By the age of 24, I was supposed to be a lawyer and run a non-profit legal firm. Oh yeah and get married at 27, have two kids, a dog and live happily ever after. You know what’s coming here, right? Not all of those things happened. Shocker! There have been countless relationships, jobs, and pants that I just knew would workout but didn’t. While going through the loss of these things was difficult, ultimately I am so glad they didn’t work out. Why? For two reasons. First, going through the experience taught me things about others and more importantly about myself. Second, the accumulation of these occurrences, made me who I am today. So, yes, I am grateful for every single bit of it. Would I want to go through them again, heck no, but am I glad they happened? That’s a resounding ‘yes’. I’m not going to give you a play-by-play of all the things that didn’t work out how I thought they would because as Sweet Brown would say, “ain’t nobody got time for that.” But I will tell you about a few of the hardest ones I’ve experienced.
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step-by-step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”~ Joseph Campbell
Big dreams to change the world is what I had in mind at a young age. I had big plans to go along with those dreams. They began with law school at Baylor. After working with the District Attorney for several obligatory years, I planned to open a non-profit law firm to represent the underserved community. I hoped to change lives, literally the course of a person’s life could be determined in a courtroom, and my aim was to keep innocent people out of jail and to represent the abused and assaulted in their fight for justice. I was awarded with a scholarship to attend college and law school. Suddenly, I found myself scared sh*&less. Holy crap, this was really happening?!?! So what would any normal 17 year-old do in this situation? I’ll tell you what I did. Rebelled. Then I did the next logical thing and complicate things-let’s throw in a pregnancy. Phaw and I thought law school was scary! Gulp! If given the choice to have my son or to go to law school, there would be no competition, hands down, he would win 100%. He is one of the very best things that I’ve been blessed with and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.
While we are on the subject, I thought I would be a great mom and as it turned out, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. Babies are so stinking cute! As a teenager, I babysat plenty of kids. I also worked in the nursery at church. I was good with kids. As any parent can tell you, there is nothing that can truly prepare you for the life-altering experience of having your own adorable barfing, pooping, screaming and crying at all hours of the day and night, bundle of joy. Ha! Touche’ life, well played. As a child you assume your parents know what they are doing, but the reality is they really don’t. As a parent you try not to screw them up too badly. Yeah, I said it. But in all seriousness, kids will test every ounce of your patience and you will worry, stress and love the heck out of them more than you could have ever imagined. No joke, being a parent is the toughest job ever. I’m just trying to do my best to teach them what I can, let them figure out who they are, and love them endlessly. I screw it up. A lot. It by far is much more difficult than I ever dreamed. The parenting knowledge handbook didn’t download to my brain through transference or magic when my children were born as I assumed it would (if you have a copy of this, please share it with me), but I am so grateful I was chosen to be their Mom.
I finished my junior and senior years of high school in two months doing at-your-own pace course work. Then I struggled at what seemed a snails pace, single mommin’, working full-time and taking out copious amounts of student loans to finally get my Bachelors’ degree. I was one of the 1% of teen moms to obtain their college degree before the age of thirty. Go me! My degree was in Political Science, because I hadn’t given up on the law school dream. At least I didn’t until three things happened. First, I was selected for jury duty. I was astounded that people on the jury were more interested in getting home at a decent hour than being stewards of justice. This was a disappointing eye-opening experience. Second, the “recession” occurred very near the time I graduated resulting in hoards of jobless, hopeless wall street elites applying for advanced degrees. For many of those, this meant law school. Would I stand out in a crowd of successful adults? Ohhh, self doubt-you suck! The third and final straw? Dun, dun, dun. Marriage and a second baby. I started my last semester of college two-weeks after having my daughter. Having one child is difficult, two is twice as hard. Whew, I was tired! Oh and postpartum depression is a MOTHER. It did take me a really long time to stop beating myself up for passing up the opportunity to chase my dreams. It wasn’t until later on that I realized that my original dream was to help people and that law school was only one way of accomplishing that.
“You can’t connect the dots [of your life] looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”~ Steve Jobs
My career hasn’t quite worked out the way I thought it would either. I once had a job that I felt pretty secure in, that ultimately ended with my position, along with the majority of the department, being eliminated due to consolidation. I knew for six months ahead of it, that I would no longer had a job, but still had to continue to show up until the end date. Talk about lack of motivation. It was brutal. On one hand knowing in advance gave me time to look for another job (although, who would hire someone that can’t start for five – six months?). It did give me the opportunity to evaluate what I wanted to do with my life, for a career. Honestly, while that’s great, if you aren’t planning on asking yourself that question, rather you are forced into it, it’s disorienting. I felt lost for quite a while. I’ve heard that after losing a job you go through the grieving process. I absolutely experienced this all in a combined and varied mix of shock, denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and finally, FINALLY acceptance. Today, I am able to look back at that experience and be grateful that it happened because it lead me to where I am now. It led to new opportunities, new friendships, and ultimately doing work that I feel is incredibly valuable and that I am passionate about.
“Don’t give up. This is the difference between living the life you’ve dreamed of or sitting alongside the death of the person you’re suppose to become.”~ Rachel Hollis, Girl, Wash Your Face
While my experiences are likely not the same ones as yours, I’m sure you can look back and think of a least a few you’ve been through. To the person going through something difficult right now, you are in the middle of the crappy part, stick it out hun. Maybe it’s a job, a relationship, or a dream that didn’t turn out the way you planned. Don’t let a failed plan cause you to lose hope. Sure, you can be disappointed, mad and even sad about it. Mourn it, but don’t get stuck there for too long. My Mom asked me something when I was going through something that is worth repeating. She asked me what if all the things you’ve gone through and experienced up to this point had to happen so that you’d be prepared for this moment? What if you have to experience this moment so that you will be prepared for the something greater that is meant for you? It caused me to pause and reflect on the things that I’ve been through that were world shattering and what I learned from them and how I survived through them. You can do this! Use the grit that you earned going through this experience to lace up your boots and start digging in, keep going and chase your dreams. You may not see or know what good will come from it right away. Be patient, something good will come out of it. You’ll discover the lesson you needed to learn or you’ll see that something better was waiting for you. Possibly both. Don’t be afraid to make new plans (especially ones to achieve your dreams). Hold tight to the dreams, but allow yourself to be flexible, adaptable in how you get there. Either way when things don’t work out like you planned for them to, they still work out and everything will be alright, in fact even better than alright.