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The Art and Science of Regeneration

Humans, like the rest of nature, were constructed to evolve and change;it's part of the creative process. What parts of your life do you plan to regenerate this year?
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Science tells us that our skin regenerates itself every seven days, and, according to the Stanford Medicine Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, "Every single cell in our skeleton is replaced every seven years."

As I read this morning the obituary for Alan Rickman and the nominations for the Academy Awards, I thought about how often we regenerate or reinvent ourselves, whether by assuming personas or by choosing different roles or viewpoints during our lifetimes.

Many tributes this past week were paid to David Bowie, who was known for his ability to reinvent himself. And it was through his constant changing and evolving that he's been attributed with changing fashion, inspiring businesses on Wall Street, and influencing art, theatre, and television.

Yet despite the biological fact that we change and reinvent our bodies frequently, many of us are hesitant, if not downright afraid of change. Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., in a 2010 Huffington Post blog, wrote that "change isn't simply about embracing something unknown -- it's about giving up something old (and therefore good) for something new (and therefore not good)". She cited a Journal of Experimental Social Psychology study that states that "the longer something is thought to exist, the better it is evaluated." (Though few people, if any, would think that way about their old, dead skin cells.)

We are quicker to reinvent ourselves when we get to embrace what we want and see the new label as positive. For example, a friend who had breast cancer in her early 30s froze her eggs before treatment in case she ever decided to be a mother. Years later, when she and her partner decided the time was right, she willingly underwent the procedures that created her into "pregnant woman" and then "new mom."

Merriam-Webster defines regeneration as "a spiritual renewal or revival; renewal or restoration of a body, bodily part, or biological system after injury or a normal process; utilization by special devices of heat or other products that would ordinarily be lost" (as in the case of electronics). Regenerate comes from the Latin word regenerare, which means, "to create again."

While we may not recreate ourselves as drastically as David Bowie went from being David Robert Jones to David Bowie to Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke, we do shape and reinvent ourselves based on our thoughts, our beliefs, our clothing choices, and the labels we assign to ourselves and by how we morph over time.Sometimes this regeneration is inherent in us; we grow as we mature and our bodies change. Sometimes our regeneration is intentional; we choose to cast off ideas, relationships, jobs, titles and labels that we feel do not fit our authentic selves. The writer Leo Tolstoy said, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, no one thinks of changing himself." I disagree and cite the statistic that the self improvement industry is now worth $11 billion in the United States.

Humans, like the rest of nature, were constructed to evolve and change;it's part of the creative process. What parts of your life do you plan to regenerate this year?