The Process of Reinvention

I once wrote a narrative about the time I failed land navigation at ROTC boot camp. I was out there in the Kentucky wilderness with a hundred other cadets roaming around trying to find 10 points on a topical map. I only found 6 before the bullhorn sounded (a distant bullhorn at that), and I was supposed to set my compass to zero degrees and head north. With a hundred other people scrambling about the landscape, one would think a friendly face might be on hand with whom to team up. Alas, no. There I was at the most critical moment of the exercise and completely isolated. I had an hour to return to the check-in point. I set my compass to zero and looked at the landscape in front of me. It was 100% dense forest, and I would have to dead reckon through it. The G.I. Jane in me said, “You got this.” The pragmatic survivalist said, “Fuck that.” I heard a road just behind me. I knew where the bullhorn came from, and I knew the road must lead to the rally point because how else were you going to get a hundred cadets back to Ft. Knox without buses? I turned south towards the road and started making my way towards the sound of the bullhorn. Eventually, I was picked up by a passing Humvee with a couple other cadet passengers. I got yelled at (I assume the others did as well), and then we all got dropped off at the designated check-in. Apparently, it would take an extra two or three hours to get to the rally point via the road but from my perspective, at least those extra hours afforded me the opportunity to talk about it rather than my bones being left to be picked away by scavengers after no one ever found me.

My land navigation test was one of the first failures I encountered in my life. I know that sounds rather strange, but I was an overachiever in my K-12 years and failure was not something I was as familiar with at that point. (Now, however, the cup runneth over.) Even so, it was a blow to my psyche. In my previous narrative, I talked about the concept of recalibration. What does it mean to change the course of your life mid-exercise? How do we make rational decisions amidst the feelings of isolation and grief that accompany the moments when we feel up-ended? What tools are available to guide us in meaningful but more importantly, critical, directions as we decide what we value most? What’s worth saving and what’s worth losing? In the past month, my ego has been summarily bruised by Covid-19 while trying to find a job to carry the studio forward in the interim of wait-and-see. I have applied to jobs in education that mark me as either overeducated or under-experienced and have only landed one—a job I enjoy but that is not made for paying the bills. Still, I am privileged. I have the education to open some doors even if they do not want (or cannot afford) to let me in. I have the ability to get creative about each month as I stare down that forest. I have support and love and the power of being someone that does not go down that easy.

I am writing this in the studio. I have not spent more than a few days in this space since we shut it down. Now, we must figure out what to do with it because it is not sustainable in the model we previously dreamed about and the bullhorn just sounded. We must make a directional choice. If you are reading this, it is because of a conscious choice to share what it means to reinvent oneself. We do this continually throughout our lives either by force or by choice. Neither is more valuable than the other, however; the outcomes are relatively the same in the grand scope of life. In the flurry of cover letters that have left my computer in the past month, I have espoused the rhetoric of Eddie Vedder. His song, “Guaranteed”, became an anthem for my education philosophy. The lyrics can be found here. The stanza I always think about is this:

Leave it to me as I find a way to be
Consider me a satellite for ever orbiting
I knew all the rules but the rules did not know me

The process of reinventing oneself is not easy. It is not the hypotenuse of the equation; it is the extended journey that draws the most accurate lines. If you find yourself on this journey as well, keep your head up and your feet moving. We will get there—eventually. Do not give up on your dreams, but do not let the dream be your only guide. Your intuitive compass is oftentimes more powerful than the prescribed rules we usually follow. In this time of uncertainty, let the uncertainty propel you to new spaces where, perhaps, you were meant to be the entire time.

To listen: “Guaranteed” by Eddie Vedder

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