There aren’t many times in your life when you get to reinvent yourself. Big milestones often bring reinvention, such as when you go away to college. This is especially true if you go out of state and meet an entirely new group of friends. Or, your first job out of school, when things are shiny and new and no one in the office knows you. But, over time, our lives settle into a rut.
We stop at the same coffee shop every morning. Have the same sex with our husbands. Eat out at the same restaurants. Gradually take on their values and their ideas of success, which can sometimes mean giving up our dreams. But then the divorce comes.
It may be a surprise, or we might initiate it, but either way it presents an unexpected opportunity for reinvention. And it touches every aspect of our lives. Maybe we sell the marital house and move into a smaller house or apartment. What colors do we really like on the walls? What about furniture?
My taste used to be quite traditional, with heavy dark woods and solid colors. Married-me wouldn’t recognize my new place. It’s all modern furniture, sleek lines, whimsical touches like palm leaf chair coverings, and bright colors. As our lives shift to accommodate new tastes and interests, so can our definitions of success.
Where once we defined ourselves as “successful” if we had a happy marriage, a nice house in a good neighborhood, and a fancy ring on our finger, much of this was outwardly focused. And a lie, even if we didn’t know it at the time. Every time Facebook memories show me a picture from my marriage, I wince. I’ve learned that a successful life can be defined more by my inner peace and happiness.
My priorities have shifted, and I’ve learned more what matters to me in literally every aspect.
Oddly, my career wasn’t that important to me while married. I had a husband to fall back on, and as long as my job helped pay the bills, I didn’t much care what I did for the 9 to 5 grind. But now, I want to find fulfillment and intellectual stimulation in my work. I do want to get ahead; so that I can save for my son’s education, pay for his braces, and provide him with financial stability.
My priorities have shifted, and I’ve learned more what matters to me in literally every aspect. My reinvention has given me the freedom to be the new me and make new friends, discover new hobbies, and admit to myself that I really do like going to baseball games and I do want to make more money. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
While some divorced women start up a side hustle to cover additional expenses or pay for the divorce, others shift careers entirely. We may go back to school for a new degree or recertification, or have the courage to approach our boss and ask for that promotion. And as we define success for ourselves, the new job could be giving up the huge paycheck for more flexibility and less stress. It could be downsizing our lives and prioritizing our mental health.
If you’ve been left reeling by all the changes that divorce brings, try to shift your focus. Not many people do get the reinvent themselves after their early 20’s. It’s a privilege to step into a deeper realization and expression of yourself: palm leaves, bright colors, new diplomas, and all.
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