Friday, January 06, 2012

The Path of Adaptation

People talk about reinventing themselves, making themselves over, but reinvention is what life is all about, and the journey from infant to adult to senior citizen is all part of the process.

A newborn infant grows and gets stronger, changing from immobile to mobile, but only in the sense of being able to crawl, walk, run, and race. Each milestone is a reinvention of the previous state, a constant state of flux until reaching a plateau from which more milestones are reached. Preschooler becomes a child going to school, learning, changing, embracing the lessons learned and new goals are chosen, or at least aimed for, as new paths open up. Elementary schoolers become middle schoolers (junior high schoolers in my day) and then high schoolers. Some high schoolers go to trade school, junior college, and university, and some go directly into the working world, reinventing themselves every step of the way. Some paths work out better than others and there are opportunities to switch paths -- or horses -- to find what works better or is forced upon us by circumstance or situation.

As a child, my dream was to go to college (university in European parlance) and become a writer and Supreme Court Justice. I didn't make it since my mother felt that their college dollars should go to my brother, the male heir, since he would have a family to support. He is five years younger and was six years behind me in school. By the time I had graduated with a degree, he would still not have been ready to go to college, and I would have been invested in my new career and making enough money I could help. That wasn't part of my mother's vision and thus not part of the deal, so I changed course, or rather it was changed by my choices.

I was my parents' child and then became someone's wife. I had been reinvented from college-bound student to wife and, soon after, someone's mother. I was also a military wife and that was another path that converged with the wife and mother path. Two more children followed and then came divorce. I was reinvented as single mother with children working two jobs and I had to adapt again. Children moved away and I was reinvented as divorced female moving into middle-age, single and alone, but at last following a part of the path I'd dreamed of long ago. I was still divorced, still living alone, still working, but the hours not working at a day job were filled with reading and writing. I wasn't going to be a Supreme Court Justice, but I was going to be a writer.

As a writer I have reinvented myself several times. I moved from freelance to stringer for newspapers to freelance writing for magazines to PR and writing newsletters for businesses and associations and writing a novel part-time. I have since reinvented myself as novelist and blogger and continue to adapt to a changing environment, hoping one day to be reinvented as award-winning, self-supporting, well known author selling millions of books. Choices and the changing industry may change my plans, or disrupt them entirely, but I continue to adapt.

Adaptation is another word for reinvention, or repurposing in the modern PC parlance. Basically, it all comes down to finding a way to fit in and finding a niche that suits for a day, a week, or a lifetime. Some people move from child to adult to marriage, children, and old age together and some people never get beyond having arrived in adulthood still clinging to their childhood. Men are good at that; just look at the size and price of their toys. Substitute 'adapt' for 'reinvent' and it's the same thing.

I have adapted many times, being a military wife moving from base to base and state to state (sometimes even from country to country) makes it easy for me to fit into life's currents and swim, sometimes even to surf, snorkel, dive, and hydroplane. I've had many different jobs, starting off in sales and moving to cashier and then to keypunch and data processing and IT. Those skills allowed me to reinvent/adapt to become a transcriptionist and then a medical transcriptionist to keep the lights and phone on and a roof over my head to keep the rain, snow, sleet, and wind off the food, but I have remained always a writer, and sometimes an artist. I've managed offices and businesses and been a worker bee buzzing about someone else's hive. I've always adapted to reinvent myself again and again in an ever changing environment, hitting the ground running with very few stumbles. I am the same child born over fifty years ago and I am the new and improved, although somewhat battered and scarred, me that will continue on whatever life throws at me, adapting and reinventing myself as I go. Where I will end up even I don't know, yet it has been and continues to be a rollercoaster ride with surprised around every bend.


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