Trying On a New Personna

Have you ever tried to re-invent yourself? 

medium_3790890798In the last few months, I’ve read several memoirs by people who found themselves outside their comfort zone and tried, with considerable success, to make sense of the experience.  In most of them, there is a weighing of the familiar with the unfamiliar, the comfortable with the uncomfortable.  In most of them, the author learns to adapt to new and often-trying circumstances.  But few of them describe the experience of adopting a whole new persona.

I’ve had to create myself anew several times.  One of the most challenging came when I accepted a job in Australia, a country in which the shared language masked gargantuan cultural differences.  The day I arrived, I was newly divorced. For the first time in my life, I was completely alone and on my own, as my family, my friends and my professional reputation were half a world away. 

Re-creating my persona from scratch was, all too often, a lonely and frustrating business.  As a “cage-rattler” from childhood, I had to learn how to function in a society in which “fitting in” was a paramount virtue in both social and work settings.  

At the same time, that foreign culture provided an opportunity to break out of bad habits I’d developed over four decades of trying to live up to the expectations of parents, teachers, friends, bosses and a spouse.  I had a built-in rationale if my new persona fell flat (“It’s not my fault—they just don’t understand American assertiveness”).  But it also meant that if my new persona worked, I could take all the credit (“They like me even though I am assertive”).  

In that environment, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. If I failed, no one would be disappointed except me.  If I succeeded, my kitbag would contain a whole new set of tools for managing the rest of my life.  And, mercifully, I did succeed.

What’s your story?

 

photo credit: flickr.com/photos/worldchaos81/3790890798/

Comments

  1. What an interesting topic. Those of us who have had to reinvent ourselves in a different place/country can relate to your inventing a new persona in Australia. I take my hat off to you that you succeeded in doing this, something that is no easy task in another country..

    You also make the point that you have read books about people moving out of their comfort zone, but not to adopting a whole new persona. I’m one of those writers who has written about this subject when I reinvented myself on two fronts. A former high-powered advertising executive, I made a new midlife start as a low-wage earner in a San Diego phone room. After living the high life in Mexico City. one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated cities, for thirty years , it also meant making a 380 degree change in lifestyle in the U.S. To this day I have two distinct personas – Anglo-Latina and Anglo-American.

    • Penelope … glad you found it interesting … in so many of the memoirs I’ve read lately, the author was surrounded by family, which limits your options in the change department. I’m looking forward to hearing your story!

      Reply

  2. I can relate to your experience in reinventing yourself.

    Retirement for me has been a series of reinventing myself endeavors. I left a 35 year career in computers to become the owner of a small horse ranch. The horse ranch part of my life has remained a constant for the 15 years since I retired, but what I did other than that has changed several times. Almost ten years ago I made my first small steps towards becoming a writer. I’m about to publish my first memoir on my career in computers. Then I will turn my attention to a memoir about the reinventing myself aspect of being retired. I’m thinking it will be a fun book to write.

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