Naked, wailing with the volume of a thousand trumpets, red as a strawberry, cherubic cheeks as round as the Pillsbury dough boy, we emerge from our warm, cozy home of nine months, wide-eyed and innocent; life is now the first page in a fresh new notebook, an expensive one with a genuine leather cover.

An entire lifetime is ahead; no mistakes have been made, no rejections have punched you in the nose, nobody has criticized your muffin top, you haven’t received an audit from the IRS, you’ve never drunk texted your ex, and you’ve never had to spend hundreds of dollars on acne treatments.

One assumes the day of birth is the beginning of life and death is the end. However, throughout our lives we are constantly evolving, growing, and changing. The eighteen year old self worries about passing the SAT’s, getting into university, and matching up with a cute guy on Tinder. Certainly very different anxieties from those that keep you awake at night these days. And, 30 or 40 years from now, life will have exponentially changed and you may not even remember the person you embody now.

In the 27 years that I’ve been on the planet, I’ve experienced multiple deaths and re-births, just as you have. Sometimes these deaths come in a single moment, a single event rocking your world so hard that in the next moment you’ve already been re-born from the ashes, involuntarily, shell-shocked, yet brand new. You move to the next page of that fancy notebook so suddenly that you still have whiplash from the speed at which all those changes occurred.

There are times when one voluntarily flips the page, ready for a fresh start, having outgrown the previous life, and taking all its lessons along into the next one. This can be the best kind of re-birth; stumbling from the hazy fog that surrounds you when you’re in a rut, one makes the decision to step out into the light, motivational quotes and self help books in tow, ready to take on the world as a new person.

Then, there are the times when your previous self has died and yet your fresh start is as slow and arduous as a 48 hour labor. Time slowly creeps on while one waits for that fateful day when it’s time to rise, stronger than ever. Yet, you’ve been patient for months, and you feel as if you’re living in some kind of limbo.

At 14 weeks pregnant now, after enduring an extremely tough first trimester for the second time this year (my son was stillborn in March) life feels like it’s just on the brink of changing for the better, yet my patience is being tested every single day, waiting for the next chapter to finally begin. Everyday has felt like a hangover without all the shots of tequila and dancing to 90’s throwback music the night before.

It takes nine months to grow a baby, so why shouldn’t a re-birth, or to put it in more simple terms, a fresh start, be a process that we allow to slowly unfold? The only thing required is a willingness to change, and transform into a better version of yourself.

So, what steps can you take to do that?

1. Ask yourself: What Lessons am I taking with me into this new phase of my life?

Having a fresh start does not mean walking blindly into the sunset with “happily ever after” scrolled across the screen. It means you’ve learned from the past, you’re taking those lessons with you, and you’re going to be a better person for it.

Starting a new phase in life means you’ve flipped the page, and it’s a new chapter, it’s not an entirely different book. So, before you move on, write down all of the lessons you’ve learned from this time period and how you can use them to improve from here on out.

2. Unplug

Many people, myself included, tend to look at outside sources for inspiration when voluntarily making a fresh start for themselves. For me it usually goes a little something like this:

-Look at Instagram and choose multiple people I will try to emulate, because their lives (and their wardrobes, and their travels) look absolutely dreamy

-Scroll Pinterest and pick out every outfit, recipe, desk organizer, and motivational quote that appeals to the “new me”

-Spend one whole day as the “new me,” complete with a new workout, an ultra-healthy lunch (that tastes awful), a new outfit, new makeup, and new dayplanner layout

-Spend the next day so tired from being the “new me” that I sit in bed until 10 a.m., eat Trix cereal washed down with a cherry coke for breakfast, and fall right back into my old habits

Spending too much time focusing on people and pretty pictures on the internet will only serve to distract you from real progress and real goals.

3. Re-prioritize

Many times, when we’re looking for a “fresh start,” we prioritize minor things like our wardrobe or dayplanner art that only serve as a distraction from what is really important.

If you truly want to enter a new phase in your life, there is nothing wrong with cleaning out your closet and getting a fresh new wardrobe, but don’t forget to do the hard work first.

Your initial focus should be on things that affect your day to day life: career goals, relationships, mental health, etc.

4. Take an entire day to focus on yourself

Give yourself a whole day to think about this new chapter you’re in or are planning on going into, whether that be a retreat (at home or away), a vacation, or a staycation. Hire a babysitter, turn off your phone, take the day off from work, do whatever it is you need to do to make sure you won’t have any distractions.

Take this entire day to practice self care, eat healthy, do yoga, buy a notebook or planner, and decide what this new chapter of your life is going to look like.

5. Ask yourself: What changes am I going to make in this new phase of my life?

A fresh start requires real changes and to do this you can’t step off the cliff blindly, expecting a bungee cord to hold you. Go through every area of your life and honestly ask yourself what needs to change and how you’ll do it.

There will be many deaths and re-births throughout our lives, but that is the beauty of being human. The roller coaster of ups and downs is constantly helping us evolve into better versions of ourselves with the flip of every new page.

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