Have you ever noticed that sometimes you’ll start to see the same message pop up over and over? At first you brush it off, but eventually, you start to take notice and see a theme. Suddenly, it feels like it’s exactly what you needed to hear. That’s how it started with me, and the theme of reinvention.
If we can be totally honest here, I’ve struggled with this for the last 2 years. What I once thought was a question I playfully asked myself in my 20s, has become a nagging force following me all through my early 30s. Turns out, this wasn’t a phase that went away with youth
But lately, it’s been popping up even more. Initially, it came sweeping in at the start of the pandemic. Which seems normal when you think about it. Everyone was questioning their lives (I was even interviewed for a Refinery29 article about it!) But what started as curious introspection soon turned into a frantic, if not completely chaotic need to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I found myself pushing the envelopes that up until that point, I’d only been lightly flirting with. It became an outright mission.
The thing is, it’s sort of fun to speculate about who you are and where you’re going, and what it all means. There’s an air of mystery, intrigue, and possibility, and we are nothing if not people that live for the possibility of it all.
But when it comes to actually putting those things into action—real action, not just plotting or planning or outlining or designing, but really, honest-to-god action that requires you to actually push past the comfort zones you’ve so delicately created for yourself…that is kind of freaky. And that’s where I find myself now.
So this is 33
I am 33. Nearly 34. And I do not look like I thought I would look at 34. I don’t even just mean my life doesn’t look how I thought, I mean physically, this is not how I looked in my flash-forward to my 30s. (I think in those visions I probably wore a lot more suits and finally looked good with my hair pulled back in a low ponytail. Neither of those things is currently true)
Pink hair and a nose ring
To be truthful I never really knew what 33 would look like, I only ever pictured myself as the youthful, pink-haired, nose ring clad 20-something I felt like in my heart and soul. I think that’s where the disconnect comes in. When I had pink hair, when I got my nose pierced, when I used to cut up my t-shirts and tie them back together, I felt like I was living my most authentic life, and everything on the outside was a reflection of that. I felt completely whole in that way.
But somewhere along the way, that started to shift. And while I shifted my outside appearance to reflect how I wanted to feel on the inside, the way I actually felt hadn’t caught up. And so I was in this limbo of dressing as the person I wanted to be but never actually making that inward shift. It’s like putting on a doctor’s coat but still working a job you hate. You might want to be a doctor, might even be a doctor one day, but you can’t just put on a coat and expect your life to transform.
I realized that while I’d been dressing the part of who I wanted to be, I had never quite shifted the rest of my life. So there was always a disconnect because the inside didn’t match the outside.
Making the shift
It’s scary. It is scary to let go of a piece of yourself that has served you so well up until the moment it no longer does. Scarier still because you can never quite pinpoint when it happened, just that it’s never going to be the same again.
There’s a grieving that goes into it. A feeling of failure. Of letting yourself down. Of letting other people down who might look up to you or find inspiration in the things you’ve done. There’s a fear of disappointing others, but mainly, of disappointing yourself.
As I type this I feel that familiar pit in my stomach that tells me I’ve really hit on something—it’s the fear of disappointing myself. But also knowing that this is the feeling that comes before the breakthrough. It’s that one last attempt where your mind tries to keep you stuck because it’s safe. The problem is we always try to fight it instead of just understanding it’s a normal part of the grieving and moving on process. It’s normal, and it’s ok.
Maybe you know what I mean? Maybe you’re going through this too?