Relationships

How Has Your Life Surprised You?

What Things In Your Life Have Surprised You?

This morning, I woke up in the Holland Tunnel. Allow me to explain…

Historically, I have preferred to sleep in a room resembling a tomb — dark, cool, silent. I am also what can only be described as a tidy sleeper. There is no balling of pillows and minimal rustling of sheets. Often, I’ll wake in the morning to find the bed is still made, with me inside of it, like a sardine neatly tucked in its can.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, is my sleeping opposite. In every single way. And I have made some concessions.

Now we sleep with an arrangement that I jokingly refer to as “the Holland Tunnel.” Today, the ceiling fan whooshed air around the room, like the bed was a convertible. The white noise machine whirred with a sound similar to cars rushing through a tunnel at rush hour. An assortment of pillows, gathered into an arrangement loosely resembling Stonehenge, were placed ON TOP OF MY BODY. The blankets formed a rumple at the foot of the bed, spilling onto the floor.

“What IS this?!” I grumbled to myself, more out of surprise than annoyance.

What I really meant was, how did I get from tomb to tunnel? And how did it happen so quickly?

Just one year ago, I did not yet know this person. Moreover, I was in a place where I feared I never would. If one-year-ago-me could behold this scene, she would surely laugh. She would also be pleased to see how much can happen in a year — that one can go from not knowing someone to not being able to picture life without them.

Once I exited the Holland Tunnel, I headed to the shower, the birthplace of important thoughts. I realized that over the years, there have been many things I’ve sworn I’d never do, or say, or be. And then, at some point in the future, I’ve done or said or been them. There were many well-laid plans that have, for one reason or another, gone in an entirely different direction.

When I was 17, a group of friends were discussing their plans for the future. What would they do after high school graduation? I remember declaring that I would NEVER live in New York City. So dirty! So urban! So not for me. And yet, once the Barnard college admissions gods had spoken, I happily moved here the following year, and stayed for the next 17.

11 years ago, an ex-boyfriend tried to solidify our relationship by gifting me an adorable adopted puppy. The relationship ended months after the fact, but my dog is easily the love of my life.

Younger me would be simultaneously horrified and confused by the contents of my closet, though I can’t tell if the high-waisted jeans or Birkenstocks would offend her more.

Everywhere I look, there is evidence of such unexpected turns — career changes, random opportunities, chance meetings. There are friends who moved to unexpected places. Others who’ve had spiritual transformations. Acquaintances who, with just one fated phone call, embarked on entirely new career paths.

I have a long standing, not-at-all secret appreciation for The Real Housewives of New York City (fondly referred to as RHONY). Recently, I decided to go back and re-watch the first season, which wound up being a surprisingly profound exercise.

From my future vantage point, 11 seasons hence, it was fascinating to watch the characters earnestly go about their lives. “I bet we’ll become great friends!” croons one cast member, about a cast mate she will famously spend the ensuing years sparring with. The seemingly enviable marriage will eventually end in divorce. There are unexpected career changes and children and even jail time.

While it does make for great entertainment, the larger point is that no one is immune to that crazy thing called life. No amount of money or vanity or fame or planning can protect you. And while most of us haven’t lived with cameras documenting the previous decade, I’d venture to guess we’ve all been through similar shifts.

In the words of Lemony Snicket, “Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.” But sometimes, you do like them.

For now, I’m content to sleep in the Holland Tunnel. In New York City, with my dog at my feet, and who-knows-what waiting just around the corner.

What parts of your life have surprised you? Are there any things your younger self would be amazed to see?

P.S. Marriage pet peeves and in defense of resting bitch face.

(Photo by David Keller.)

  1. Julia says...

    My husband and I were married for 12 years, and everyone thought we had such a wonderful relationship. The surprise was that within 5 months of buying a home and starting fertility treatments, my husband said that he was leaving me. He had realized that he is a transgender woman who is attracted to men and that he never really loved me. While I’m happy she has found her truth, I feel like I’m the collateral damage of her self-discovery. And I continue to be surprised at how hard it is to love myself again and learn to move on.

  2. lana says...

    When I was young I believed no one would want to marry me. I married a wonderful man at age 23. Became as stay at home mom to two wonderful sons who are both getting their PhDs. One is getting married soon and mentioned he is ready to have a baby (his fiancee is as well.) I am now waiting to be a grandma and trying to figure out the next season of my live having not worked for 27 years.

  3. JenniferinAustin says...

    My younger self would never have imagined that I’d have reached my forties, content and whole, living a much more simple and meaningful life in Texas of all places and helping my frail, aging mother navigate her final years of life.

    Nor would I have believed that I would have cultivated the ability have compassion for her as a human being and how difficult her life has been and recognize that the harm she caused to me and my siblings had so much to do with the tools and abilities she simply didn’t and doesn’t have.

    We were estranged from my late teens to my late twenties during which time I was married to a high achiever who made a lot of money and valued things that I thought would mean more, and heal all of the broken pieces inside of me. They didn’t. Not a remarkable revelation. I know. Turned out there weren’t enough beautiful clothes, handbags, exotic trips, or high-end cars to heal me and or make life feel as if it was worth living. As I write this, it all sounds so cliche, like I’m writing about another person. I guess I am in a way. During those years, my life was extremely bifurcated, dissonant: The exterior looked ideal, perfect even, but my interior landscape was desperate, broken shards. I spent many days, weeks, years making a deal with myself to just make it through one more day before ending my life. But I didn’t, though that life did have to die and I needed to be reborn into something more whole and real. And I did it.

