Have you ever felt the need to change yourself?

Maybe that urge was to throw out most of your clothes and buying a whole new wardrobe. Maybe it was getting a new hair cut or style, or trying a new hobby that you may never have wanted to try, or to go somewhere you never thought to go before. Or maybe it was to start working out, make new friends, move away, maybe even change your name. And if you’ve acted on any of these or more, especially in a conscious effort to make a change, keep in mind that that is completely normal and completely okay. Change is a part of life, and sometimes we can try to control change by consciously attempting to change who we are.

I, myself, have recently been through a transition in my life where I actively tried to reinvent myself. In my case, it was after a traumatic event, and at first I didn’t realize I was trying to actively change after that. It wasn’t until a few months later that me and the guy I had been on-and-off dating for over a year had a horrible, horrible final breakup, that I made the conscious decision to keep changing.

I changed everything that I could about who I was. I decided to start going by my middle name, Loren, but shortened it to Ren. I cut off about half of my hair, bleached it to blonde, impulsively cut myself bangs not long after, etc. I threw out almost all of my clothes (which I had been doing anyways since I was slowly gaining back to a healthy weight after an almost three year battle with anorexia at the time), but I got a very different wardrobe. Instead of the dark and black colors that made up my closet for years, I started to get colors and pastels and different cut/styled clothing that I’d never worn before.

Not long after, I began impulsively getting tattoos that I had wanted for awhile. At the time, I’d already had two tattoos, but within four months, I ended up getting five more. I still wish I only had my first two and waited until later on to the get the rest, but I’m saving that conversation for another article. But while I’m at it, I’ll mention I got a nose piercing and another piercing that is a little TMI to mention; what doesn't say change like new and cool piercings?

By this point, I started to purposely gain more weight rather than being so reluctant, so I gained about ten pounds in that following month of the breakup. I started to dye my hair different colors, too, switching between dark brown to bright red to blonde to auburn over the following months.

I even moved from my hometown to transfer to a new university, feeling even more of a need to escape the life I was trying to leave behind; going to a new university and town would give me more flexibility to change and have people accept that change (even for my few friends who were already there). People wouldn't know me or my past, so I could recreate myself more comfortably. I couldn’t figure out who I was for the life of me, but all I knew is that I didn’t want to be the same person anymore.

The thing is, there is only so much you can change about yourself, and most of that is just outward appearance and perception. You can’t change inward qualities that easily, even if you really really strive to do so. And I was beginning to run into that problem in the weeks and months that followed. I couldn’t control my mind and how I wanted it to be with the new person I was trying to create for myself.

Things finally settled in, though. After a time, I had left behind enough elements of me that I was this new person, but with more time, I began to notice holes growing inside me that I had tried to block out before, but they were growing too big that I couldn’t ignore them like I had all those months. I slowly gained the courage to start looking into these black holes inside me, and as I began to acknowledge them, I had to acknowledge that I was not who I was trying to be.

I no longer felt comfortable with how I outwardly looked, simply because I was finally acknowledging that it was not truly me. So, I started to get rid of what clothes felt forced and kept those that did not. I understood that some of my new style really was who I had become and I loved it, and the other parts of my style were not. So, I began to shop according to what I realized was my preferred, new style.

I made the conscious effort to grow my hair back out, length and bangs. I also quit dying my hair and tried to find the closest color to my natural (which was fairly close so now my natural is growing back in well with it). I took out my newest piercings, and I also had to come terms with my five new tattoos, that I can't remove them and I have to face whatever consequences they bring. I still haven’t fully come to terms with this, but I have my whole life to do so. After all, tattoos are a permanent thing.

Not only did I start changing my physical appearance back to something that I actually did feel comfortable with, but I began to recognize that my internal satisfaction was what I was lacking in most of all. In those months, I had thrown out anything I could that had reminded me of my past, and when I started acknowledging the black holes within me, I had to accept that I had thrown out the majority of things that I actually did still love and enjoy: CDs, movies, vinyls, books, all my paints and canvases, clothes that had meant a lot to me, crafts, cameras, objects that reminded me of fun memories, etc. And now, I still can’t get any of that back, which is another thing I am having to learn to accept. I can try to start new, such as starting to get back into art and film again, and slowly collect books, CDs, movies, etc. back, but it’s not the same.

Most importantly, through acknowledging that the new person I was trying to create myself into was not who I was really, I went back to my actual name: Ashlyn (but went my Ash for the past almost seven years). I embraced my name again, which made me realize that even though I couldn’t reinvent myself into the Ren I wanted to be, I still carry parts of Ren within me.

I don’t like wearing many dark colors anymore, and I don’t wear provocative clothing as often as I used to (as in its very rare now). I eat and don’t feel afraid about it or weight gain (mostly, even though I’ve now stabled at a low, healthy, and natural weight). I love iced coffee, and school is actually way cooler than I ever thought it would be because I actually love Clemson University, when a year ago if you asked, I would've hated it. I listen to more upbeat music now, and I don’t mind spending an evening watching stupid funny shows for a few hours at a time. I learned to sympathize better with people, especially with those who many can’t relate to or want to take the time to really be there for. I’ve kept these and other elements of Ren, and I have placed them into who I am now.

I am Ash and Ren in one. I reinvented myself and accepted that I did, and have acknowledged that I no longer need to keep reinventing myself. I have also acknowledged that consciously trying to reinvent myself actually led to such an important stage in my own self growth, and that I have bloomed into something more than I ever could’ve imagined by doing so. I have had so many experiences and met so many people that I may never have if I didn’t try to change, and I’m thankful for that.

So, if you feel the urgent need to start over and reinvent your life into something new, do it. Do it, and keep in mind that you may decide it’s not the life you actually want to live, but be brave and try it out first. And if you realize that’s not the life for you, be brave enough to let it go and try a new path back to who you’re really meant to be in that time of your life. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself, and every reason is valid for doing so. You have your own life to live and find happiness in, and sometimes reinventing yourself will help you find more happiness. Always remember to keep an open mind during the process, though, because life will change and throw you into whirlwinds. The important thing is to keep your head up and stick what feels right to you at the time, and to realize when it no longer feels right.

We can’t all get a refresh button or have the guts to set one for ourselves, but sometimes, if it’s there, take that chance, let it guide you, and see where you end up. It’s a tricky and painful path trying to reinvent oneself, but the journey is what leads you to the person you need to be and the person you are.