This Is Your Life, Take Two

Everyone should reinvent themselves at least once during their lifetime. Personally, I do it every couple of years, which leads to my being accused of having a career path only a three-legged dog could follow. Meanwhile Madonna reinvents herself about as often yet for some reason she's considered a marketing genius. Maybe it's the money, fame, and, uh -- did I mention money? -- that rolls in each time she does it. Perhaps if I posed for a CD cover looking like a sexy Che Guevara I'd pull in the big bucks too. Hey, some days I'll try anything.

People reinvent themselves for different reasons. For some, it's the sudden realization that they're not happy or fulfilled. This is what's commonly called a mid-life crisis, at least by those who wag their fingers, cluck their tongues, and wish they had the nerve to do it. The reinventors, on the other hand, prefer the term "finding themselves," particularly when they're fondling crystals, listening to Yanni, and not in the mood to admit that they're flat out bored and need a change.

For some people, reinvention helps in finding a job. Take President Bush. He started out as a privileged Eastern prep school boy who graduated from Yale and Harvard, then somehow metamorphosed into a good ole boy from Midland, Texas with barely a hint of New Haven left in his cowboy twang. Face it, you just don't get elected as governor of Texas by appearing in a Phillips Academy cardigan, even if you wear cowboy boots and a Stetson hat with it.

In other cases, reinvention is necessary to keep your job. Colin Powell started his stint as Secretary of State as a moderate peace-monger and ended up reinventing himself as his boss in order to keep his weekly paycheck coming in. That's the only reasonable answer since it couldn't have been that he needed the retirement benefits. After all, I'm sure his military pension was already more than enough to keep him in medal polish for the rest of his life.

Many people are forced to reinvent themselves when they lose a job. Take former Governor of Arizona, Fife Symington for example. He started out as a real estate developer, then was elected governor. While in office he was convicted of bank fraud and resigned an hour later. Even though the conviction was overturned and he was pardoned, it was too late to get his job back so he reinvented himself as a pastry chef at an Italian restaurant in Phoenix. It's true. Oddly, this is the exact same career path his high school guidance counselor recommended years ago. There's a lesson there somewhere. I think.

You'd figure reinvention might have to do with lack of success, but that just isn't true. It seems as if every day we hear about yet another screenwriter becoming a director, an actor turning into a politician, and someone who can't do any of the above becoming a critic. It's everywhere in Hollywood. Comedians turn into actors, actors become singers, and singers transform into comedians. Most people, of course, don't run through the entire cycle. Well, unless they're Eddie Murphy who started out doing stand-up, shifted into movies, then released the album "Love's Alright "which single-handedly made karaoke singers everywhere sound good while forcing him back to where he belonged -- comedy.

He's certainly not the first one in Hollywood who's taken a wrong reinvention turn, nor will he be the last. Film director Peter Jackson, who's currently directing the third installment of Lord of the Rings, says he'll follow it up by directing the film we've all been waiting for -- another remake of King Kong. This proves that he's officially reinvented himself. Where he was once a film director from New Zealand, he's now a full-fledged Hollywood director since he's espousing the Tinseltown mantra that "There can never be too few original ideas or too many versions of King Kong."

Reinvention isn't easy. People put a lot of effort into it. That's why self-help books, diet aids, and make-overs on Oprah Winfrey are big business. Not to mention the proliferation of 12-step programs for every problem from drinking to working too much, and you know that if anyone is going to put in the effort necessary to successfully complete one of these programs it's going to be a workaholic. While these programs are good for many people, sometimes it just doesn't take. Not long ago in Fremont, California two men who met in an anger management class got into a fight while working on a home-improvement project and ended up with a dismembered pet chicken, a trashed trailer, and a trip downtown to be booked for assault. This is what's known as reinvention failure.

You don't have to wait for middle age or be in the midst of a crisis to reinvent yourself. In fact, it's a lot more fun when you're neither. And keep in mind that if your reinvention doesn't work out, you can always reinvent yourself again. Just don't decide that we need yet another remake of King Kong, okay?

More Mad Dog can be found online at: His compilation of humorous travel columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?" is available from Xlibris Corporation.


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