When I was younger, I fervently hoped that my life would look like one of those fun beer commercials. You know the one: a bunch of impossibly beautiful people are piled up in a SUV, top down, laughing and singing along to the radio, driving to the beach. Once there, they run attractively in slow motion to the water, dancing and laughing and having the time of their lives. They keep dancing, swigging from their beer bottles. Then, night falls. Couples find each other, and cuddle up in hammocks, gazing up at the stars. Or, my personal favourite: they all go to a beach house, where they stretch out on pillows and blankets on the floor, watching a movie together.
I imagine them all living together, as a happy, slightly dysfunctional family (but charming dysfunctional, not devastating dysfunctional), cooking together, going on road trips together, being young and wild and carefree.
That was what I wanted for my early twenties. I figured that, after living like that for a few years, my boyfriend and I would move out of that house and get our own place. Our fabulous friends would still come over often, but we would have our own happy couple-bubble. In our mid-twenties, we would get married, and then a few years after that, we would have our two prerequisite children (a boy and a girl, naturally). The wedding would include the white dress, a horse-drawn carriage, champagne, dancing and lots and lots of happiness. Every single one of our many guests would be happy for us!
We would both have jobs that we loved, live in a nice house, and have a perfect life. I vaguely pictured a lake, a big back yard, and me writing books as well.
But I was fuzzy on the details. Very fuzzy, to be honest. I had no idea where the nice house would be. Or what the husband would look like. Or what job I would like doing, let alone love doing. Or the realities of living with so many people under one roof. (Remember? The beer-commercial years?)
But I figured that I would figure it out over time. After all, everybody did, right?
When it slowly dawned on me that I would never feel less confused than I had so far in my life, I felt deeply betrayed. Why had nobody told me that??
I had counted on feeling grown up and focused one day, expecting it to be a fact of adulthood just like paying bills and having to do taxes.
Where was the clarity? Where was the part where I had my shit figured out?
Was I the only one who felt so lost?
As I know now, I wasn’t, of course. All of us feel like that, all the time. We’re all just winging it
, hoping to figure it out as we go along.
And you know the crazy part? We will. We are.
Looking back at my dreams for my life, and seeing how it turned out, I realized something incredible: a lot of my dreams came true. Just not quite how I imagined it.
In my early twenties, I did indeed live with house mates. Three different houses, with quite a few different people.
It was nothing
like I imagined. I quickly learned that my introverted self found interacting with people exhausting, and after a day spent out in the world amongst people, I couldn’t stand having to deal with more people at home. Of course, once in a while we had wine nights and coffee mornings and good talks, but mostly? It was a living situation filled with many annoyances, from the classic you-are-messier-than-me, to fights about late-night phone calls (“you’re too loud!”), to boyfriends moving in and causing tension. A beer-commercial it was not.
I got married at 25, right on track!
Was our wedding like I had imagined it? Not exactly … (Read for yourself
Did I expect to get married to a guy twice my age, and with twice as many children as I had pictured for myself? Nope, not at all.
Am I the successful business woman I thought I wanted to be? Did I get the shiny contract from a huge publishing house? No, I’m not and I didn’t.
I dreamed of a life filled with friends
, with dinner parties and real parties, with adventures and road trips
and happiness and laughter. Did I think that most road trips would involve picking up animals
, that the friends would turn out to be 20-30 years older than me, and that the parties I cherished the most would involve sitting on hay bales with a bunch of grizzled cowboys, drinking cheap beer? No, I did not.
The thing is: the life we think we want is rarely the one we get.
And that’s a good thing. My expectations were shaped by what I thought I was supposed to want, and not by what I really wanted. It took me a while to figure out what that is, and I think most of us will go through that process. There are a few lucky ones who know from the time they are little what it is that they want in life. But for the rest of us? We need time, lots of trial and error, and some soul searching to figure it out.
I never saw myself living on a farm, slinging hay bales around and catching escaped goats.
When I first stepped foot into the town I live in now, my exact words were: “I could never live here, not in a million years!”
If you would have told me as a teenager that my soul mate would turn out to be a balding, much, much older man (who tries to be domineering at times), I would have never believed you.
I thought I wanted kids. But when I became a stepmother seemingly overnight, I realized that I’m much better suited to the part-time mom life (and full-time dog-mom life haha!).
So no, we don’t get the life we thought we would; we get a better one.