Life Advice: Unexpected Happy Endings

Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis

You have goals, ambitions, and dreams. That’s something that is definitely Emma Approved! But there is a difference between believing in a path and actually walking the path, and you’re never exactly the same person you used to be after the journey. Every experience changes you in the best way possible, making you a wiser, more layered, stronger individual.  And just like that dress you used to love in high school that you would never wear now, your old plans may no longer fit you.  You’re just hanging on because you see yourself a certain way and have a hard time letting go.  So here are a few tips on how to put the past behind you and leave yourself open to all the possibilities of the future.

Acknowledge special circumstances

If you always imagined yourself as a world traveler who would never settle down in one place or a single girl who loved her freedom, don’t be alarmed when you find yourself daydreaming about buying a house or planning a wedding.  It doesn’t mean you’ve lost yourself or given in to repressive cultural influences.  Most likely the answer is simple – you fell in love.  With a place or a person, a new career, or a new way of life.

Falling in love should be a magical experience, but once you become an adult and spend time and energy working towards specific goals, this kind of unexpected, inner change can be a very unsettling experience.  Just remember it’s okay to change your mind, and that falling in love doesn’t mean an end to discovery and new adventures. It just means you have someone by your side with whom to share them!

Rethink your definitions

Maybe that whole “2.5 kids and a dog” thing was fine for other people but definitely not for you.  So when you start holding your friends’ children and find your mind wandering to what it would like to have one of your own, the panic sets in.  You no longer recognize yourself.  But why is that? Maybe your image of a mother is too specific.  Maybe you think you can’t be a mom because you’re ambitious, love to travel, and hate the suburbs. Because you want to run a company, not the PTA. Because you hate play doh and are bored to tears by conversations about sleep training.

The great thing about being a modern mom is that you get to choose the type of parent you want to be.  I’m not saying having kids won’t change your life or include a lot of hard work and compromises.  But there is absolutely no reason you can’t be the inspiring, driven, career mom with a condo in the city who loves to travel and takes their kids on all kinds of adventures. Changing what you want doesn’t have to mean changing who you are. You’ll find a way to do it that is unique to you, just like everything else you do.

You don’t always have to choose

It might take some juggling and prioritizing, but there is a way to get the best of two worlds.  Just as you don’t necessarily have to choose between a family and a career, you may not have to decide between being in a relationship and having freedom.  Think about it.  What is it you like the most about being single?  Is it your active social life, your need for some quiet and solitude, or your fear that if your partner doesn’t like doing something you like, you’ll have to stop doing it?

Loving another person doesn’t have to change who you are or what makes you happy.  In fact it would be silly to even try, since who you are is who this person fell for in the first place.  Maybe you met someone who you have a lot in common with.  Who would love to have a designated night where you hang out with your friends and he hangs out with his.  Who will never resent the time you spend focusing on your career because then he doesn’t have to feel guilty for the time he spends focusing on his own.  Who also needs some peace and quiet, and won’t be hurt if you both take some time alone.  On the flip side, maybe he was drawn to you because of your differences. Perhaps he’s thrilled you want to be the breadwinner because he’d love to be a stay-at-home dad. Perhaps he’s always been more of a loner and is excited to have opportunities to be more social now that he’s with you. Maybe he is eager to try all those things you like to do because knowing you is opening up his world.

Don’t assume that what you want out of life will always be what you want out of life. Knowing yourself is a good thing, but knowing that you are constantly growing and changing is even better.  Don’t hold yourself back, and remember that there is more than one way to get a happy ending.