If At First You Don't Succeed, REtry, REtry Again

One of the hats I wear in my professional life is that of an English as a Second Language teacher. In that role, I teach my adult students what are called "word attack" skills. Despite how violent that sounds, it does not actually involve karate-chopping syllables or body slamming irregular verbs to the ground -- although, I'm sure many ESL students would jump at the chance to show our confusing, convoluted language who's -- not whose, mind you! -- boss. A common "word attack" strategy is to look for prefixes and suffixes as clues to meaning.

To jazz up what can be rather dry subject matter, I often tell my students, in my most melodramatic voice, that a simple little thing like a prefix can have a profound effect not only on the meaning of a word, but on our attitudes and even... cue the sound effect... dun-dun-duuun... our lives. Overkill? A bit, but work with me here. A few little letters really can change things. For example, why think of yourself as just ordinary when you can tack on a prefix and become extraordinary -- at least in your own eyes!

Prefixes definitely come in handy, and none more so than my all-time favorite, the absolute king of word parts -- "re." "Re" is the most wonderful of prefixes, because it makes a do-over possible. Put a "re" in front of a verb and you automatically, almost magically, get a second chance. If you don't like the ending to your story, rewrite it! If your fire has gone out, reignite it! If you've fallen off the dieting wagon hard enough to fracture your tibia, re-board at the next stop -- cast, crutches and all.

Okay, maybe do-overs don't happen quite so effortlessly, but those two little letters can be enormously powerful and liberating if we truly embrace their meaning. "Re" can be the safety net that allows us to risk taking a step into the unknown. As long as we have "re" on our side, we don't have to fear that our first imperfect step will be the only chance we get. This thought was particularly comforting to me the day I attempted to balance my over-50 self on a pair of three-inch stiletto heels, to the great amusement of the entire Macy's shoe department.

"Re" can also be the extended hand that helps pull us back up when we have fallen -- or have been knocked -- all the way off our stylish stilettos and flat onto our backs. That perfect prefix allows us to regain our composure, rethink our strategy and, ultimately, remount those heels in victory! I am a definite fan of "re," and never more so than during my "decade of loss," when I watched the very foundations of my life -- my marriage, my career, my finances and my health -- all crumble to pieces. I'm not going to lie; I didn't automatically jump right up and rejoin the race after being knocked down so many times. I lay on the ground for a good long while, reevaluating my circumstances, reconsidering my options and re-envisioning my future. Eventually, I grabbed hold of the extended hand, pulled myself up and, bit by bit, started to rebound and rebuild my life. It's a work in progress, by the way.

Missteps, stumbles and tumbles on our journeys do not have to be the final word for any of us. The challenges and struggles we have not quite conquered yet do not define us; we hold the power to define ourselves and, more importantly, with a little help from a prefix, to REdefine ourselves in the best way possible.

How can you use the power of "re" to give yourself a second chance in 2015?