Starting Over with a Clean Slate

start over, clean slate, re do

Fresh Start or Starting Over?

Over breakfast with some very treasured friends, we talked in depth about that starting over point, a fresh start in our lives.  You know that moment where your world has come crashing down and you have nothing to lose.  Maybe it’s because of a divorce, natural disaster, drug addiction, death of a loved one, or just a major change that you can’t control.  You pick yourself up.  You start over, and go on with your life, or you don’t.  But if you do, you start with a clean slate, and you’re a better person because of it.

The funny thing about clean slates is that you often don’t realize exactly what they are.  You’re overwhelmed, stressed, or just going through something that is changing your life.  The change is messing with your life in a very fucked up way.  You have tunnel vision, and you can’t see the end.  You just know that you’ve had enough.

My Clean Slate

I had my own clean slate moment in 2005 when I left my now ex-husband and started re-building my life.  I am a domestic abuse survivor who after nearly 7 years had the courage to leave her abuser.  I began to learn to love and trust myself by starting over.  It was my clean slate, and it’s probably the reason I am living today.

Clean slates are a liberating moment when you hit rock bottom and begin to build back up.  Everyone at that breakfast table agreed.  Sometimes to be your best you have to start at your worst.  You have to learn, evolve, and grow starting from nothing into something.  You evolve into something that is better and stronger than ever was before.

Everyone’s clean slate moment is unique which was obvious as all but one person at the table shared their story.  Sometimes it’s about relocating somewhere new, losing your home, getting divorced, or making a career change.  Clean slates are as different as the people who choose to embrace, open their arms, and take that chance to start with a clean slate.

All but one of us at that breakfast table had experienced a clean slate moment, and I was just about to learn that my very, dear friend would choose to share her own.  Later that afternoon we sat on the patio sipping light cocktails enjoying a summer breeze, she shared a secret, and I cried.  We all cried.  She held in her very possession the key to her clean slate.  Her key to a new life.  It was a check addressed to her for nearly $200,000.

How to Start Over

My friend is smart, funny, confident, and someone I admire.  She’s one tough cookie who also happens to be a working mom supporting her four children while her husband goes back to school.  It’s been tough for them over the years as the hubby has taken a 50% pay cut each year eventually losing his job.  His former employer, went through major downsizing and of course like many, restructured their employee compensation plans leaving this family way in over their heads.

This financial stress has seeped into their marriage.  They’ve struggled every single day for years.  My friend who works in sales is stressed to the max every month knowing her family’s future weights on hers shoulders alone.  You wouldn’t know this if you met her, she keeps her guard up focusing on the positive and making me smile and laugh.  Man, I really enjoy spending time with this woman, and when we do spend dinner or a few moments together we both just want to have fun, not worry, and relax; a sort of temporary reprieve and clean slate.

This money was her clean slate  It was enough to pay off their family debts, and sock away some money for their future to start living their life the way life should be.  I was lucky enough for her to choose to share this moment with me.

I think that too often we don’t share our clean slates because we are too embarrassed by the challenges we face in our own life.  Upon leaving my now ex-husband I was ashamed to tell people I was separated from him and getting divorced.  I had no one other than a few close family members to support me .  I had no friends or female support network.  I was too worried what others might think of me instead of being honest with myself and those friends and family members I love to help guide me and support me.

Do Overs Done Right

I find that the friends I really treasure are those who have overcome obstacles and made the best of a bad situation redefining their lives with their clean slate.  Don’t let your situation define you, but see it as an opportunity for a fresh start and achieve the person you set out truly to be.  Do overs aren’t easy but they are easier if shared and experienced with family, friends, and those you love.

Have you ever experienced a clean slate?  Please share?  I’d love to hear how you picked yourself up and had a fresh start. 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Susan Young says


    Thank you SO much for sharing so much of yourself with this wonderful post. This line jumped off the page at me: ” Sometimes to be your best you have to start at your worst.”

    My family is going through our clean slate right now. A situation with one of our children began four years ago and turned all of us upside down. We are slowly recovering, but we know this will be a lifelong situation. Like you, I am eternally grateful to have a strong support network and friends who have stood by us through this journey. We outlive our darkest day.

    Blessings to you,

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thank you, Susan. I think it’s time we start talking about our struggles and how they help make us better instead of hiding them away. What I’ve found is that by talking about it, I quickly learn that I’m not alone.

      Appreciate you sharing.


  2. AG says

    Jessica –

    Thanks for the post.

    Don’t forget to bring forgiveness along with you in time. I have found that to be an absolute key for me. Reading this I was reminded of a quote by Anne Lamott –

    “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.”
    ― Anne Lamott

    Words that will set you free with that clean slate in your grasp.


  3. Susan P. Joyce says

    Great post! This post reminded me a great quote attributed to J.K. Rowlings (Harry Potter author) who was a broke, single mother when she started her new career:

    “And so… Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

    And, didn’t she just!

  4. Ray_anne says

    Awww, Jessica–
    You remind me over and over again why we are friends and why I made the choice to write here – at Blogging4Jobs.

    Clean Slates used to scare the crap out of me – no more…
    After having had about a dozen of my own, I have learned to recognize their serious value and necessity…

    Thank you so much for writing this post and for being so damn real.
    If only everyone knew…

    I a waiting for my next Clean Slate and the new joys I will discover!


  5. Melissa says

    Jessica, What a great post. I love that you have called out something we rarely ever talk about in person much less over blogs. Knowing that others around you struggle is half the battle to getting the courage to change yourself and seize that clean slate. Thank You.

    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says


      Thanks for the comment. It was amazing at we all shared around that breakfast table that we’d all had moments like the one I described. The difference is that we made something with that second chance we got.




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