They (yes, the infamous “they”) say that every seven years all the cells in our bodies are replaced. In other words, every seven years we get a new body. Think about that. Every organ, every muscle, our lungs, our heart, our brain – everything is constantly turning over. What appears to be permanent (at least after the age of 15 or so) is actually ever changing. Of course, the cells have “memory”, so if you had a lazy eye seven years ago, it’s a good bet that you’ll still have a lazy eye. Hey, I’m just the messenger.
But this idea intrigues me. I mean, it’s kind of like we are reincarnated within the parameters of our life here on earth.
I look at pictures of myself at various ages, and I do see many different people. The little girl of three or four who wanted to be a movie star may have contained the seeds of the grown woman, but she is an entirely different entity from the young actress of sixteen, the songwriter of twenty-four, the family counselor of thirty-five, the middle-aged woman in her forties and fifties – still trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up.
I do envy people who make a decision about their lives at a tender age and are able to follow through. There is constancy to their lives. Each decision builds on the previous ones in a neat, orderly fashion. My younger sister was that way. From the time she was about thirteen, she knew she wanted to be a physical therapist. She had a calling, a passion, to help people who were injured and disabled. Every career decision she has made since then has been the next logical step in that progression. Today she has a thriving private practice as a physical therapist, as well as a co-existing career as a yoga practitioner and instructor. Each track of her career feeds the other. Her life has a steady – if fast-paced – rhythm.
My older sister knew from the time she was a very small child that music was her calling. She was a child prodigy before she had any earthly idea what that meant. She studied theory and composition in college. It seems she was jet-propelled into a life of music and has steadfastly refused to even entertain the notion of any other type of career, even when the going was very rough. She is now an established composer and songwriter with legions of admirers, especially within her industry. She has worked exceedingly hard and, as mother says, when you combine hard work with a God-given talent, you have a winning combination.
Then there’s me. The middle child. I admired both of my sisters so much, that I think I tried to emulate them at different stages of my life.
I so wanted to be a musical “phenom” like my older sister that I followed in her footsteps, studying piano and voice. When it dawned on me that I didn’t quite have her abilities, I took a side step into theater. I loved theater, but was not psychologically suited to the life of an actor. So in college I majored in French. No rhyme or reason there, except that I wanted to be like Audrey Hepburn in Charade – an interpreter at the U.N. Yeah, right. If only I had been a native speaker of about five languages, I might have had a shot.
There was a protracted venture into songwriting (age 20 to 32) which was interrupted by a career as a family therapist (age 32 to 40) – the part where I tried to be more like my younger sister – followed by a deeper exploration of songwriting (age 40 to present). But now I also consider myself a writer of prose. Sprinkled in with all of these careers have been many jobs that have sustained me financially while I explored my more far-flung aspirations. I was a legal secretary for about twelve years. That one job carried me through a divorce, two years of graduate school and internship, my entire career as a licensed therapist, the beginning of my current (happy) marriage, and several years of helping Art to establish a small business.
So anyway. My point is this: You may think that things are the way they are. You may think that you are stuck with whatever choices you’ve made, or whatever choices have been made for you. You may think you are too old to learn new tricks. You may think that the “die is cast”. It is not. Remember: Every seven years you are an entirely different person. Be like Madonna, if you want. Go ahead and reinvent yourself.
They say there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes. But there is one more certainty in life: Change. And remember that Change is the essence of Hope.
© 2004, Robin Munson