Remember what it felt like when you came home that first summer after your freshman year of college and you walked into your childhood bedroom after being away for so long?
Looking around at the photos and decorations and the things you left behind, you can’t help but wonder, “Who is this person?”
That’s exactly what happened to me last week. After leaving my life behind for a few weeks, I walked into my apartment and I didn’t recognize the person I had left behind.
And I didn’t quite know what to do with myself – the new version of myself standing there and the old versions of myself staring back at me.
Coming back to the Old Versions of Me
I spent five weeks this summer travelling through Southeast Africa, exploring South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania on a whirlwind, eye-opening adventure. It was a trip of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to share some of the most amazing moments I had on this trip.
But besides the phenomenal photos and memories, this trip gave me another incredible gift: stepping away from everything for five weeks. I left behind my laptop, my work, my routine, my city and most communication with my friends and family. The only thing I was carrying with me was me (and a large backpack, obviously).
So I knew that coming was going to be an adjustment. At the same time, I felt very much like the same person who left. There wasn’t a single life-altering moment on my trip that made me feel like I had transformed into a new woman.
But when I walked back into my apartment for the first time and falling back into my normal life, it felt like so much of it wasn’t “me.” And I had the insatiable urge to purge it all and start over.
Here’s what didn’t quite fit:
- Checking Facebook and Gmail everyday: Coming back to a life where I have access to a phone, internet, email and social media? Total blessing. But as I stepped back into my daily routine and I found myself checking in online, it didn’t feel satisfying. I was checking Facebook or Gmail compulsively because I was looking for connection – and all I was getting was status updates and short emails.
- My wardrobe: I stared into my closet and saw so many old versions of myself that literally and figuratively didn’t fit. Suit jackets from “I just got my first job and I hope I look professional” Stephanie, dresses from “I’m not sure what looks good on me” Stephanie and tops from “I should buy things because it’s a good deal” Stephanie. None of those were me anymore, and putting them on brought me back to moments in my life full of insecurity.
- My normal routine: Eating the same eggs-and-veggies breakfast I’ve eaten for three years (yes, three years) just tasted… off. My favorite at-home strength training exercises weren’t doing it for my body. And even the time that I would “normally” wake up didn’t feel right. What was a healthy daily routine on paper didn’t actually feel healthy, because it’s not what I needed.
- My spending habits: This past year, “I’m just starting my business” Stephanie had signed up for a few services to make her business run top notch. But the equipment I’d bought, the online subscriptions I’d signed up for, and even my co-working space membership weren’t really helping my business… they just helped make me feel business-y.
It wasn’t that I had dramatically changed, but I saw for the first time so many different versions of my old self that were no longer me. It wasn’t until I had walked away from it all for a few weeks that I saw so clearly what hadn’t really been working all along.
That’s the things about travel: travel might not change you as a person, but it will absolutely change your perspective.
With my fresh perspective, it was time to push life’s big the reset button – to let go of old habits and assumptions – and to start with a clean slate.
Pressing the reset button
So since coming back from my trip, I’ve slowly shed layers that weren’t working for me and adopted new habits.
- I’ve stopped logging onto Facebook and Gmail every day… because there are other ways that I prefer to feel connected to people in my life.
- I’ve started trying out new breakfasts and exercise routines… because each day I wake up, I’m a different person who needs different things on different days.
- I’ve cleared out 3/4 of the clothes in my closet… because I’m no longer the person I was when I bought most of those clothes, and I certainly don’t need to hold onto the older and more insecure versions of my past self.
- I’ve cut out major recurring expenses that I don’t need and put together a budget that focuses on what really matters… because my money is important and I want to use it for what I value, not what I think I should have.
But the funny thing is? The reset button was always there
While it took me a trip to the other side of the world to decide to wipe my slate clean, the option was always there. For me, it took stepping away from my life for a few weeks to give me enough perspective to see what wasn’t working and decide to push the reset button. But I had the power to push it all along. I can choose to start over and start clean at any moment in my life.
As I write this, it’s a new morning, it’s a new month and it’s beginning to turn into a new season. Today is the beginning of a new day. That’s the beautiful thing about life: new moments happen all the time and you get to choose exactly what the next moment looks like. And at any moment you can pause, ask yourself what doesn’t work – your wardrobe, your habits, your budget, your routine – and press life’s reset button.
If you need it right now, take a big breath, release what’s not working, and choose to start new.
Go ahead. Press it.
Done. Reset. Slate wiped clean.
And now that you’ve given yourself permission to wipe your slate clean of expectations and shoulds and musts and whatever habits you’ve built into your life that don’t really make you feel 100 percent amazing, you’ll find that you’ve now got infinite possibilities.
You can now create exactly the life what you want.
Enjoy your fresh start 🙂
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