I was scrolling through social media last weekend, trying to self-soothe my anxiety as we drove three hours north for a visit with the in-laws, when I happened upon a news report about the latest round of layoffs at the media conglomerate where I used to work.
Well, I mean, I worked at a well-staffed, family-owned local newspaper that, like publications of its ilk all across the country, went straight to the chop shop when purchased by a soulless corporate behemoth (controlled by the same greed monsters who funded WeWork!) I came to Pennsylvania specifically for that job — and met my husband in the newsroom — but saw the writing on the wall, in blood, back in the fall of 2018. Thinking it was better to start from scratch at 40 than at 44, 45…I grabbed a buyout package and got the 🤬 outta there.
Yada yada…they nuked my entire department within six months of my departure. While I’d found another job by that point, I was basically just wandering lost in the wilderness until I decided to quit drinking in mid-2019. Luckily, as far gone as I got, I didn’t completely lose myself.
Whether or not I could have done that “Plan A” journalism job for the rest of my life is irrelevant, because there is no question I needed the full body/mind/spirit shake-up that happened in the aftermath.
Turns out that starting from scratch at age 44 isn’t necessarily a terrible thing.
I’m feeling a little reflective as I sit here looking out at the ocean on the eve of my second First Day of School as a graduate student. On Monday, I start Year Two in Delaware Valley University’s Counseling Psychology masters program and take another small step in my ongoing reinvention process.
I’m also feeling characteristically anxious; it’s my autopilot response to facing any new beginning or change in routine or situation involving other people.
I’m coping by blogging. It’s healthier than scrolling. Much healthier than drinking — as if that needs to be said.
Honestly, right now, writing is good for my mental health because I don’t want to start dissecting the syllabi for my classes and get my brain spinning off in a frenzy over all the work there is to do this semester. I really want to enjoy the last weekend of summer vacay!
Call me crazy, but I do enjoy the challenge of putting my life experiences into words. 🤷🏼♀️
Reinventing myself from a young loner who loved making up stories while roller skating or hiking in the woods, to a socially skittish journalism major who considered doing interviews a “necessary evil” but needed a writing job with a regular paycheck to support myself, to a timid sports reporter who only wanted to tell nicey-nice feature stories that never upset anyone (and thus got quite comfortable covering high schools), to an introverted “content marketing manager” and “social media coordinator” just trying to use my “marketable skills” to contribute to the household bills, to a middle-aged grad student/aspiring addictions counselor with zero professional experience to go with my 4.0 GPA…has not been the smoothest road.
(Sorry; I kicked my booze problem but haven’t made a lick of progress in the run-on sentence department. 🙃)
Of course, I do have quite a bit of personal experience with addiction recovery. Thanks in part to therapy, the 12 steps, and my prince of a husband (see above), I’ve managed to reinvent — or at least re-orient — myself from a needy bottomless pit who tied all her self-worth to the size/shape of her body, guzzled all the alcohol she could get her hands on to ease the pain of being imperfect, and dispassionately went through the motions of daily life without any real sense of purpose, to a clean and sober woman with enough clarity, maturity, self-awareness and coping skills to — damn, there I go again with the long-windedness! — to, I guess, just handle shit better.
I’ve found enough of a purpose to give me hope, and something resembling a plan for the future. But I still haven’t “arrived” anywhere. I’ve held four different jobs since fleeing Gatehouse Media, finally getting bit by the layoff bug at the third job last fall. That was a blessing, though, because it led me to the part-time remote copywriting gig where I now sit, making $25 an hour and biding my time until my next big career move: an unpaid internship in a substance abuse treatment center.
Woo hoo! Look out, world! 😐
The big headline here is that I’ve gone through most of the above without turning to alcohol for comfort. At three years sober, I’ve reached a point where booze no longer looms large in my life, where I can sit on the beach writing and studying while people all around me hoist red Solo cups…
OK, not gonna lie; being around drunk people still isn’t easy. It’s a complicated mix of emotions — annoyed, repulsed, sad, jealous, and a little ashamed, because that 100% used to be me, and it’s hypocritical to feel contempt when I should be accessing my empathy! — but learning how to manage emotions is a crucial part of the growth process.
It’s a crucial part of this entire process, because riding the bumpy road to recovery myself will make me a better counselor. Continuing to work on myself will make me more useful to others.
I understand what addicts go through, and how we can get through, and although I’ll never be some authoritative “expert” on addiction, I’m committed to sharing the gifts recovery has given me with those seeking help. That has to count for something!
My recovery has been the glue holding everything together through life’s ups and downs — at work, at home, in the grad school classroom or on the crowded Jersey Shore… It’s the fuel for my internal fire, keeping me moving on this new career path, where I can maybe, hopefully, help someone else change their life as mine has been changed.
The way I see it, sobriety is my most “marketable skill,” but not because it’s gonna earn me some big paycheck — clearly, that’s never been top of mind in my professional pursuits! 😉 I just know how immense a difference it can make in one person’s world, to release the weight of addiction, and the amazing positive ripples that one more peaceful, balanced person can make in a family, a social circle, a workplace, a community…
I know that it’s possible for one person to reinvent herself, no matter how “far gone” or “lost” she once might have felt. And I know it’s never too late to start doing your “life’s work.”
Also, apparently, you never outgrow First Day of School jitters. Sending love, and sympathy, to all you “kids” re-entering academia tomorrow morning! 😘
1 thought on “Reinvention”
Have a great semester, Jen! I’m 68 years old and haven’t reported to school in September since 1970 but the end of summer/back to school feels still return every year! A blend of melancholy and excitement. I’ve lived it vicariously through my children and now my grandchildren.
Thanks for the post and the best of luck to you this year!
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