Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What Exactly Does Reinvention Mean?

I have been thinking a lot about the word reinvention. What exactly does it mean? Is it overused in this recessionary climate? Is it a destination or a journey? And if it is a destination, what happens when you get there? Do you just stop or does the reinvention start to morph into something else? Like another reinvention?

This is after all the topic of my blog. Now almost a year old, I have been wondering when exactly the form of it will shift. Is it time now? When am I officially ‘reinvented’? Will my topic always be about life after Corporate America?

In the name of research I attended for the first time More Magazine’s Third Annual Reinvention Convention on Monday.

At the top of the agenda was former first lady, Laura Bush. While not a fan of her husband or his party, I was looking forward to hearing her speak. She always impressed me as the luckiest thing that ever happened to George W. I would often wonder what she was thinking as he continued to trip over his words in speech after speech. With her White House days behind her, I was ready for some candid conversation. A little girl talk in a room of five hundred women, not including the Secret Service.

I was as surprised as I was disappointed to see that she had the same discomfort and same defensive posture in front of an audience as he did. Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s Morning Joe was interviewing her. The excellent questions Mika asked were answered in much the same way her husband used to. With no real answers. It made me wonder if Mika was having as much trouble paying attention to Laura as I was.

Judging from the whispering and mumbling surrounding me, I was not the only one thinking such thoughts. It was clear there would be no transparency on Laura Bush's behalf. The former first lady has still not let go of the field day her husband gave the media. I suppose her withholding was an attempt to not give anyone in the room anything to work with. The irony was that her avoidance of the questions did just that.

Her withholding was even more visible when contrasted with the next speaker I listened to,
Barbara Corcoran. Success aside, here is a woman who owns who she is so much, transparency comes easily. Barbara doesn’t like the word reinvention, a pretty bold statement at a convention with that in its title. She prefers repackaging. I am not sure I agree with her, but what I can say is that her candor, wisdom and humor made me think and I could have listened to her for another hour.

The contrast continued when Mika interviewed Nora and Delia Ephron. When the conversation began with the idea that a woman is her purse, Mika emptied hers (which looked from where I sat to be more of an overnight bag) on the podium for Nora and Delia to dissect with that incredible wit and humor that has made them both famous.

The room loved it. Not just because it was funny, but because it showed a realness and truth that we could all relate to. Mika made me think I should start watching that Morning Joe show and the Ephron’s have me ready to buy a ticket to Love, Loss and What I Wore.

When Laura Bush’s interview was over I was disappointed. But as the day wore on, I saw the purpose it served. It was such a contrast of all that came after.

I learned that before you can truly reinvent you have to let go of the past. You have to have a real sense of who you are and the transparency to own up to it. Or no one is going to think you’re for real.

After my day of research I now believe reinvention never really stops. It just goes through different phases, depending where you are in life. So for now, the premise of this blog will continue, with transparency.
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