Today is my 27th birthday. I was writing in my journal recently about what a strange feeling it is to not be where I thought I would be by 27 but to also be in so many wonderful and amazing places I never dreamed I would ever be. Does that make sense? We all have had that conversation with ourselves at some point: the 10-year plan, the life goals or the “timeline.” We will graduate college at 22, run up the professional ladder by 25, marry at 26 and have kids at 28. You know, the “plan.”
Well I am 27, and I am not there. And, a lot of women I know are saddened by the fact that they are also not there, wherever their “there” is, by a certain age. Sometimes, I am sad too. I wonder why my professional life has always been so perfect and my personal life has carried the burden of so many complications. Why didn’t God get the memo of my plan?!
And then one cold and cozy morning last week, with my sleeping dogs, my steaming coffee, my quiet house and my journal, it all made sense to me. The reason certain things have not happened yet is because other wonderful and life changing things have happened.
My “plan” didn’t account for the addiction I developed toward professional success and goals. Where I envisioned purpose coming from a family, I got it from landing jobs, interviewing well and being the youngest and sometimes only woman in a meeting full of men over 40.
One of the hardest things to manage for a woman is a career and a family. If you are a woman in your late twenties and you’ve focused on your career, don’t beat yourself up. You are no less of a woman than your friends that were mothers of 2 by 25. Your time isn’t up and you’ve created a strong and stable foundation to provide for your family. The “plan” doesn’t take into account drive, motivation and how good accomplishing professional goals feels.
Despite planning for marriage and children one day, I never really accounted for falling in love. Falling in love with my boyfriend was like lighting a bomb on my life’s timeline. Before him, I had never really been in love. I didn’t realize the time it would take to work out the complicated nature of our relationship. I didn’t realize the sacrifices we would both make or the way time actually flew by us. One second we were defending each other to our families and the next we were celebrating our 6th Christmas together.
The timeline of my life never accounted for my passions, my hobbies and my need to make them significant and all-consuming. Throughout my early 20’s my life found purpose in a way I never envisioned. I found God, where was he in my timeline?! He should have been the center of it but I had no idea who He was or the beauty that comes from spending time investing in Him.
I became independent, purchasing my home at 23. I started writing publically instead of privately and I invested my energy into pitching and sharpening this craft. I found my way to the homeless shelter and the ALZ association. I grew my passion for outreach into a commitment to make my community better, to be an advocate for Alzheimer’s.
I say all of this to end with one thought. You are where you are supposed to be. The most visible way to see that is to think of all the stunning things that you’ve experienced that derailed the “plan.” Whenever you might doubt that, or feel sad you’re not at a place in life that others are, think about all the things that your timeline didn’t account for. Think about those trips you took or that interview you rocked. Think about the surprising things that have happened that you never expected would. In that thought, you see the real purpose of your life. It isn’t to have what everyone else does; it’s to see beauty in broken plans. The purpose of life is to embrace the unexpected side trips and to know your journey is far from over.