    Now, my internal landscape is what is beautiful and ideal, well, my ideal anyway. My home is much less of a statement, but it overflows with calm and love. I enjoy the anonymity of driving a non-status, older car, and my life and relationships reflect my inner values. And damn I love my forties. Perhaps I will feel more challenged by aging in a few years when and if my neck looks like the women on my mother’s side of the family, but for now, I’m enjoying the shift and imagine my future in terms of decades, not days.

    Oh, and as someone who extreme disordered eating from the early teens that morphed into an extreme, disordered relationship with “wellness” into my thirties, I would never have thought it possible that I would have reached a place where I stopped waging war on food, my body, and simply enjoyed everything in moderation, but I did. And thank god for that.

  4. janine says...

    I had no idea you want to Barnard!!!
    Love,
    Another Barnard alum :)

    • Jessica Ruby says...

      same reaction :)

      xo, bc’11

  5. Laura says...

    I love this! Because my life is also not how i ‘planned’ it, but better. This post reminds me (the eternal controlfreak) that the things I love most about my life right now- my husband, my job, our house – are things that didn’t go according to plan, but just happend as life passed by.

    As we are now trying to concieve I have the instict to go in full psyco type-A planning mode but thinking about the great uplanned of my live gave me the kind of perspective I desperately needed (to not turn into a crazy person…)

    Things will not work out as I planned them – but they will work out. And I am sure that 10 years from now I will look at my life and be amazed at the crazy wonderful turns it took. Turns I know I can’t even imagine right now.

    Que sera sera.

  6. Jen S. says...

    Alpacas. When I learned how to knit 15 years ago, I couldn’t have predicted it would lead to my own “yarn farm,” complete with Chico the Jerk Faced Alpaca Boy.

  7. Kaitlin says...

    I used the website futureme to send emails to myself at 25 and 28( that’s coming up this winter), that I had written when I was younger. I’m proud that my character values mentioned are the same. Past me didn’t know I would be racked with major mental illness at 21, be forced to move from the South where I was going to college back to the Midwest to recover… after 2 hospitalizations (including a 2 week stay and IOP), I worked as a haunted attraction makeup artist, tried hair school, finished esthetician’s school, worked in retail for a year (loathe), and asked all my friends and family for their advice on two career directions (including interviewing those presently in the roles)…. past me had NO CLUE I COULD BE UTTERLY MOVED and deeply fulfilled by being a glorified ass wiper to the elderly and sick people… In 3 years I’ll have my BSN and can’t wait to connect with people. I had no idea how much I would be changed by loving on those who are suffering and watching the ripple effect and dynamic shift with a person over months of working with them would become integral to my purpose on this earth. Past me had no idea that a job (having had 7-8 total) even existed where I would LOOK FORWARD TO GOING TO WORK and feel like I mattered and made an impact upon exiting every.single.shift.

    Future me imagined marriage by 25, and no marriage at 30 was looked at as utter failure. My mom said I recommend no timeline for your life based on my own lived experience…. that was and still is a tough one to let go of but I’m working on it.

    Past me had no idea I would become a passionate triathlete and half marathoner. Past me never would’ve guessed I’d get a phone call from my first loves current wife asking if he had ever cheated when were together and that I would assist a great women in navigating a difficult situation over a 2 hour phone call with grace and respect.

    Past me didn’t know the self created 100 First Dates project I made myself complete at 24-25 might not be the best idea but that I would meet the greatest, kindest, most self sacrificing Nebraskan man on date 100 (where I spent 2 hours at his house blathering on his couch before leaving to go on yet another first date the SAME NIGHT)—- or that a car wreck after picking him up from the airport would solidify my complete love for him. Many thanks to his striking husky dog for being the spark in the photos in his profile.

    Past me had no idea I could be so happy and joyful in a relationship where communication, trust and vulnerability are TREASURED and guess what- what I thought was important, namely the same religious beliefs, turned out to be utterly irrelevant! Past me also was radically unaware how selfish and stubbornly I lived my pampered life until good people including my partner helped me to become more self aware.

    Past me had no fucking clue I could be this happy and joyous in my day to day life.

    Past me also had no clue I would fall in love with backpacking on a trip this summer while getting my body parts eaten alive by no see ums- the magical green tunnel I will section hike a full state length someday.

    Past me didn’t know that I would be able to see getting married by ___ age as an arbitrary and frankly idiotic measuring stick of “success.”

    Past me didn’t know the discovering the Enneagram while I was healing would be paramount in growth.

    Current me is still attempting to treat future me better by procrastinating less ;)

  8. Anna says...

    Five years ago I thought I’d seen the truth; that I was in fact an unlovable, unattractive person doomed to be alone forever. It felt like everything I’d hoped for in my life; love, kids, family – was a cruel fantasy that would never be for me. I actually believed that my life up until that point had been a series of lies – people had lied to me and made me believe that kind of life was possible for someone like me.
    Today I see that I was probably going through a depression and that what I thought was true was the actual lie. Today I’ve been together with my boyfriend for four years, we have a happy loving life together and we’re expecting our first child. It’s not the life I had planned as a teenager or even as 20-something, but’s it’s because sometimes your imagination just isn’t as good as life can be. ❤️

  9. BWGMom says...

    In my 20tys I struggled with depression and anxiety. I spent a lot of time along, brooding, trying different ways to heal. Then I started exercising and slowly emerged from the gloom. As a 20-something I never thought I would be where I am today. I thought I would always be sad, dependent on my parents, working at boring jobs, but now I like in Hawaii, work as a middle school teacher and I am happily married to a wonderful man (my first and only boyfriend, whom I met at 31). We have three lively boys who keep us on our toes. My life, so far, as taught me to be true to myself, my journey and those around me. My middle-schoolers love my accepting attitude. I hope to show them that it is okay to be yourself no matter what, which means a struggle with depression, or whatever, is nothing to be ashamed of.

