The Power of Reinvention

It’s been a tough year. Hillary Clinton lost the election to a racist, sexist orangutan (an event that left me profoundly upset), I was surgically diagnosed with severe endometriosis forcing me onto a lifetime supply of hormonal medication, my beautiful mother had a heart attack, my romantic relationships made no sense, and most tragically, I lost my father to suicide. To be sure, there’s a lot to unpack here and through my future writings I hope to do so, but for right now I just want to talk about one thing: reinvention.

Over the last twelve months there were many, many times when all I could bring myself to do was curl up in bed, drink wine, and watch asmr videos until I fell asleep. Getting out of bed in the morning became the most difficult task of my day. Keeping up with clients, answering emails, going out with friends — it all exhausted me. I felt trapped, stuck between the responsibilities I knew I had to uphold and the emotions that desperately needed healing. At least with a broken leg those around you expect you to lay low — they see you and immediately offer support and empathy. Emotional pain is different, it’s invisible and stigmatized and often we are forced to bury it deep and carry on as if nothing happened, causing a loophole of depression and anger. Short of changing our society — how do you escape?

Full disclosure: I don’t have the answer to this question. What I do have, however, are a few key moments that, together, have helped me find the strength to move forward.

In the months following my dads death and my diagnosis, I felt quite numb, a feeling that eventually transformed into an anger and frustration with the human experience; a cynical nihilism set in. And yet, psychologically, I was aware I was going through a phase — one that I thought would pass or that I could fight off, eventually returning me to my old self. But this never happened because, as I began to realize, experiencing suicide and especially parental suicide, profoundly changes you as a person. Slowly I began to recognize a new normal I had been making for myself. Among other things, I had stopped emotionally investing in several situations and people that didn’t bring me joy (self preservation). I was also valuing my relationships with those I loved more than I had ever before. I was working less and spending more time on activities I cared about. My passion for social and political issues was reignited. And most important of all, I felt fearless. After everything I had been through, I knew I could handle anything the world threw at me. I was durable and courageous. I was a different person, for better or worse (I mention "for worse" because although I am discussing the positive changes there were definitely negatives ones as well). So, in the name of reinvention, I decided to embrace it and transform other parts of my life.

Moving to a new apartment was one of the biggest steps in my healing process. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt even after two nights, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I’m not much of a new-age spiritualist but it was truly as if I had left all of the desperation, sadness, and negative energy behind in the old apartment. My new place, right in the middle of the city with a sunny balcony has become a personal sanctuary for me.

The second major change was my diet. After months of slumping around and eating/drinking whatever I felt like, I decided to adopt a vegan, gluten free diet. After my endometriosis rupture and surgery, I was determined to never experience that kind of pain again. I’m also drinking less alcohol and exercising more frequently. Ultimately, I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to come off of the hormones and control the endo purely with diet and lifestyle. I’m not sure if it’s helping the disease yet, but I do know that I feel a lot better not only physically but emotionally. It feels good to spend time with food — chopping, cooking, eating, sharing. More than a hobby, food has become a catharsis.

The third big thing was changing my hair & style which, out of everything, was the least expected but incredibly impactful.  A little over a month ago I went to the salon and told my hairdresser to chop it all off and give me bangs. I had no idea how much it was going to affect me but within a week I began dressing differently, doing my makeup differently and before I knew it, feeling very, very different; feeling transformed; feeling like I had come into my new self. It was the physical embodiment of the changes that had taken place emotionally. My new look became a time marker, a before and after, the old me and the new me, the shedding of an old skin. For some this may be shallow, but for me it was therapeutic and actually allowed me to let go of a lot of the pain I was holding onto. I’ve always known there was power in how we look and dress but it was not until this moment that I realized the true impact it could have.

Finally, after a year and a half of working tirelessly for a clothing company — a full time branding contract that completely consumed me — I’m moving on. I definitely have some sadness about this, primarily because I am going to miss my team (a group of extraordinary women who became so much more to me than coworkers during this difficult time). But on the other hand, I am looking forward to a new start. I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve done over the last year and I’ve grown so much as an art director and a manager; I’m excited to apply those skills to new projects. Also, I might as well say, a little break will be nice. I’m thinking about doing some travelling to Asia or maybe spending some time in London or New York. I’m still not sure. In fact, I have no idea — a prospect that would have terrified me a year ago. But for the first time ever, uncertainty is okay. Even though I have no idea where this journey is taking me, I know that no matter what comes, I will be alright.

Lastly, I’d like to mention that of course I’m not fully healed yet (do you ever?). My cynicism flares up from time and time and I still have sad moments, especially when driving alone or late at night. But I have at least found a comfortable psychological and physical space to deal with them in. This, for me, is a big accomplishment. I accept what life has given me.

We will, throughout our lives, be forced to deal with situations we don’t want to and whether we like it or not, they will change us. Better off, when you’re emotionally ready, embracing them. Because, in the words of one my dad’s favourite songs: you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.