How many of us envisioned where we’d be at 20? 30? 40? And beyond? How many of us are actually where we thought we’d be? For most, I imagine, not even close. Which makes sense, how many children and young adults truly understand the trials and tribulations that lie ahead? At that point most of us, hopefully, only see the security, safety and love of home. The fairy tale ending of movies and books.
We must be willing to let go of the life planned,
So we can have the life that’s waiting for us.
But life has a way of throwing us curve balls. A “no” here, a “yes” there, can have resounding effects.
For some children that lesson comes early with the loss of a loved one, illness, divorce, or trauma. For others, it’s the struggles we face when navigating our way through adulthood. From a marriage we thought would last forever, jobs harder to come by at salaries less than anticipated, to daily family stressors.
And then there was COVID.
No one saw that coming.
I was in New York City celebrating New Years Eve 12-31-19, surrounded by a million people as the ball dropped. Everyone looking forward with hope and anticipation. All thinking of the past year with it’s challenging ups and down, successes and failures.
How were we to know how much our lives would change in just two short months.
By then, Times Square would be barren. The laughter and excitement gone.
Fear and anxiety it’s their place.
Life is never a straight path to what we want. Often it’s circuitous and maze-like drawing us down paths we never expected to take. Looking back at the options we might have taken can be bittersweet. But the truth is no one can know for sure that path would have brought us any more happiness or sadness than the one we followed.
Planning is great.
Being flexible is imperative.
But should of, could of, would of. . .Is a game best left alone. It usually brings regret, frustration and sorrow. That’s not to say analyzing where you are now and where you want to go in the future isn’t appropriate. It’s never too late to change things up and follow new choices.
A friend I knew in medical school went through a divorce at the same time I did. She was devastated, feeling alone and empty. Her excitement at practicing primary care was gone. For weeks she drifted, angry her life wasn’t what she’d expected it to be. We spent many nights commiserating and wondering what the future would bring. We argued the pros and cons of continuing private practice, joining forces, versus working for others, to packing up and moving for a fresh start. That’s when she decided to go back to school and train as a forensic anthropologist. Going from a private practitioner to student again in her thirties was a difficult decision, altering everything she had grown to depend on and appreciate. During her last year of training she was offered a summer position in Egypt to study diseases in mummies. That’s where she met her husband and a life she never imagined was possible became a reality. I still get emails updating me on her fascinating work and growing family- she has two daughters and three grand children.
Another friend was heart broken when she learned she couldn’t conceive. While going through the process to adopt she and her husband decided to become foster parents. Twenty years later they continue to provide kids a loving, safe home for as long as they’re needed. She never dreamed she’d have dozens of children love and call her own.
Worrying what might have been isn’t fruitful. Looking at where you’re at and choosing the best path forward is.We’ll never know where the road not taken may have brought us all we can do is make the best choice at the time and stay open to new possibilities. You never know where one may lead.