  10. Jane says...

    I’d tell the 19 year old me that never had a boyfriend, just wait. In the year you’ll meet a handsome English boy who will change your life forever. Fast forward 11 years and this American is living in London with that same boy (now man), in our restored home with our beautiful baby girl.

  11. Five years ago I met my boyfriend. 1 year after, I moved to Israel- he is Israeli, I’m not. This would already make my younger way surprised. When I thought we were heading to a life in the suburbs, we moved to Amsterdam. And here I am, restarting, learning a new language again, and waiting for what’s next.

  12. Absolutely love this post and all of the incredible comments. I did not know what my future held when I was seventeen—in fact I morbidly thought I was going to die young because I couldn’t foresee anything and didn’t know anything I wanted, which now seems so bizarre. However, I definitely didn’t think I would breakup with my best friend after seven years together, move abroad to have the best experiences of my life, move home to eventually meet another boy after becoming my own individual person. We’ve since lived in two big cities and I don’t see us slowing down. I’m also going back to school for software development after six years in marketing. Hoping we end up living abroad, but who knows what will get thrown at us. Life is a wild ride!

  13. Meghan says...

    I never even imagined I’d have to live my life without my mom and I still struggle with that every day. I never imagined living in a quarter of the places our family has ended up living but I’ve made so many lovely friends and now I’ve left my heart all over the country. I always thought I’d be a working mom, but life is funny and sometimes makes choices for you. I couldn’t imagine only having two kids, but man it’s good.

  14. Claudia Lazo- Silva says...

    Thank you i needed to read this article at a time where I am so overwhelmed with life, not in a bad way, but so busy.,, Grad school, full time work, per diem hospital job and married life with a dog. But I have realized I am SO incredibly blessed and although life has had its turns, I am where I am supposed to be.

    xo,
    Claud

  15. Elinor says...

    Life has surprised me in so many ways. Mine certainly has not turned out the way I was sure it would. When I married in November of ‘87, I was three months shy of my 25th bday. I believed I was marrying the love of my life, someone I could trust and with whom I could build a life of joy. I gave up everything I thought I wanted to make a life with him.l – working to support us while he got his masters degree and then on to law school. While I would go thru it again bc of my three daughters, everything I believed in turned out to be a lie. It nearly broke me. Shortly after my father died of ALS, my husband fell in love with his boss. I never thought I would be divorced. I never thought I would be abandoned. I was a single mother of three young girls. Living someone I did not like and couldn’t leave the state until the youngest was in college. I felt as if I were being held prisoner and paying for the sins of someone else. Resentment. Anger. It was a bad time. When I did find love again and remarried, I thought -finally! Now I can have that happily ever after. But fate had other plans – my second husband died just after our fourth wedding anniversary. Between raising my daughters on my own and caring for a dying spouse for three and a half years, I felt tapped out with nothing left to give anyone. I was sure I was done with relationships. I threw myself into my children and learned to support us and found strength and courage I didn’t know I had. Six and a half years after my husband died, I met someone. I honestly never thought I’d marry again – thrice married seemed so tacky to me, as if I were a failure and couldn’t get it right. I mean, if 50% of first marriages fail and 67% of second ones fail (although my second one didn’t technically fail. He died – I always make sure ppl know that when it comes out that this is my third try 🙄), what are the odds for third time around? Not good. I was over 50, set in my ways, and more independent than ever. And very much tied to my three daughters. And after living in northern MA for 16 years, I had finally felt tied to the area. But fate had other plans. Last month my third husband and I celebrated two years of marriage. Who knew! Not me, that’s for sure. So I wish I could tell my 24 yr old self that it’s important not to assume anything in life. Life is short. Life can be devastating. Life can really beat you up. But, life is also such a blessing and every single time I thought I couldn’t get thru something, I did. And while it’s super cliche to say this, every single experience I’ve had has brought me to this place and made me the person I am today. And she’s doing just fine, thank you.

    • Sarah says...

      Thank you Elinor for this comment. It is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I just found out my husband of 10 years and partner for 18+ years had an affair and he is now living with the person he had the affair with after he left me and our 2 young sons. I feel hopeless, trapped and overwhelmed because this is NOT what I expected my life to look like. But, just like you said, life is a blessing. I keep reminding myself of Helen Keller’s idea that, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Thank you for confirming there is a new door of happiness that has been opened, we just have to remember to see it.

  16. Gaby says...

    I’ve developed chronic physical issues taking me away from my active sporty spice lifestyle and married someone who now drinks too much.

