May 15th 2019
I may have failed to complete a book during NaNoWriMo, but it doesn’t mean that all of my hard work has to go to waste!
In a recent post, I discussed my experience trying NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time last November. I talked about how I ultimately “failed” in the sense that I didn’t complete a book by the end of the month, however, I did do a lot of good writing that I don’t believe should go unseen. So here is the first chapter I wrote about throwing your own funeral in order to be reborn into a better version of yourself!
RIP to the Old Me
In typical quarter life crisis fashion, I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about the concept of starting over. A full restart at the age of 23 seems a little unrealistic in my eyes, however, I am contemplating the possibility. Is it truly possible to “start over” at this phase in life? Is it possible to start over at any phase in life? What qualifies as starting over? Does one need to cut their hair, change their name, drop their friends, quit their jobs, and pick up some strange obscure hobby in order to start over, or is it more simple than that?
It is a common belief, that has enchanted and enamored many, that all of the cells in our body are replaced in 7-year cycles. Although cells are dying and regenerating all the time, it is this 7-year cycle in which we believe we become “new” people. So from a more “scientific” standpoint, it is possible to start over as the cells in my body are not the exact same ones that were in my body during traumatic experiences I faced at age 14 or the heartbreak I faced at age 20, however, one thing still remains, my brain. My brain still remembers the deeply rooted emotional experience that no amount of dying and regenerating cells can replace.
So does that mean we cannot start over? Not at all! In the grand scheme of life, starting over is more conceptual than anything else. Starting over does not mean forgetting your past, ditching everything you’ve ever known, learned, or felt, and getting a crazy haircut! Starting over is shedding the heavy baggage, deeply rooted habits, and emotional attachments that are no longer serving your being.
This does not mean you will wake up one day and see an entirely different person in the mirror like some Freaky Friday remake (that nobody asked for or wanted). It means that one day, you will look back at old photos of yourself, recognize who you were and recognize that you are not that person anymore. No shapeshifter magic here, just genuine growth.
The first step of starting over is dying. Not physically of course, but spiritually. Think Taylor Swift circa Look What You Made Me Do, Reputation Era. Taylor didn’t actually die despite saying “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she’s dead!” Taylor Swift is very much alive and well, but her self-limiting beliefs, insecurity, weakness, and investment in Hollywood drama is not though. Think of death as a metaphor for closing the old chapter of your life and saying goodbye to all of the things you wish to leave behind in your quest to restart.
It is like the old IT support person saying, “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” That is what you are doing to your life. You are turning it off and back on again. Start with a simple exercise; throw yourself a funeral!
I know that sounds incredibly morbid and dark, but bear with me. Write the old you a eulogy. Reflect on the best and worst parts of the old you. Thank the old you for all of the lessons and for helping you cross all of the stepping stones that have led you to this point. Let this eulogy be your permission slip to get on the field trip towards a new self!
Here is my eulogy to myself:
Dear sweet Jessica, I knew thee well. I always admired the way you held yourself in situations where you were cripplingly anxious and forgive you for the times where you backed out of really fun things because you were panicking about absolutely nothing or letting people’s opinions of you keep you from enjoying life. I respect your choice to try to remain present for people even when they did not deserve it and how you were patient with those who were not nearly as patient with you.
I am sorry you had to die so suddenly and I will remember you fondly. However, thank you for teaching me that you cannot put life on hold because of fear and that you cannot spend your whole life waiting for things and people to get better when you do nothing to try to fix them. Most of all, I thank you for encouraging me to take charge of my own life and start fresh. RIP Jessica 1.0, you may now rest.
It doesn’t have to be long, or well written, or even written at all! (But it would really help a lot if you could write it down to look back on.) The message to myself in my eulogy is that I appreciate all the things I’ve done that I’ve believed were in my best interest and protecting myself, but I recognize that I have missed out on a lot by avoiding uncomfortable situations. I apologize to myself for waiting this long to make changes and I bid the old me farewell as I move forward in my own life, honoring the memory of my past self while creating a brighter tomorrow.
Once you’ve written your eulogy, you’re allowed to grieve. Take a few days to familiarize yourself with the idea that the old you is gone and that a new you will take its place. Understand that this had to happen for a reason and that, although the old you is dead, you still have the lessons and memories that the old you has gifted you. Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting everything you ever were, it is learning from everything you were to become everything you are. There are many ways you can grieve and prepare for a new phase of life.
My personal favorite way is to do a bit of a detox from people and the world as a whole. I try to spend one day just sitting around and doing absolutely nothing. It is sort of the polar opposite of a “get your life together” day, but it is just as important. Taking a day to detach yourself from society and look at your life from an outside perspective not only helps you recharge, but it also puts a lot of things in perspective. These “do-nothing days” can be utilized to do nothing but sleep and sit in quiet contemplation, watch content that inspires you to reach for goals, read literature that will help get you motivated to move forward, or to listen to music that reminds you of your dreams. There is really no wrong way to have a detox day, as long as it is helping you move on.
After the funeral and grieving period, you have to manage your estate. Think of this as a purge of all things past you. Get rid of anything that ties you too closely to your past self. Delete old texts that upset you. Cut off friends that don’t want to see you grow. Get rid of clothes and other possessions that have held you back from becoming the person you wish to become.
Back during my freshman year of college, I went through an incredibly traumatic break up. Not only was it my first major heartbreak, it was my first major heartbreak that ever blew up in my face in every way possible. Everything happened so quickly that I had to scramble to create this “new self” that didn’t care for my ex. However, I was incredibly unwilling to throw away things he had given me because I felt like it was letting a part of me die (which, at the time, I didn’t realize is what I needed to happen). I held on to things from that past relationship for 3 YEARS after that relationship ended because I just didn’t want to let go of that idea of a first love.
And the funny thing is, I didn’t even love HIM anymore, I loved the concept of that love and I became so comfortable in the me I was at that time, that I didn’t want to let HER die. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I was holding onto him to protect myself and not because I actually still cared for him. However, looking back, I don’t even know the girl I was when I knew him and if I was confronted with the same relationship now, I don’t even think I would be as emotionally invested or interested. My tastes in people and ways of spending my time have drastically changed all because I let myself die.
Once the funeral is over, the grieving has subsided, and the estate is managed, it is time to move on. Moving on is the final step in this metaphorical self-death. You’ve accepted that the old you needed to die, you cried for them, you cleared out their things, and now you are free. But the birth of the new you isn’t as easy as waking up in the morning and just being new. Like any birth, it is a process that take time, patience, and nurturing. You essentially have to be pregnant with your new self before they can be born into the world.
“How long does this “pregnancy” period last?” you might be asking. Well, it truly varies from person to person. First you must consider what you wish to change about yourself and how big of a jump it is going to be from the past you. Then you have to think of a realistic timeline that is marked by desired milestones. However, one thing you have to keep in mind is that, unlike a real pregnancy, this process does not end in birthing a new self all at once. You will be reborn slowly with every passing milestone, almost like a second puberty. You will notice yourself changing every day little by little until one day you are a whole new self.
But how does one decide on who this “new self” will be?
So that was the first chapter! I am pretty happy with it and probably would have put in a bit more if I had chosen to continue the project, but I am content with it as of now! I will be posting future chapters coming soon!