|Hoi An, Vietnam|
When I was in sixth grade I pictured a future based on expectation. I pictured the husband, the smiling kids, the family pet, the house, and the cars and equated all of that to the good life. Even before I knew much of anything, I was certain that checking off marriage, motherhood, and material trappings meant I had arrived. As I grew older, reality rocked my expectations and set me on a path outside of what I thought was possible.
As I moved past the years of writing out kids’ names, I entered phases of writing out college, rental, and job applications. The life I envisioned in junior high school seemed far from where I was headed. My plans to marry that perfect man and have those smiling children faded. He—perfect husband—and they—smiling children—didn’t exist. What I was going to do with my life until they arrived turned into what I was going to do with my life even if they never arrived.
For some, the mere thought that they—the spouse and children—might never come ushers in uncomfortable and even painful emotions. For some, the disappointment feels tangible, something that embraces them and weighs heavily on their shoulders. To make matters worse, there are reminders everywhere. Go to the grocery store, the movies, the mall, the gym, an airport, or anywhere else besides your own residence and you’re sure to find couples and children reminding you of your singleness.
The reality is that not everyone will live out life the way the world—including self—expects. Not every little girl will grow up to get married, have children, and bake. Not every little boy will grow up to marry his college sweetheart, drive a convertible, and become the CEO of a company. Not everyone is in a loving relationship. Not every marriage will result in children. We have to create acceptable space for everyone because they represent people—people with challenges, heartache, emotions, and voids. People who deserve to be accepted, cared for, embraced, and loved. People who already have the difficult task of reconciling their lives for themselves. When we collectively exercise more tolerance and compassion for those not playing out societal or gender standards then we individually learn not to be unhealthily attached to those expectations.
I am not cloaked in disappointment. My life has flourished in ways that sixth grade Myla couldn’t fathom. Although I am fulfilled, I have had others try to place their expectations on me. Had I given them the power, I could have taken on that pressure and felt disappointed for not living differently. I could have allowed their lack of vision to cause me confusion and displeasure. Instead, I am grateful for all of my life stories. Those things that I didn’t plan for are the very ones that have given me the most. It was my unexpected freedom that has given me access to the most fulfilling, memorable, and life-changing experiences.
Even if life isn’t exactly how you perceived or envisioned, it’s not over. If you are still here, there is still more to do, see, experience, appreciate, and love. When we stop focusing on what hasn't happened, we can fully walk in the gratitude of what has. I may not have a husband or kids, but I can’t imagine my life being any better than it is right at this moment. I have seen sights most only see from afar. I laugh daily—and a lot! I have joy. I have peace. I have love. This may not be the life I planned, but it is the life I own, appreciate, take responsibility for, adore, and wouldn’t change. This isn’t the life I envisioned and I am so grateful because it is richer and fuller than my mind had the capacity to imagine. Instead of living according to the expectations of this world, I have been gifted with the opportunity to experience it.