  17. Rachel says...

    This year my husband and I moved across the country, started new jobs, and had our first baby. That was all planned. Then, four weeks postpartum, I found out that my dad is not my biological father and I was conceived with a sperm donor. I did ancestry.com and found nine half-siblings, who connected me to our donor. He lives in my hometown (the one I moved back to this year) and works with my dad (but neither of them knew that he was my donor). The donor’s daughter (my half-sister) is a medical student at the hospital where I am a resident. I’m going to her graduation party tomorrow. It has been a year, but it hasn’t been bad. There have been moments of pure grace. Although, you could tell me I’m half chihuahua at this point and I would be like, ‘yeah, that kind of makes sense.’

  18. Caitlin says...

    When I was in high school I absolutely refused to look at any colleges in Pennsylvania because there was NO WAY I was going to live there. The second most horrible thing I could imagine was going to school in my home state, New Jersey.

    Of course, I went to Rutgers where I met my husband. We bought a house in Pennsylvania shortly before our first anniversary and it has been 6 years now. I love love love it here. Best state ever! I highly recommend people move here!!

  19. Robin w says...

    I never imagined I would be widowed four weeks before my 60th birthday after a beautiful 37 years of marriage. We moved to a new city 3 1/2 years ago for a new adventure. Now I’m in a beautiful place that I love, but completely alone. I’m an accomplished woman who has had a very successful career and raised an amazing family and for the first time in my life, I am completely lost.

    • katie says...

      Oh Robin,
      I’m so sorry for your loss. What you’re going through right now sounds so hard. And yet. What courage to move to a new city with your late husband. Adventurous, indeed. I hope you see the bravery in just putting one foot in front of the other right now. And that when you’re ready (or maybe even before you are), you seek support. Maybe there’s a grief group in your city? Or, start a club (no way are you the only one), or get season tickets to something that stirs your soul…and it’s okay to try a bunch of stuff until you see what fits, and there is zero rush, either. You can take all the time you like. Be gentle with yourself. Rooting for you from the west coast. You’re not alone (:
      Katie

    • lana says...

      I am so sorry you lost your precious husband. I hope you have good people in your path and that you are able to still grow, learn and explore. It’s hard, but you can do it. Each day is precious, I hope you find new horizons and fulfillment .

  20. Kate says...

    I left a 4 year relationship last summer and marvel almost every day at the beautiful life I’ve created for myself, on my own. It’s even better and brighter than I could have imagined.

  21. carlyngreer says...

    I am at a crossroads and needed to read this article and these comments. Thank you xx

  22. Sarah says...

    I had an out of body experience last weekend as i watched my 2 year old daughter run to my husband and have him swoop her up in his arms. Not an unusual sight, but we were standing in a park i hadn’t been to in 6 years. I used to love 2 blocks from that park and go there every day. I had picnics with friends, took my dog for walks, started and stopped runs, and cried and cried and cried when one truly earth rocking breakup happened and i didn’t think i would ever recover. I was so clearly wrong

  23. Sonja says...

    How organized and tidy I’ve become. For all the change, and of course there has been tons, that I am neat AF is probably the most surprising thing in my life. I expected to be surprised by people and situations, etc. I never thought I’d be tidy. I’m basically Marie Kondo but with way less chill. Also I got married at 22 and had a baby at 26. I still can’t believe “they” let me do that. It’s worked out real well but damn – babies marrying babies. PS – Huge benefits to growing up together.

    • Frida says...

      YES. I was 21 when I got married and have been married nearly twenty years. I didn’t have the baby until I was 33, but growing up together has been both amazing and really hard. I say this after nearly 23 years with this same man!

  24. stronger today says...

    I imagine this will be buried under so many stories of hope, but I imagine writing this will be therapeutic for me. This winter, my husband of 12 years (together for 18 years next month) told me he had met someone and was not sure he wants to stay married to me. We live in the house he grew up in, which we bought from his father, and it came as a complete shock. 5 months later, we are still together (and as far as I know, so are they), but now I am trying to determine how to navigate this pain and determine the life I want for me and my 5 year old going forward. Reading each comment has provided me bits of strength. I can do this.

    • Margaret says...

      Stronger Today –

      What a horrible gut-punch. I wish you all the grace and strength you feel you need, though your comment suggests you already have it. Here’s hoping your next turn in life is a far happier one.

      xo

    • Meg says...

      That must be so unbelievably hard. I’m sending you love and strength through the internet ether.
      I hope a year from now, or 5 or 10, you look back on this time and can think about how amazing your life is, and how you never could have pictured in this moment all of the joy and beauty that was to come.

    • G says...

    • Milli says...

      Sending you love ❤️

    • zeezee says...

      sending hugs and courage to you. all the very best.

    • Lisa says...

      I just wanted to write saying that I read your comment and i hope you find the right path for you. My father was unfaithful to my mom, but she stayed with him despite it. He died two years ago after suffering from a debilitating illness for 15 years and my mom took care of him. She loved him despite his transgressions and I don’t think she regrets staying. But it is not for everyone.

    • Hilde says...

      You can do this ❤️

    • Emma says...

      <3 that is so scary and painful but you are right – You can do this!!! Love to you.

    • Tonje says...

      That sounds so hard. I’m sorry you have to go through this, and I’m glad the comments give you strength. Probably doesn’t help much right now, but imagine: In 1 year you’ll have an awesome 6 year old and a place you decorated with only stuff you love.

    • T says...

