Have you ever decided to reinvent yourself?
I have—twice. The first time was when I went off to college in another state. I was seventeen years old, thrilled to be finished with high school, and ready to meet new people and try new things. The second time was about a year ago when my husband and I downsized from our home in Atlanta and moved to Fernandina Beach, Florida, a charming town on Amelia Island, in the northeastern corner of the state. I was grateful and happy that we found the ideal place to live and excited to meet others here with whom I had a lot in common.
Both times, I didn’t set out to reinvent myself with a deliberate, well thought out plan. Rather, I was intrigued by new possibilities, and wanted to create a new routine. Once we were settled in our new home, I resolved to keep doing some of the positive things I was already doing, like exercising daily, practicing French, and writing fiction. But I wanted to try new things. too. What exactly, I wasn’t quite sure, so I gave myself some time to figure that out.
Meanwhile, I gravitated toward groups here that are similar to those to which I had belonged in Georgia. I joined a book club in my neighborhood. I connected with French speakers that I found through the Nextdoor app (in Atlanta, I used Meetup). I joined Amelia Island Writers and met many talented authors, including best-selling author David Baldacci, who has a home here.
Everyone I met was welcoming and friendly. Some were still working, and some were not; some had grown children nearby, and some did not. But we all shared the freedom to live a more fulfilling and less hectic lifestyle that was free of earlier responsibilities and stress. After a few months, I decided to try new activities that were way outside of my box. I began taking weekly jitterbug and swing dance lessons. I started playing Texas Holdem with a fun, casual group in my neighborhood. And I recently debuted as an amateur actress when I played a role in a Mystery Dinner Theatre show. I’ve had lots of fun doing new things, and have met and made friends with others who have similar interests.
The new connections and friendships I’ve made have helped me adjust to life in Florida and to feel like I belong here. Recently, I’ve been asked to write a column for a newsletter and to write feature articles for the local newspaper, the first of which was published last month. I’ve spoken at an event at a local bookstore about writing in several different genres and described my works in progress, both of which are nearing completion. And I’ve met some of my new friends for lunch at one of Amelia Island’s many wonderful restaurants on a regular basis.
“Reinventing” oneself has become an overused term, which is something I shy away from as an author. Even so, the expression captures the essence of my mission to become a new and more complete version of myself: More fulfilled, more relaxed, and more of who I was meant to be. The same way I felt way back during my first year in college!
Finalist, Georgia Author of the Year