The Land of Reinvention

October 2011

You’re forgiven for yawning at that headline. Orange County has always been a place where anyone can imagineer themselves a new identity—so much so that the phrase has become a hoary cliché in these parts, right up there with Disneyland as the happiest place on Earth. But while it may be tiresome, that doesn’t make it any less true.

The stories are countless, and many inspire. Just last month, Orange Coast literary critic Jane Glenn Haas reviewed a book by Brianna Karp, who, unemployed and homeless at 23, turned herself into a blogger, advocate, and author of “The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness.” This month, in Laura Saari’s Rituals column, you can read about Trevor O’Neil, an Anaheim Hills dad and eldercare home services businessman who reinvented himself as king of the pumpkin flingers at last October’s Pumpkin Launch at Cal State Fullerton. He did so with no significant engineering experience, using catapult design tips he gleaned using Google.

While Karp and O’Neil reinvented themselves, there’s no shortage of those willing to help the rest of us—for a price. Open your local Yellow Pages (or some electronic equivalent) and you’ll find everything from cosmetic surgeons and core-strength experts to life coaches, style consultants, and spiritual advisers. Orange County isn’t just a magnet for people looking for fresh starts and self-improvement; it’s the epicenter of America’s self-improvement industry.

Which is why we dispatched one of our favorite writers, Andy Meisler, to explore that peculiar wonderland. He describes himself as an “extremely improvable individual, middle-aged and looking like it, out of shape, reflexively ironic, a lifetime gazer into half-empty tumblers.” We could think of no one better qualified to run the county’s hyperactive self-improvement gantlet, and we think you’ll enjoy his account of the experience.“Me, Only Better” to purchase the digital copy click here. Spoiler alert: Meisler today is pretty much the same “extremely improvable individual” who began that journey. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Martin J. Smith

Illustration by John Ueland

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