In my late 20s I was a hot mess (or that's how my inner mean girl would have explained it to you).
Growing up I had a very traditional view of how my life would turn out (feminists everywhere are cringing). I would go to college, meet someone dreamy and get married by the time I was 25. By the time I was 30 we'd graduate to parenthood. Life would be PERFECT!
Attending college I had no thoughts of a career. I really just wanted to be a wife and mom. One class was not significantly more interesting to me than another so I floundered. I finally settled on an adult education major by default, as I was comfortable presenting in front of a group and felt like I was a natural teacher. Part of my sense of urgency around picking a major, instead of first trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be, was that I was in a hurry to graduate before my younger sister. She was one year behind me in school, my Irish twin, and always right on my heels. That was my biggest motivator: being first. And my thought process was really a reflection of my competitiveness and lack of direction. I had been groomed to be the oldest, the leader and what that meant: I would go first, I would pave the way.
Fast forward a few years. Needless to say it was hard when my sister got engaged to the man she meet the first semester of her freshman year. It was even harder for me to deal with when she got married. And then the tears of joy (and utter sadness) when she announced on her 30th birthday she was expecting. I lost and I lost in grand fashion. What I couldn't see in those moments was that it wasn't about me. I was coming from a place of fear, jealousy and perfectionism. And those negative feels were suffocating my soul.
As the big sister, I was always first. Until I wasn't. And that transition was very hard for me. The calls for advice stopped. She didn't need me to hold her hand and be brave for her any more.
Reflecting back on that time in my life when I really hit rock bottom I remember crying myself to sleep feeling a mix of loneliness, despair, confusion and impatience as I waited for my perfect life to show up. Because this was just a sliver of my pie o' life and I was going through a lot of soul searching between the doubts I had about my career, love life, spirituality and more - all at the same time. Life felt horribly out of balance. I was bitter and resentful. I felt like my life was being wasted. It felt like it lacked responsibility and purpose because I tied those values to having a family. I didn't have a Plan B. I had no idea what to do if this was it, my solo life was it, because that scared the shit out of me. I could not imagine being happy in a life where I wasn't a wife or mother. I had such a deep desire to be both, but particularly raise children. I held so tight to that life I wanted year after year that I had never taken the time to find out who I was or what I really wanted to be. Luckily I got involved in community leadership and took the time to figure out what I was good at and what I wanted to do in life. That sense of community, of something bigger than me, pulled me out of my haze and gave me the inspiration to focus on the future and what could be.
I realized that part of the process at that time in my life was about mourning. It was hard to accept that the life I longed for might not be my reality. But instead of embracing that mourning so I could close out that chapter of my life, say goodbye to my dreams of what would be and focus on what was next I just beat myself up for being so weak and negative about life which made me feel worse.
Life is about perspective. I now embrace that time in my life as a game changer, and I am so grateful. It took awhile but I see it as a gift. I had the life I created, even if it was not the life I wanted. I could have been unhappily married at that point, but I wanted to marry a man I was in love with. If I had settled, I (probably) could have had children too. But I didn't- and don't- want children on those terms. And instead of coming from a place of power and being proud of myself for making hard choices to ensure my future happiness, I came from a place of weakness assuming I had no control over my life. Life is about perspective.
I believe in the power of mourning life. Of mourning what may never be if that is what you need to do to close out that chapter and jump on the "Move On" Express.
To understand and accept that you can't have it all, but you can have what you want, but more importantly will get what you need.
To turn up the volume on your intuition and turn down the voice of your inner mean girl (or guy- we all have that voice sometimes).
To embrace every day as a gift even if some gifts take years to reveal themselves.
To use your dark days to fuel your fire and to promise yourself never again.
To realize that Plan B could be the perfect plan for your life.
Or to give up on plans completely and just focus on living each day your way, on your terms. Balloons optional.
What do you need to mourn to create the life that's meant for you? How can you reframe your story to embrace every day as a gift? I'd love to hear from you! Please leave your comments or questions below.