I often encounter discouraged students who cry out, “I need to reinvent myself!” Today, I heard the expression again from a student facing a setback.
I remember feeling the exact same way in college after break-ups or discouraging grades in biology classes. I wanted to start fresh, but I didn’t know how. An older woman I knew told me that most people reinvent themselves about every seven years. She told me that I wasn’t stuck; I could consider another version of myself. I didn’t have to live forever in heartbreak, failure, and struggle. I could try another path, no matter how old I was or how bogged down in that path I felt.
I remember riding in a train from Charlottesville to Connecticut in that year I was 20. I was looking out the window into the wide expanse of land. I thought of the millions of ways one could live a life, and I prayed that God would help me reinvent myself. I turned to Isaiah 40:2, and I underlined these words:
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned.
It was a moment, just a moment, but I felt that this statement could be true for me, too. I needed a new me–and fast. My science grades were plummeting and my dreams of medical school were dissolving. A relationship had ended, and I never thought I’d find myself ever again. But hope snuck in, as it always does, through scripture.
I thought about another kind of me–a writing and teaching kind of me–that always seemed to come alive in English lectures. Maybe I could chase that girl down, catch up to her, and start another kind of living. Maybe the sad days could be gone. Maybe. Hope pushed me on and on and on until I arrived where I was supposed to be.
So I tell the student who wants to reinvent herself that she can. What if she tried something new, in a different location? What if she started some new friendships with encouraging people? What if she opened wide the doors of her heart and let some new ways of living in?
This I knew back then: God sees and has new plans ready. As the train rattled on, I read Isaiah 43:19 where God speaks:
I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Hope, this time, stormed in and overtook my heart. It took up residence and redecorated my whole life.
And there I sat on that train, reinvented.