My life has not turned out at all like I had originally planned. When I was an innocent 18 year old in 1986 heading off to the University of Colorado, I planned to get my PhD, become a writing or literature professor, travel the world, read great books, and see amazing things. I had no plans to get married or have children because I felt my personality was not suited for either of those things.
Fast forward to 1999. I’m married because I met a fantastic guy who made me feel 100% comfortable and loved and who was a blast to be around. He was also willing to put up with me for the rest of my life, so there you go. I’m finishing my Master’s degree and working on my incredibly specialized thesis on sophistic rhetoric and its applicability to modern technical communication (yawn). I realize there is no way I actually want to pursue my PhD because I can’t see myself in a working environment with the professors who would be my colleagues. I mean, who wants to spend their days listening to some overinflated coworker carrying on about how he is the foremost authority on diary literature of women in the 19th century (double yawn)? Add to that the prospect of a dissertation and suddenly the professor gig is not worth the effort.
Jump forward twelve years. It’s 2011. I have my Master’s degree, am still happily married, and now am the career-less stay-at-home mother of two sons. Huh. I earn no paycheck, clean toilets (and if you’ve ever cleaned the toilet in a boy’s bathroom, well…all I can say is Ewwwwww!) and do laundry, and manage our small household. Not at all what I had planned.
There are days when I truly struggle with where my life is now compared with where I dreamed at 18 it would be. I never expected to be here, and yet all the choices I made brought me here. This means I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Even though I understand this on an intellectual level, my ego still has difficulty accepting that the life I created is not outwardly successful as I imagined it would be. I struggle not because my life is not great, but because I can’t seem to relinquish what I thought was supposed to do.
Once I saw a bumper sticker that has become a regular mantra in my life when I am struggling: “There are God’s plans and there are your plans. Your plans don’t count.”
I need to remember that not all divergent paths are negative ones. The detours I’ve taken may have led me off the map I had set for myself, but they’ve still gotten me somewhere. It might be a more circuitous path, but life is about the journey and not the destination, right? So, maybe the secret to success isn’t in the achieving all your intended goals. Maybe it’s in appreciating the experiences you’ve had, especially the ones that were never part of your plans. Most of my greatest joys have come through things I never thought were supposed to happen. Maybe I’m not off track. Maybe I’m actually onto something.