kind of fancy term for contract work. Though I did not yet think of myself this way, I had become a solopreneur.
Again in hindsight, much of the dissatisfaction remained. As the 90s wore on and the internet grew in importance, I kept weaving more and more of the new technology into the way I worked. In 2001, on the return flight from a business trip to the ABA Tech Show, it all hit the fan and I made the decision to leave law practice and start my own consultancy for helping lawyers (woefully behind in adopting technology) join the new millennium.
Easier decided than achieved, I quickly learned! As our later publishing client, Lee Thayer, likes to say, "You can't confer a benefit on an unwilling recipient." Anyway, I found my way into the Rochester Professional Consultants Network, to grow my skills.
And there I found you.
Turning my "failure" as a legal technology consultant into the wonderful partnership-in-all-things we share and the sequence of reinventions that I marvel at, even as we continue evolving.
Thank you for prompting me to revisit this wondrous time!
Posted by: Tom Collins | 08/13/2019 at 09:57 AM
ha! I remember that first look - when I asked a question at RPCN and you were called on to answer it and I had to turn around to see you. I remember wondering, "I wonder if he's single." Because, I was and though I wasn't dating at the time, I considered, in that moment, that I would date you, if you were single.
And so, here we are almost 15 years later. Together forever. Reinventing ourselves when we need to or want to, in whatever U.S. state we live in at the time.
Life is good.
Posted by: Yvonne DiVita | 08/13/2019 at 11:59 AM
What a wonderful post! I'm so glad I saw Elizabeth's encouragement to stop over. This is going to be my favorite place to visit from FB for a while.
My reinvention story? Like you, Yvonne, I've invented myself several times. But the one that stuck? Learning to sail in my mid-40s, selling everything, and moving onto a sailboat.
I've learned that traveling full time does not make one a different person. But it makes one more of who they already are. And isn't that the best kind of reinvention?
Posted by: Pamela | 08/13/2019 at 04:53 PM
Pamela, how true: it makes one more of who they already are. And you are amazing! I follow your journey sailing with enthusiasm, as I am not a water person. i don't do the swimming or boating thing...it's a deep seated mistrust of water. BUT, I love watching friends and family do it.
Your journey is especially interesting. YOU should be on my A Smart Woman Conversation. Check the 'video' page here to see what I mean. Your story would resonate with so many. What do you think?
Posted by: Yvonne DiVita | 08/14/2019 at 10:01 AM
So, Yvonne, I'm at least 10 years older than you were when you reinvented with journalism school, and here I am about to do the same, but in a healthcare-related field. (No, I'm not thinking about being the oldest student in class at all. Haha!) I'm not at the point of feeling "at home" yet, though. I'll get back to you after the first week of physics class! ☺
Kidding and my age aside, I'm thankful for this time in my life-major personal change happening, too-to explore a new me. I know she's out there somewhere, doing big things-I just need to figure out how to get to her, and go! Your story, so far, is incredibly encouraging. Thank you for tapping me to pay a visit. I'm looking forward to the exciting continuation.
Also, Pamela, you're an inspiration, too, big time. Massive props for making your life dream come true.
Posted by: Elizabeth Keene | 08/14/2019 at 05:57 PM
Elizabeth, you are a treasure to me! You remind me that we each have the seeds for great things, inside. I will enjoy watching your journey and applauding you every step of the way. You cannot fail because you clearly have the desire! Sometimes, what we see as failure is just new opportunity, of course. I failed at many things, but here I am, still stumbling forward.
Have you read the blog post: https://www.nurturingbigideas.com/2019/03/expanding-our-imagination-with-art.html I find that particular blog post to be inspiring, given the content was hand fed to me, pretty much. You might enjoy it.
Thank you for sharing. Come back and share more.
Posted by: Yvonne DiVita | 08/15/2019 at 07:14 AM