Embracing the "New" In the New Year

a woman

“So, what made you move to California?” someone asks me.

“I wanted a new chapter.” I respond.

I get this question, and give this answer, often these days. Just a few months ago, I pared down my possessions into a stack of boxes, packed my car with a few suitcases, and drove across the country from New York to California to ‘start anew’. Certain life events helped me make this decision, but mostly I was heading into the unknown, with only an internal compass guiding me to find a better direction, and risk getting lost in the process.

I know I am not alone in changing it up. Over the last year and a half, 22% of Americans have relocated and 25% are considering a career change. Sales for engagement rings have doubled, while at the same time, divorce rates have spiked by 122%. A friend recently sent me an invite to a Facebook group called Into the Unknown with nearly 15,000 members discussing moving, changing their lifestyles, and starting anew in various ways. These past two pandemic years have contributed to making every day - ‘New Year’s Day’, where we evaluate the things to discard, invite in, or try for the first time.

So here we are, at the start of 2022, during a time when ‘change’ and ‘unknowingness’ have become the norm and present us with the utmost test of resilience. Yet, while the pandemic has certainly upped the change game, the need to start anew is timeless, and necessary – for growth, health and happiness.

I spoke to Tevis Trower, author of The Game Changers Guide to Radical Success, a celebrated thought leader and consultant, who champions a personal and active approach to getting clear on how you want your life to feel - and making it happen. In her book, Tevis leads participants on a game changing journey marked by 10 questions, including, “Is Change Possible?”, “What if Everyone thinks I’m Crazy for Doing This?” and “What will happen if I fail?”.

Tevis speaks of the constant cycle of rebirth and points to the inherent differences between reinvention and rebirth. “We have an archetype for reinvention – putting back together the pieces that stopped working, or putting together an imagined future.

a woman

Rebirth is about what we can’t know yet. It’s like having a baby, you don’t know what that being is going to be like.”

Sometimes a fresh start is a choice, like my road trip to a new life on a new coast, or the choice by Karen Lee, who decided to give up her successful 20-year career as a designer and pursue a degree in Social Work. Other times, change is forced upon us after life hurls a tragedy, as was the case for Catherine (Cathy) Copeland. She lost her husband of 20 years to cancer, leaving her alone to raise two children and support a house she could no longer afford. Jill Geisinger is another example; her second residence became her family’s primary home when the pandemic abruptly shuttered her husband’s business.

Cathy was living her dream as an artist, wife and mother in New Jersey when the devastating cancer diagnosis, and ultimate death, of her husband changed her life forever. Facing a new financial reality, along with the crippling grief and worry for her kids, Cathy was able to turn things around and set her family on a new path. She found she could parlay coursework from her college degree in Education into a teaching job, and discovered a new vocation that she truly loves. Remaining in the large family home meant working two jobs, so she went to her children and said “It’s up to you. Would you rather I work two jobs and we stay here, or I work one job and we move?” Together they decided to move. “I looked on Zillow to identify houses in our price range and I hand-wrote 35 notecards, listing my phone number and asking people to connect if they were interested in selling. I got three calls, almost bought one house, and then got the call I was waiting for.” Their new home, on a road aptly named Hope Street, is everything they could have wished for; and this year, Cathy’s boyfriend, whom the kids also love, will be moving in. “I have learned that I am incredibly strong, in the most flexible of ways. I can pivot and I am a survivor, I am emotionally connected. I am not afraid to be scared and to walk in the dark. I guess losing my spouse has made me bigger and deeper, and more colorful in every way. Early on, I decided to live and thrive. I refused to continue with a half-life, to don my widow’s garb. I decided to live, and I decided to love.”

For Karen, plans to embark on a new career were waylaid several times. After a successful run as a graphic designer and creative director in advertising, Karen felt the work wasn’t giving her the satisfaction she was craving. “When I was younger, my goals were all about me, kind of self-centered. Then I did some campaigns that had a bigger meaning, one for Planned Parenthood, and another that celebrated body positivity. I realized I wanted to pursue something that connected more directly to helping others.” Becoming a mom, and experiencing and witnessing the emotional challenges of post-partum and young familyhood, led Karen to explore graduate programs for social work. Her plans were put on hold while her husband finished some studies he needed for his work, and then just when Karen was ready to embark on her coursework, the pandemic hit and they stalled again. “You make these plans and try to protect yourself, and then life throws you a curve ball. You just have to roll with it.” Karen and her husband pushed up their timeline to move to the suburbs, and after they settled in (another big change for her), she finally was able to get going on her studies. “It’s intimidating to learn something new, in a totally unrelated field.” She acknowledges that starting anew was a real challenge at first, but notes how she came to see she had more relevant skills than she realized. “Yes, I have different tools in my box – but I just pivot with them and I can apply them to my new career. Now I am less intimidated – I can see where these skills still apply. I have an arsenal. You are never at zero because you have been living life, and that helps you.”

For Jill, starting anew wasn’t all new. She and her husband and teen daughter lived in a rental in New York City for decades, spending weekends at their home in Montauk. They had just rented and moved into a house in Westchester for their daughter’s high school years, when the pandemic started and quite quickly her husband’s business folded. “Things changed rapidly, and it was time to downsize and slow down. Luckily for us, we had our home in Montauk, our favorite place, and our move was rather streamlined.” While their new start was in a very familiar place, the lifestyle was a big change. “Now, slowing down and being in nature, walking, hiking, whale spotting, bird watching, sunsets - having these all year round, is exciting to me.” While they miss the access to endless restaurants, Jill has enjoyed becoming a better cook and is looking forward to more community engagement after the pandemic. She’s even grown fond of winter, “It’s much easier to tolerate the cold in such beautiful surroundings.”

Over here in California, my new start is pretty fresh, and I wonder what my life will look like once I’m more settled. Being in a place where everything is unfamiliar to me, is in equal parts exciting and terrifying. When I try too hard to figure things out and envision my future as a whole, I get overwhelmed. I mention these thoughts to Tevis and she talks about the farming practice of allowing fields to lie fallow. They are stripped and nothing is planted, enabling the soil to deeply regenerate and become more fertile. I love this metaphor, as well as so many others from the natural world - the snake shedding its skin, the magic of molting.

She mentions the practice of exfoliation and, of course, here at Kat Burki, exfoliating is such an integral part of our regimen for healthy skin. Through exfoliation, both manually with clay and other fibers, and chemically with natural acids, we remove what clogs and dulls. This then stimulates cells, so that our skin can regenerate and renew itself with vibrant and glowing results. Tevis confides that she herself, the change Guru, is currently on a self-imposed sabbatical, taking time off to unplug from work and shed daily stressors, so that she can start anew, her own regenerative process.

Even the much smaller new experiences we try can be important for our health and growth. Last week, I decided to hop in my car to visit an animal rescue farm I had read about and learn about their work, while exploring the area a bit. It surely wasn’t a life change, but it was a spontaneous impulse to do something different. As Tevis puts it, “We get locked into our identities and our assumptions of what’s true for our life, and we make those real through our routines and rituals. By making shifts and explorations, whether it's driving a new way home, or changing the way you dress, or even brushing your teeth with the hand you never use, all of these things serve to fire up new neural patterns. When we do that, we are more available for discovery about ourselves and about life itself.”

What will you do at the start of 2022 to experience newness? To regenerate or rebirth yourself?

Whatever you discover, whether large or small, we wish you a fresh, glowing and very healthy New Year!