      You are so strong, thank you for sharing this personal piece from your life. I may not understand what you’re going through, but I know what pain feels like and hope you find support to help you heal. May the next few years lead you and your child towards a happier, more resilient and loving life. You are powerful, Mama! You can do it! xoxo

    • Ashley says...

      Sending you hugs and wisdom for this difficult time, far away friend.

    • I lost the two things I thought I would have until my old age—my marriage and my career. I was lost and everything felt shitty for a while. But I realized that the great thing about uncertainty is that anything is possible. Give yourself time to heal then when you’re ready, allow yourself to dream again. Sending out loads of good vibes.

    • Constanze says...

      This must have been so hard. Sending you all the good thoughts and a lot of love!

    • Ruth says...

      Hugs to you.

    • Maria says...

      You are stronger than him… dont doubt it… All my love and strength through the internet ether…from thousands of miles away :)

  25. Valarie says...

    I cheated on my partner in an extremely rough part of our relationship after identifying myself as a compassionate, overachieving do-gooder for the first 30 years of my life. I had moved to a different part of the country to be with him and sought support and physical affirmation from another man as I flailed about trying to acclimate to a new home. My partner found out and chose to forgive me, and we are now happily married. I never, ever thought I would hurt someone that way — looking back on it now, I can barely believe it happened. I learned two surprising things from this mistake: 1) Everyone is capable of doing bad things (even good people). 2) The human capacity to forgive and move on is beyond anything I’ve ever imagined. I know many people reading this post will automatically assume things about me and my marriage because of what I’ve revealed (I know I would have before this happened), but I know now that the only people who really know what is going on in a relationship are the two people in it.

    • Marissa says...

      I wish you all the strength and happiness in the world xxx

    • Bippy says...

      Your last sentence is so true. My big life surprise has been a negative one in that my husband has not been interested in sex for years. That is not something I would have predicted in a million years. (That was what the premarital “test drives” were for! LOL) From the outside looking in, we look near-perfect as a couple. But from the inside, it is a huge problem and I am not sure how it is going to end.

    • Valarie says...

      Marissa- thank you for your kind message. Bippy, hoping for peace and a resolution for you & your husband. Are there other ways you can find to be intimate if he’s not interested in sex? Just a thought. Love to you.

  26. Sophie says...

    I am in my late twenties and have spent the last eight years of my life healing from a childhood of sexual abuse. After getting a great new job, my own apartment and being busier than ever with friends and travel plans, I thought I was finally reaching a place where I was “better” and could truly leave the past in the past.

    But two weeks ago, I had a breakthrough in therapy and accepted for the first time in my whole life that the abuse was not my fault.

    Initially, the realization somehow made me feel more hopeless than ever. It made me recognize how much more healing there is to do and how tragic the truth really is. But the light came through like it always does and I am ready to get back to work and keep fighting.

    I have no idea what the next eight years hold, but I am so grateful for the past eight years that brought me here.

    • EB says...

      That is beautiful, Sophie. You are strong and thriving, and no one can take that away from you!

    • Anna says...

      Your strength and positivity is inspiring Sophie!

  27. KC says...

    So very much has surprised me! I never expected me, the girl who possessed absolutely no athletic ability growing up, to be a marathoner! I never thought I’d start backpacking or be outdoorsy in any way — I knew no one who was when I was younger — but it has become my life’s passion. I also thought by my age, 34, I’d have two children, be a homeowner, and maybe be a teacher. Instead I completed an incredible and challenging graduate program in a subject I never would have expected, I’ve spent almost 10 years in an exciting career, and live in an apartment in a huge city I swore I’d never live in! I didn’t get married until 32 and am just now expecting my first child. Pretty much nothing went according to plan, but I have so much to be thankful for!

  28. AB says...

    Me 10 years ago would never guess I would be a women’s college alumna, engaged to a woman, and a social worker. This is definitely the best life though. I’m excited to continue seeing the turns and twists life takes me on.

  29. K says...

    I have an eight year old son with Down Syndrome.
    My younger self would think that would be the end of the world. Actually, it’s the beginning. No regrets, only love.

    • Eva says...

      <3

    • Smetha says...

      “No regrets, only love.”

      Your line gave me goosebumps.

    • Anna says...

      This comment is wonderful. <3

    • Emma says...

      Me too, Smetha. Thank you, K.

    • rach says...

      so wonderful!

    • Christine says...

      My Rockin’ kiddo is four : ) I feel the same way! #theluckyfew

    • Elizabeth says...

      I’ve a nine year old son with DS. He has enriched my life in so many ways. He is my ❤️

  30. Meg G says...

    My life is different in a lot of ways than I expected.
    I grew up Mormon and thought my future would include lots of babies, homemaking, living my religion faithfully. Instead, I went through a faith transition and no longer believe. I have hard pregnancies, mental health problems and my oldest has special needs, that all led to our decision of stopping after two kids. And, I actually am not the best homemaker, so my husband and I both work, manage the household, and parent according to our skill sets. He does the majority of the dishes, cooking, laundry and finances. I take on the majority of the parenting management including schooling, appointments, meal planning, scheduling, etc. Furthermore, I always thought I’d get married older than my friends, but ended up one of the first married as a 20 year old bride. It’s funny how life turns out, but I’m okay with it.

