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Learning as a Way of Life: Embrace Reinvention

We live in a world in which exponential change has become the norm. Reinventing ourselves is essential to adapt and thrive, especially in times of great change.

Aug 14 , 2017

Abstract black and white view of a spiral staircase.

 The “Learning as a Way of Life” series continues as Cathy Maris, Director of Community Programs, explores the art of lifelong reinvention.

Learning as a Way of Life: Part 3
Reimagining Your Life: Embracing the Art of Reinvention

"A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel... A self is always becoming.”
--Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

We live in a world in which exponential change has become the norm, as I discussed in my earlier post. The ability to reinvent oneself throughout life is essential to adapt and thrive, especially in times of great change. Today, I explore how to embrace the art of reinvention.

Reinvention is deeply personal and can mean many things to different people. One person might reinvent themselves by learning new skills as jobs in their field take new forms or become scarce. To another, reinvention might mean pursuing the dream of writing a novel or making art. To someone else, reinvention might involve counteracting digital distractions and improving their health and well-being with meditation and mindfulness. For yet another, it could entail immersing themselves in history, politics or literature or studying a new language to better understand, connect with and shape their community and world.  

Deciding how you’d like to reinvent yourself begins with naming your challenges, aspirations and fascinations. I encouraged the participants in “The Art of Reinvention” workshop (as highlighted in this blog post) to share their personal and professional passions, obstacles and hopes. I also described the winding path my own life has taken.

My career and life have been full of reinventions. My vocations and avocations can only be described with a series of hyphens: Continuing education director-former children’s museum executive director-educational program developer-grant writer-researcher-budding photographer-sporadic artist … and on and on. The work I’ve been passionate about—fostering creative, “learning for the love of learning” experiences across the lifespan—does not have a prescribed career path. I’ve had to chart my own course, inventing and reinventing myself along the way. While challenging, it has been hugely rewarding. It’s also helped me learn to cope with a world in flux. That’s a skill I now seek to foster in others.

Being open to reinvention—like seeking more creativity, playfulness, curiosity and imagination—requires the ability to be vulnerable. It also requires comfort with “not knowing” in at least two senses: Allowing yourself to be a novice again in some area of life and managing the discomfort of not knowing where your exploration will lead. But, reinvention does not have to mean discarding who you are now or who you have been.

At its best, reinvention involves an upward progression, building on all that you’ve done and experienced, while spiraling closer and closer to who you are at your core. Reinvention also allows you to be different versions of yourself at different times in your life, remaining fluid and responsive to changing circumstances around and within you, whether that’s adapting to new professional or personal realities or heeding an inner call to pick up a paintbrush. The Glasscock School of Continuing Studies is a hub for all of these forms of reinvention.

The beauty of reinvention is that each person can and must define it for themselves throughout their life. However, lifelong learning is at the heart of all reinvention. In the next post, I will consider how learning is being transformed from a phase of life to a way of life.

Image above, courtesy of C. Maris

About the Author

Cathy MarisCathy Maris, Director of Community Programs, Glasscock School of Continuing Studies