(Photo by me: Pecos River, NM)
When I was 20, I had some ideas about what life would look like. I knew it would take work, but I believed in that vision. My husband and I would have a house, and a car for each of us. Our son and soon-to-arrive daughter would go to school, have friends over, and we would take them camping and on trips to see places around the country. We might even take them out of the country a few times. The yard would have flowers planted, and flowering trees, and no shrubs in sight. We would build me a small outbuilding to use as an office for writing and art. He and I would raise the kids, work, and retire together. In retirement, we’d live like my grandparents did, traveling the country, doing volunteer work, and enjoying our lives.
I was really attached to that whole image of the family and the home, and for many years it caused me a great deal of pain and grief, and even resentment and anger, for not materializing as expected.
I spent several years as a single mother.
When the recession hit and I had no way to support myself, my kids lived with their father who had remarried and at least had one income if not two in the house. I went to stay with my sister until I found work again.
Now, I live in an apartment, unmarried, and have a cat and a dog. So much for the dreams of 20-year-old me.
A therapist helped me to realize the things I have, and the ways the things I have ended up being the things I wanted, just in a different form. At the time, I was miserable and angry. I felt cheated by life in general. I was patently unaware of the way life had given me what I wanted, and moreover, what I needed.
I wanted a marriage because that was my definition of the basis of a family. I have family. I have three children and four grandchildren. I love them each to distraction and they love me and encourage my efforts, too.
I have the freedom to travel. I need to make plans and actually do it, but just because I’d be traveling alone doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go!
I don’t have a yard with plants, but I have planters everywhere and each year I fill them with a variety of flowers and greenery, and enjoy them utterly. (I also don’t have to mow a lawn!)
I have friends who have become as close as family, and who I adore utterly.
I have space to create, not in a separate building, but in my own living room. Bonus points! No need to run through the snow and rain, or mid-summer heat, to reach the bathroom or grab a drink when I want one!
I always had pets and wanted to have them in my image of what life would become, and I do have a beautiful calico (life goal met: always wanted a calico cat) and a slightly deranged husky mix. (Life goal remaining: Standard bred poodle… but I love Daisy all the same… most of the time.)
I play whatever music I want, when I want. I watch my anime without being teased or belittled for enjoying it. I cook meals to my taste, without having to adapt recipes to anyone else.
My life is not at all what I wanted when I was younger, but overall, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s kind of like how in the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, the main character ended up with a house, a family, and a child to raise – but everything was in a different form than expected. (And yes, that’s a favorite movie because it always reminds me to look at things and see how my dreams have been fulfilled.)
It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. I don’t have loads and loads of money. I’m still paying off student loans (come on books, sell so I can end those things!) and now a round of medical expenses. Living in an apartment means dealing with the neighbor who serenades the courtyard with mariachi music at 11 every night, the ones who somehow decide midnight is when to cook and make me wake up starving, the couple who argues on the balcony every few weeks, and the people who won’t clean up after their dogs. What it does mean is, I have the space I needed to pursue my dreams and personal goals, and I have all the love and companionship I could ask for.
I bet that if you look, your life may not be what you expected, but there are still many ways your wishes have manifested in different forms than you expected. Don’t rob yourself of the joy of accepting and appreciating how well those pieces fit you.
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