  31. Never would have guessed I’d have a chunky 17 lb Chihuahua dachshund terrier mix 😂

  32. Amy says...

    I wish I could tell my younger self to be so grateful things didn’t work out the way I wanted. That boy who you thought you’d marry and broke your heart? It’s because a man 100 million times better for you would come along. Those years or infertility when you so desperately wanted a baby? Without a child to tend to, you could leave home for several months be by your sister’s side as she died of cancer. She needed you more than anyone. That small town you wanted to live in forever? If only you knew the friendships you’d develop in the big city. As a thirty-something, I’m sure glad my past twenty-something didn’t get her way.

    • Ashley says...

      So so glad my twenty-something self didn’t get her way either.

  33. Meghan says...

    What a beautifully written and thoughtful essay. Thank you for sharing!

  34. Ann says...

    I didn’t expect to drop out of college second semester sophomore year, move to Oregon (from MA) for adventure purposes, fall in love, go back to college, fall out of love after 5 years, travel Europe by myself for a few months, join the peace corps, live abroad for 3 yrs, learn to speak a second language, fall in love, get married, get a dog, put him through law school, put myself through grad school, become very successful in my career, be the bread winner (f*ck yah, take that attorney husband!), travel, have 2 girls after 9 yrs of marriage and then choose to leave my career as I no longer felt passionate about it and am currently expecting our 3rd daughter. Now I’m a stay at home Mom, wtf?! NEVER EVER EVER would have expected that.

    I lack patience most days, it drives me nuts to hunt for tiny shoes, and germs make me crazy, and these kids lick door handles, but in the end it’s such a treat! What a wild ride.

    • Martha L. says...

      For a second, I thought you put the dog through law school. Now, that would have been a surprise :-).

    • Ashley e says...

      I thought the dog went to law school too! Ha!

    • Lora says...

      Ha! So did I. He was a yellow retriever, wearing black glasses, sitting at his desk in class.

  35. victoria says...

    I am a wife and a mother of two. One day I saw a trail running mountain camp and thought I could never drop everything and do that. Well I did and I have been chasing mountains ever since and I am still a wife and a mother of two.

  36. K says...

    Surprised I got married after being single for so long, earlier than imagined after dating my first boyfriend for less than a year and that it all worked out, move cross country due to a huge career change in our 30s, 3 miscarriages, 1 child, falling out in close friendships, deaths, conflicts, new lives, new adventures… Over time and with each new person added to my family, I have learned to take a pause when asked, “what’s your plan for….?” My plan? I have tried to plan but it doesn’t often go that way whether it be things in my life or a family member’s, so I’ve learned to surrender, although not without a stubborn fight. :) I wrote a timeline ten years ago and found it recently. It was so off… My naive young self. :)

    Now I plan what I can but try to be open to the winds of change. The reality is sometimes better than what I imagined, although it is not without its pains and suffering, which can ultimately result in some kind of good (i.e. strengthening of character). Surprised mostly that I became less of a planner!

  37. Christina Copp says...

    I never thought I’d have travelled as much as I have. Since I turned 30 seven years ago, I’ve visited more than 30 countries with my Australian husband. We’ve lived in London, UK (which I miss every day) and now live on the Gold Coast, Australia. Never did this Canadian think she’d have such an international life!

  38. Annie says...

    I ride a motorcycle now. I – who was scared before my regular (car) road test because “what if I don’t know when to make a left turn?!” – now calmly ride around and get to work on a motorcycle. It’s funny how your comfort zone moves! Advice to my former self: Go with the flow and use every day as a chance to be a little braver!

  39. Rowan says...

    Oh completely! I’m from London, UK, and was always a real homebird and (still am) really close to my family. I swore I’d never leave London, let alone the UK, and that’s where I wanted to settle. I’m now living in Melbourne, Australia with my Australian husband?!? I think about how crazy that is at least once a week.
    My younger brother also got brain cancer at the age of 19 – that was also something I thought would never happen to my family (cliche, I know). Thankfully it’s two years later and he’s doing well.

    I’m 28 and I wonder what other crazy surprises life has for me.

    • Berenice says...

      I have a similar story as you ! left Paris and married an Australian, now also living in Melbourne :)
      Life is so unexpected and I always think about all the little (seemingly insignificant ) steps in my “previous” life that led me to where I am now.

  40. Kim says...

    For this past mother’s day, my daughter made me a magnet that said “Real Housewives” with a drawing of a TV. She said, “My teacher said to draw my mom’s favorite things!” (RHONY is my favorite, by the way.)

  41. Erin says...

    I never thought I’d be friendless, and as sheltered as I am now. The private life I try to lead might seem mysterious on the outside, but it can get lonely. On the other hand I know how to keep myself entertained for hours on end, so yay?

    • Tanya says...

      Erin, I see you. I hear you. I now have a small group of (individual) friends, but I also felt this way once.

  42. I never thought I would bury a child. Ugh, that’s hard to even type.
    (Nutshell, our third baby had undiagnosed heart defects despite complete prenatal care, he passed away an hour after birth while I was being stitched up.)

    It feels weird to be young (ish, I’m 34) and regularly visit a cemetery. We purchased plots for our baby and for ourselves. We’ve since had another beautiful healthy baby bringing our total to four, but I never know what to say to people when they ask about our family.

    It was one of those things that you never, ever expect life to surprise you with. And when it does, the whole world is different and your perspective changes so much. Living through it, getting to the other side has been painful but worthy and one of my greatest achievements as a mother.

    • Jo says...

