Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on this earth is in a continuous state of evolving, refining, improving, adapting, enhancing…changing. You were not put on this earth to remain stagnant. – Steve Maraboli
Anxious fingers gripped the edges of the steering wheel. Even after morning affirmations, I still felt uneasy about getting out of the car. It’s time. Teary-eyed, I gathered all of my belongings: an overstuffed book bag that contained a personal computer, two bottles of water and a brown-bag lunch, extra copies of The House on Mango Street, a box of pens, and a stack of final exam essays that I had slugged through the night before. You can do this. The front compartment of the bag held an unsealed envelope. Inside, there were two copies of an important letter that I planned on hand-delivering—one copy to the principal and another to the English department chair. Resignation ready.
Questions soon collided with (un)certainties. Is resignation the right choice? There is no plan B, C, or D. Did I waste a first-generation college degree on a career that is excruciatingly exhausting? Teaching is my first post-undergrad job. Is defining a career driven by multiple passions and shaped by my own terms even possible? I value creative freedom; but instead, I am studying ways to make students enthusiastic about state assessments. Will the bureaucracy of public education ever become less constricting? If I’ve impacted just one student, I’ve done my job. What are colleagues, students, parents, and friends going to think? The school district is just going to replace me anyway. Am I going to be flat broke? I am making a difference in the lives of our young people, but I am not being very kind to myself.
Standing in the front of the building and paralyzed by over analysis, jumbled thoughts were interrupted by a student. “Good morning, Miss Wells! Did you read my essay?” I dug through clutter to find the paper. I didn’t need to reread it to remember why I wrote a heartfelt note at the top right-hand corner. The essay pulled a heart string, for it centered on reinvention. The opening line: A soul that is thirsty for change must be quenched. The Vicente family moved from El Salvador to Washington D.C. with no money or additional family support. Her parents’ sole purpose was to provide a better life for their children. Chronicling the process of change and how fearful, but necessary, it can be helped me to finalize my own decision. If I wanted to move forward—to demand change on a personal and professional level—I needed to submit the letter. With the envelope in hand, I made my way to the principal’s office to announce my resignation. Change was happening and everything was going to be okay.
Don’t Hold Back
Back then, I was hesitant in changing because I didn’t know what was on the other side of that decision. Would change come back to bite me in the rear end? A decade later, I can say that the decision to move on from teaching created a shift in my overall attitude about transformation. I didn’t like something. I leaned on faith. I changed it. I learned from the outcome.
Reinvention has since shown up to my doorstep more times than I can count. In the last decade alone, the number of times I’ve made major changes has been in the double digits. More recently, I’ve transformed into a full-time-homeschooling-and-freelancing-slash-everything-else mom. And if I’m being honest with myself, it’s really hard. What’s even more difficult is seeing these picture-perfect images of how seamless the transition to new parenthood should be (thanks, social media!). Juggling a never-ending “to-do” list while reevaluating and merging parenting with career, I quickly concluded that becoming my best self means eliminating the comparison game. This transformation is my own. What else does change mean? It also means that I might have lots of questions along the way, but I’m not always going to have all the answers. In order to become the best version of Tonya, I must embrace all the chapters, individualize my journey, and be fine with not having it all.
Won’t You Join Me? Reinvent Yourself Too (2.0)
Tribe: What’s holding you back from becoming the best version of yourself? Is metamorphosis calling your name, too? Maybe a series of misfortunate events has resulted in you losing everything (I’ve been there). Perhaps you’ve just have been living life in the ultimate comfort zone and now want to try something new. Listen carefully and believe that, you too, have the power to transform. Adapt and embrace the process. There’s no official manual on becoming her 2.0. However, these steps have helped immensely with my own personal transformation and I’m certain they can help you too.
- Inquire: Is change right for me at this time? Ask this question often. Understanding the difference between being uncomfortable and truly needing change is imperative.
- The early bird really does catch the worm. For years, I have been waking up at 4:30 a.m. And what’s first upon wakeup? Meditation and prayer. Doing so has helped me to gain clarity and increase productivity. It feels great to knock out items on your to-do list before the sun rises.
- Prioritize. What’s important to you? Make a list and rank your priorities from most important to least important. Eliminate the unnecessary.
- Commit to being a lifelong learner. Understand that your entire life is a process of learning and growth. You haven’t arrived when you turn 25 or 30 or 45. Change can happen at any age. Active learning also requires attaching yourself to the right people—individuals who are open-minded and positive. Energy is everything. Find a mentor. Read lots of books. Never stop learning.
- No need to justify your decisions. It’s natural to wonder what others will think, but the truth is you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your growth. The journey is for you. Opening up the door for others to judge leads to hesitation and self-doubt.
- Get out of your comfort zone. You will never reach your truest potential if you are worried about leaving your comfort zone. Finding what feeds your soul requires learning new concepts and experimentation.
- Write it down. The road to transformation will become a lot clearer if you physically see your vision. Write your goals on paper or on a dry-erase board and look at them daily.
- Manage your finances. Easier said than done, but work towards increasing your financial awareness and put good habits to practice. Making moves becomes more accessible when you are free from financial constraints. But don’t be afraid if you are in a financial bind. You can start from nothing and still transform. “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling
- One day at a time. Rome wasn’t built in one day. Transformation is a long, sometimes arduous, and continuous process. Becoming the best version of yourself won’t happen overnight.
- Failure is a necessary piece of the puzzle. Do not fear failure, because failure first requires trying. People often have the wrong connotation of the term. Instead of viewing failure as doom and gloom, appreciate the power of learning great lessons from your mistakes.
Of course, there might be a few more ways to get on the path to becoming your best self. If you can think of any, add them to this list! But if you’re in a space where you need a change in one or more areas of your life, begin making progress right now.
Tonya Abari is a freelance editor, writer, content strategist, and homeschooling mama. A multipotentialite and firm believer in embracing change, you can read about her endeavors online or follow her on Instragram @iamtabari.
*Photo by Christy Shaterian