“The world is your oyster! You’re just getting started.”
The speaker was the police chief of Ferndale, Michigan. The time was June, 1966, and the event was my high school graduation. The chief’s task was a formidable one – enlightening us about life’s opportunities on a muggy, sticky day in early summer.
I wondered, “What does an oyster have to do with me?” I also wondered when he’d stop talking, because I wanted to bolt with my friends to the beach.
At 18, I was invulnerable, immortal, and full of myself. The future? That was something my parents worried about.
But the oyster thing kept surfacing. I heard it at college graduation. And again at my first teaching job, when I got married, when I gave birth to my first child, and when I started my corporate work.
Then, I hit my mid-50’s. All talk about oysters stopped. Life’s opportunities got less metaphorical and more serious. Now, I was told I would have a “fresh start” with my marriage when the children left home.
Instead, I got a divorce. All of a sudden, I was starting over against my will – and it didn’t begin with a trip to the beach with my friends. To survive, I had a major life lesson to learn: I had to adjust my mindset to see starting over as a golden opportunity.
In the eight years since then, I’ve had more “starting over” than I ever dreamed possible: six relocations (moving to a new home) and five new business starts. I couldn’t have done them if I hadn’t constantly reminded myself that every one of them meant new possibilities.
It came down to a simple verb change. Instead of “I have to start over,” I told myself “I get to start over.” Some days, starting again felt like a delightful walk in the park. Other days, the “golden opportunity” eluded me and I was brutally depressed and lonesome.
There was one constant that got me through, however: How I thought about the new starts made all the difference. My mind believed me when I said I was happy. It also set all systems to miserable, when I said I was lonely. Your brain believes everything you tell it.
The famous psychologist, Sol Gordon, once said, “There’s nothing as energizing as starting something new.”
From where I sit, after a half-century-plus of living, there are still oysters to be eaten. Now, however, I prefer them on the half shell with lemon and Tabasco.
And starting over? Oh yes, I’m a pro at it, as are you. We’re lucky, you and I. We’re not getting older. We’re getting started. And every day is a fresh one.