      I am so very sorry to hear you lost your baby boy… you must miss him every second. You are a mother who stands in that camp of most worthy mothers. You bear the unbearable – something my youngest daughter has also had to recently walk through. My grandmother-heart hurt as I read your comment – and I am sending hugs and thoughts your way xx

    • Sally says...

      I am also so sorry to hear you lost your beloved third baby boy, that is utterly heartbreaking. Did you name him? I have a friend who lost her son when she was 7 months pregnant and I try to mention him to her each time we speak, so she knows I am not uncomfortable with saying his name and talking about him. Sending you huge love xx

    • Christina Copp says...

      I have been there, it forever changes you. I’m thinking of you.

  43. Andrea Vega says...

    My boyfriend (7 years and counting) used to make fun of how every media I consumed was set in NYC, he said I was obsessed. But I was on what already seemed like a set path: halfway through my graduate degree, 5 years of experience in politics in Mexico City and a good network. Not to mention the commitment to my relationship (we bought an apt together just last year!). Then in August an old friend called to offer a job in NY and well… I couldn’t say no. It’s been wonderfully surprising to see how what I thought was set in stone was actually just a choice. The world is filled with possibilities again, even my relationship is fresh. I can’t believe how much has changed in just one year. If I could find the girl I was 10 years ago, the one who dreamed of living abroad, I would love to say: we’re gonna make it.

  44. Thefan says...

    ” I headed to the shower, the birthplace of important thoughts. ”

    Hahaha this made me laugh!

  45. Rachel says...

    When I was younger, I was SO deeply uncool- ratty haircut, hand-me-down clothes from family friends, growing up more awkward than most in a house that felt at once empty and chaotic- and yearned to be a “cool girl” (not a popular girl, per se…) Fast forward to 30something me, living in a city I love but had never even thought about until I was getting ready to move here, working in an industry I idolized my entire life (music) and with a husband who I can only describe as the real version of my dream man. I don’t know if other people would consider any of this particularly “cool,” but I do, and that’s all that matters.

  46. Deborah says...

    I’m a SAHM in Saudi Arabia.

    I’m an American who has lived abroad before, but the KSA would never have been my dream expat choice.

    And yet, I love it! It has been great for family life, we’ve got tons of wonderful friends, and we get to take spectacular trips. It’s just not at all what I thought my life would be like.

    • Opal says...

      I was 38 years old, happily married and mother to two beautiful daughters. I had just landed my dream job, my husband and I were coming up out of the trenches of that exhausting two year period you have after having children and we were so connected and happy. Our life felt complete and I was really happy with the direction we were headed and I unexpectedly got pregnant. I can’t explain the deep sinking feeling I had when I saw that blue plus on the pregnancy test or how scared I felt. I was married! I was a mom! I was a GROWN UP! But I was also petrified and unhappy, so I chose to terminate the pregnancy. It felt selfish and wrong, but as someone who suffers from severe post partum depression, it also felt right and like a life line to myself. The months following my abortion were heart wrenching. I felt so guilty because I felt like I’d robbed my girls of a sibling and my husband of the chance to have a son. I’m 100% pro choice and always will be, but it was a really dark time for me.
      Three years later I am now a mom to three children. Two girls and a darling one and a half year old boy, who, had I not had to sit with myself in the darkness that only women have the courage to sit in, would not be here. I don’t share my story with anyone because I know people will judge, but every time I meet with girlfriends and we talk about how hard parenting is and how much of yourself you lose, I know I’m not alone.
      I almost didn’t have the courage to write this. Life surprised me in an unexpected way and I thought it would end me. But as it turns out, it just changes me.

    • Margaret says...

      Opal –

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is so vitally important to be able to plan your family, and to be able to do so in a way that cares for YOUR health. (Your children too, but caring for your own health is important enough that it stands on its own without the need to say more.) I hope you find a way to share your story more if that would help you. Some of us will judge you kindly and find you brave. ( :

    • Lisa says...

      My husband grew up in Jeddah and his family absolutely loved it. His dad was American and mom from the UK. They talk about SA being the happiest time of their lives. They had so many friends and everything they did was exotic and worldly. We live in America now but hope to live somewhere overseas while our daughter is young…not SA as I’m Jewish. But somewhere different.

  47. Rob says...

    You know, I don’t have a clear vision of exactly what I want or what will make me happy(ier), but this past year has been a doozy and I’m on the precipice of making an unexpected life change. Here we go! I’m hoping future me will agree it was the right decision.

  48. ErikaMC says...

    Not as profound as to what or who I am but I remember in 10th grade English class having to use the word ‘never’ and I said I would never drive a white car… I have since owned 7 white vehicles. Never say never :)

  49. Christy says...

    I love this! In college, I envisioned that I’d live in the middle of a big city forever, that I’d be the breadwinner in any relationship I was in, and that I would never, repeat never, get married before 30.

    Flash forward, I’m 24 and meet my now husband in a bar and things take a turn. At 26, I’m walking down the aisle and marrying a doctor who will, with very little doubt, make more than me no matter what I do with career. We move to the burbs because we have to live within a certain distance from the hospital.

    I think if you had told me at 21 that this is how life would turn out, I would have been sad. I would feel like I gave up on the things that made me “me” and that I had sold out to the myth that you had to be a wife to have value. But 29-year-old me knows the truth that meeting my husband was and continues to be the biggest surprise blessing of my life. Being his wife doesn’t define me but it does bring me so much happiness it can be overwhelming. It’s been a lesson in putting aside your preconceived notions of who you’re supposed to be and being open to re-contracting what you think your life should look like to create space for the things that come your way.

