These days the concept of reinvention is a hot one. Over 10,000 Americans are turning 50 every day of the week and most of us will live 25, 30 or 40 years beyond that. With "retirement" -- as in a gold watch, a pension and sitting on a bench in the sun in Miami until you die -- pretty much out of the question... everyone is talking about reinvention.
Before you get all charged up and start thinking, "Reinvention, OMG... now I have to learn that too!," let's take a moment to look back over our lives and count up just how many times you have already reinvented yourself and never noticed.
In the last 60 years the world has changed so radically that when you sit down with your own children and tell them what it was like growing up... they look at you like you are from another planet and walk away slowly shaking their heads.
We are the reinvention generation.
If we were software programs we would be in at least Version 8.0. Just look back at the changes in your life since you first stepped on the bus to Kindergarten and notice how many times you have already reinvented yourself... just to keep pace with the changes in the world around us.
Remember when a TV was a huge box filled with mysterious tubes and a dial with thirteen channels you had to get out of your seat to change with the "rabbit ears" on top you twisted to get rid of the ghosts.
Remember when you wanted a typed letter... you used a typewriter powered by your own fingers (if the keys didn't jam) with a carriage return handle you slid over with your left hand until it went "ding?" If you made a mistake you had to start all over. Then our prayers were answered in sequence by the electric typewriter, white out, erasable paper and now... the word processor (I hear angels singing).
A phone was a heavy instrument attached to the wall by a cord. You put your finger in a rotating dial to enter numbers and hoped someone else was not using the party line.
Now you can carry a 4-G internet, text and email capable cell phone with built in GPS in your pocket, while a Bluetooth wireless earpiece smaller than a tube of lipstick lets you talk hands free with anyone.
You used to take a picture by loading a roll of film in the back of the camera and popping on the flash cube that would fizzle and make a quarter turn with each shot. If you opened the camera at the wrong time the whole roll was ruined and it took three days at the developer to find out you only had a couple good shots out of 36.
Remember where you were when you learned of JFK's assassination, Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the horror of 9/11... and how each of those times the world seemed to hold still for a long breath? How everything seemed different when we started breathing again?
Stacked heels, bell bottoms, slips, garters and stockings, panty hose. Whitey Tighties, big hair, peace symbols and a time where if anyone could see even half an inch of your underwear sticking out of the top of your pants you would be completely mortified.
Remember when you were just you, doing the best you could, working hard and trying to make a living. All of a sudden... you got married (maybe you got divorced and remarried... and re-divorced), had your first child (and your second and third and maybe more), became a grandparent... a great grandparent, your mom/dad/sister/brother/best friend died. Each time you were reinvented and recast to a new form of this "you" that stares back at you from the mirror with its hair all messed up first thing in the morning.
Medical science tells us that every cell in our body is replaced every seven years. You are in your 7th or 8th or 9th completely new body at this point.
Nope, reinvention is nothing new to you and me when you think about it. It is something we have done naturally. Sometimes it is a reaction to changes in the world around us and we joke about the "good old days." But do you really want your manual typewriter back just because you can remember the smell of white out?
We each have wells of resourcefulness and strength and creativity that can carry us through any reinvention necessary in this life. We have done it so many times before and our experience as reinvention veterans puts us in a most enviable position.
We have water under our bridge. We have weathered many storms. With all of your experience of life -- what you have loved, what you have hated and with all of the skills you have learned over the years -- NOW you can choose the look and feel of the next version of you. And at 50, with the kids grown and gone (or soon to be so) you can give yourself permission to go for what you really want in the time you have left.
At the age of 50 you may be only half way there. This is just the "end of your beginning." We invented reinvention... no reason to stop now. I wonder what our world will look like in just 10 short years.
You've come a long way, baby. I wonder what comes next.
Follow Dike Drummond, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dikedrummond