If you’re looking for one of those columns which provides you tips and tricks for making this the year you become a heathier, better version of yourself, skip on to the next article.  This space is a New Year’s resolution safe zone. 

I play along every year on Jan. 1 when my husband eagerly leans forward (he does everything in life enthusiastically, argghh) and asks over morning coffee to discuss our resolutions. I try to dodge with a mumbled, “I didn’t think of any yet”, but he won’t be deterred. He does give me the grace of telling me his list, which is many, many resolutions long, not because he needs that much improvement, but see earlier point about enthusiasm. By the time he’s finished, I’ve come up with one or two modest goals before I suggest we go back to reading the morning newspaper.

It’s a cultural canard that the beginning of the calendar year requires personal renewal. Yet, in case you find comfort in the once-a-year opportunity to reset, I have some bad news. Reinvention is not a revolution but an evolution. Its timeframe has a mind, and a calendar, of its own, a product of both fate and focus. The chance for change or doubling down on your current chapter happens all year, not just the turn of the new year.

A few years ago, in 2019 BC (Before Covid), I made a move after 12 years at my company to its headquarters in New York City.  It was a more challenging job and we thought of the opportunity as an adventure. I leased a 600-square foot apartment in Gramercy Park and started a blog chronicling the time period called “Fourth Act.” I know three or five acts are more appropriate when writing a play, but I was writing a life. When I counted the other iterations I had had professionally –  government, media, private sector – this one landed at fourth. What would it mean, how would I grow, would David, when he visited, and I become cool denizens of East Village coffee shops and poetry slams (Answer? No.).

I lead my new team, endured colleagues in their pinstripes heading off to Opening Day, navigated C-Suite demands and crammed sidewalks. Then on March 10, 2020, headquarters closed and we were all sent home, for a week, a month, we did not know.  I had driven to New York that week, fearing the airlines would shut down in the face of this terrifying, unknown illness. And I remember the surprise in the parking attendant’s voice, when I retrieved my car days early, that I was, in a sense, being evacuated from Manhattan. Tense news reports on the radio accompanied me as I headed north on the Merritt Parkway.

Like many of yours, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, school from home, lines at grocery stores, heart-crushing anxiety inform the rest of my Covid story.  And this.  A company reorganization offered me, at 55, the chance to retire early. 

What, then, would be my fifth act? I’ve had to start again before, not by choice, and in the course of reflecting on my story, wrote about what I learned about the process.  You can check it out here in case it’s helpful to your own career journey. 

My youngest leaving for college coincided with this latest retrenchment, which brought its own reflections.

Over the last 18 or so months, I’ve participated in online certification programs, hired a coach, started a business, and as an unlikely introvert, networked my way seemingly to the moon and back.  I notice a difference this time from past reinventions, perhaps a product of age and experience.  I’m being much more intentional about the choices I make, and much more open to the unplanned detours.

My only resolution shared over coffee this year?  I will trust these paths of choice and chance are unfolding as they should.

Virginia Buckingham
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A member of the Marblehead Current’s Board of Directors, Virginia Buckingham is the former chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Port Authority, chief of staff to two Massachusetts governors, deputy editorial page editor for the Boston Herald and author of “On My Watch: A Memoir.” 

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