I was watching a recent interview between Oprah Winfrey and Iyanla Vanzant, the first part of a two-part interview for “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network). During the interview, Iyanla talked about her reinvention process, moving from being a woman named Rhonda Harris to becoming Iyanla Vanzant, now a well-known author, relationship expert, and spiritual leader.
This dialogue between Oprah and Iyanla sparked something in me. I had the realization that I have had my own process of reinvention.
I started life out thinking my full name was James Howard Mitchell. It wasn’t until I became a teenager, and needed my birth certificate to get my social security card that I realized a truth: the name on my birth certificate read JAMES HIMM MITCHELL JR. I looked at this and thought this was a mistake, only to have my mother confirm that it was not. When I inquired why she had called me Howard instead of my given name, she said because it reminded her too much of my father (my mother and father had not been together for a long time at this point). I still had the same first name as he did, so the point did not make sense to me. For some, it might not have been such a big deal, but I took this development rather hard. On some level, I felt that James Howard was some invention, some concoction, some creation that robbed me the opportunity of knowing who James Himm was. I found myself, temporarily, not knowing who I was.
So, I decided to embrace this new name, and getting to discover who this new person was, and not live under the guise that had been created for me, for I was not really this person. This was true, in more than one sense: I was raised not knowing anything about my family on either side; my mother was raised in foster care, and never spoke of it, while my father was absent my entire life. Time went on, and then it happened again.
I had started to dabble in astrology, and started making my own natal chart. To make a natal chart, the astrologer needs to know the time of birth. That information was absent on my birth certificate, as it was the short form version; I would need to send away for a copy of the long form version, which would be more detailed about my birth. I did send away for it.
When it arrived, I took a look at it. This time, the name read JAMES HIMM MITCHELL III, listing James Himm Mitchell Jr. as my father. I took this as an important sign. At this point in my life, I had moved away from my home state, citing as the chief reason that I needed “to find out who I was,” for I had lived my life being who other people wanted me to be, and I needed to know who I was for me. The birth certificates kept coming when I was really ready to do that, to know who I was.
I hadn’t considered the synchronicity until Iyanla talked about how she “buried” Rhonda. I did the same thing with both James Howard Mitchell and James Himm Mitchell Jr. I used to tell people that being the third was like being the final installment in a trilogy, and that the last installment is usually the best (third time’s the charm), and the one that brings things to its conclusion.
As time has gone on, I now simply refer to myself as James Himm Mitchell, not the third. I like this person. But he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for James Howard and James Himm Jr. standing in for him, while James Himm III prepared to take center stage, in the third, and final act, of his one-man show. Iyanla said this process of reinvention was her “born again moment,” and I understood what she meant, because I’ve had mine.
As I close, I leave you with this thought: Who are you? Are you the creation of someone else, based on who he or she says you are? Or, are you the person you want to be, living the life you want to be living?
Or, better still, who are you becoming?
If you are in the process of becoming, know that this is your time of reinvention.
Your partner in reinvention,