The end of the year is a great time of reflection, introspection, and revival. With my birthday occurring just 3 days before Christmas, I often begin my resolve that day instead of January 1st. It enables me to look back on the previous year (or years for that matter) and see where I once was versus where I am now. The last few years have seemingly become better than the previous, but I firmly believe a big part of that is viewing a new year as a way to reinvent myself rather than a new year being just another time to create resolutions (which are immeasurable or intangible promises).
There’s one birthday in particular that became the eye-opener into why I needed to reinvent myself. It was in 2009. You see, 2009 was the worst year in my professional and personal life. The market tanked and I had suffered through a few layoffs, incurred a $14,000 hospital bill because I collapsed in an elevator from dehydration, and the worst part: I borrowed $1500 from my parents to cover my rent in South Florida one of those months. I hadn't needed to lean on my parents financially since I graduated college in 1999. It was the worst feeling in the world being a grown professional (a lawyer nonetheless) and needing to ask my parents for money to cover my rent. I had no savings to keep me afloat. I lived in the moment, but never for an unexpected one.
I threw myself a pity party on my birthday that year. It started with a crying episode in a mall dressing room because I couldn't find anything that fit me.
I know you’re thinking: if you’re unemployed, why the hell are you going shopping?
At the time, shopping was my best therapy (an annual ritual for me on my birthday). It’s how I coped when life handed me lemons.
I then walked out of dinner with my family because I was so angry at the world for leaving me unemployed, single, and more overweight than ever. Not to mention, I was drowning in thousands of credit card debt that could have purchased a nice new car.
It was cruel punishment for a 32-year old lawyer, and all I could focus on was the unfairness that had been bestowed upon me.
Why me? What did I do to deserve this?
I had no solutions, just continuous questions why.
This “Debbie Downer” attitude precluded me from focusing on all of the positive things I had in my life. It was easy for me to sink into a depression and feel sorry for myself. I built my 20’s around it and moved into my early 30’s feeling as though the world owed me something because I went to law school. To an outsider, I had my life together, but on the inside, I was a financially irresponsible and mentally broken zombie.
That 32nd birthday became the year I reinvented myself. I went cold turkey. I shifted my mindset. I stopped griping about what wasn’t going right for me and what I was entitled to. Instead, I focused on pure decisions to change my life. I stopped the victim mentality. I removed anything negative from my life – toxic people, self-deprecating thoughts, and unhealthy habits.
Over the next 18 months, I lost weight, I registered for a half-marathon (then I ran 2 marathons), I opened my writing business, and I finally had a positive balance in my bank account (and even savings). A few years later, in between realizing I didn’t want to practice law anymore and wanting to become a full-time entrepreneur, I committed to seeing a therapist at least once a month for personal self-improvement. It was the best thing I ever did. I stopped asking and I started doing.
It’s now 7 years since that “worst birthday.” I’m still reinventing myself each year. I’m grateful for achieving each accomplishment (whether personal or professional), continuing on the path to self-improvement, and living my purpose through my writing. I’m also credit card debt free thanks to my own financial re-wiring, I’m newly married, and I have a thriving business that has brought me immense freedom, gratitude, and personal happiness.
What did I do differently?
I stopped telling myself that it was too late to change the direction of my sails. I stopped buying into the belief that I couldn’t change my career path and plunge into something I really wanted.
I stopped using retail therapy as my medication and began using exercise and writing as my natural self-healing process.
I made a list of measurable goals, and kept the checklist next to me as a constant reminder. I became open to the idea of self-improvement and accepted that it was okay to constantly reinvent myself.
I stopped daydreaming about the life I wanted and started living that life.
Let 2018 be the year you reinvent yourself. Create new habits and change old ones. Stop contemplating about your dream job and go for it simply because it’s what you love doing. Stop being pushed into directions that others force you to go. Say no to the things that don’t fulfill you and don’t feel compelled to say yes to every invite. Say yes to time by yourself that you need. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and accept responsibility for your actions. Start making a new path for yourself and meet new people who inspire you to be better.
It’s never too late to be something or someone you’ve wanted to be. Let 2018 be that year for you.
Wendi Weiner is an attorney, award-winning writer, and Forbes Career Coach who has been featured in more than 40 major media outlets as a top authority in career branding. In 2017, she was named Best Resume Services Firm 2017 and Executive Career Coach of the Year. Connect with Wendi on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.