  50. Megan Lec says...

    In the last year or so I have found myself looking backwards so much more than all the years that led up to now. It takes time to have an appreciation for your past and all the moments that led to your present. I listened to a podcast recently that talked about how when we look back we recognize all the character and personality shifts in ourselves that have occurred over the years but that we often don’t expect that same process to continue happening. But we are constantly changing! I recently stopped liking nachos of all things! Who could have ever expected this?!

  51. Capucine says...

    WHAT I have done has been a surprise, but WHO I AM while doing it has been exactly what I expected, sadly. I am the wife and mother I was sure I would be, and no effort or magic has swung my melancholy temperamental self toward the good.

    I was surprised I married an older man from another country and raised bilingual world-traveling children. To say the least. But how I’ve dealt with each moment those things involved…sigh. No surprises there.

  52. Kimberly says...

    I read this without first glancing at the author line. As I was reading, I became captivated by the quirky appreciation of the oft overlooked parts of life. When I felt my heart begin to swell as the imagery came alive, I immediately thought “this must have been written by Caroline”. Thank you for creating stimulating pieces that bring joy to the reader. You, your mindset and your work are amazing.

    • Nicole says...

      I completely agree. I never need to look at the author to know when I’m reading something Caroline wrote.

      So glad that you’re back at CoJ. :)

  53. Sarah says...

    I’m at a moment where some things in my life have come surprisingly and neatly full circle. In a few months I’ll marry the love of my life, who I met as a teenager on an exchange trip and thought, “I’d really like to travel with him again sometime.” 4.5 years of friendship and then 7 years of dating later, we’re having a blast traveling the world together and doing more mundane things, too.
    Right out of college, I spent a summer interning in Geneva and desperately wanted to work in child protection – in February, after six years of other kinds of work, I went back to Geneva on travel with my new job managing child labor prevention projects.
    Of course, this year has also had some nastier surprises. My best friend of 7 years moved away and we haven’t really spoken in many months, and if someone had told me before that we’d “break up” I would have laughed in their face.
    Life is a wild ride!

  54. Laura says...

    I was very into ballet through my childhood and teen years, very prim and proper. I’m now the mother of three young boys that have been described (not incorrectly) as “feral.” It’s just so strange to me that I live in a wild, boy-dominated household. I also never thought I’d work in the West Wing (under Obama, thank god), so that was a fun surprise. My career has taken far more twists and turns than I anticipated. I pretty much thought I’d be a writer living in a garret in Paris or London–which could not be further from my reality! But I read the other day that “something you have, someone else is praying for” which helps me to remain grateful for my circumstances, however messy they may be!

    • Julia says...

      I love that saying! Thank you for sharing.

  55. Elise says...

    Ten years ago, when I graduated from undergrad, I never could have imagined where I’d be today. I just finished grad school (which I never thought I would/could do) and am awaiting the birth of my first child. When my husband and I married 9.5 years ago, I was afraid that I’d get pregnant right away and never find my career/passion. I’m so grateful for where I am today and what the last ten years held!

  56. Mercy says...

    What a great read! And good timing, as I’ve been struggling with a lot of regret about this lately. I always thought that by my late 20s I’d be in a career I loved, financially secure, living independently, and in a committed relationship. Life hasn’t quite turned out that way, but I’m trying to trust that it’s never too late to make moves to help get my life where I want it to go!

  57. Annie says...

    Buying and wearing t-shirt! When I was twenty years old, I worked in a hip clothes store and only wore dress, cute tops, etc. I wore high heels everyday to work and go to college. I had a lots of clothes and shopped every week, dreaming to travel to big city to shop. I would never wear a plain t-shirt, like ever, and sweared I would never wear it, as a future mom.

    Ten years later … We just came back from vacations, in a big west coast city, and the only things I bought are two plain t-shirts. My younger self would be horrified by the idea but my present self would not wear anything else to chase after my toddler. Things change but often to the better.

  58. Andrea says...

    I never thought that I would wear tennis shoes as commuting shoes to work on the subway. Sigh.

    • Allison says...

      haha, I swore i’d never EVER use a BACKPACK to commute! the horror! however… here I am.

  59. Elly says...

    Six years ago, I was dating a European man who invited me to come on his annual family Christmas trip to fairy tale Davos, Switzerland after we were dating for about 9 months. I remember sitting on the edge of this frozen lake, staring at the snow-covered mountains, and thinking how I would never have gotten this experience if not for him, and how if we broke up I would probably never get to go back there again.

    Luckily for me, we wound up getting married! Now I get to go every year. But it’s never lost on me how different my life is because I happened to meet and fall in love with a person whose background was so different from mine, a girl from a boring New Jersey suburb.

  60. Jessica says...

    Through the end of high school and into college, I could not imagine WEARING CLOSED TOE SHOES. I know it sounds crazy. I grew up in the northeast, where closed toe shoes are practically required for at least 8 months out of the year. I spent a lot of time wrestling with my desire to be a doctor while simultaneously knowing that doctors can’t wear sandals around the hospital. It seemed unfathomable to me that I would not wear sandals (or be barefoot) every single moment of my life until the day I died. In the ensuing decade and a half, I have embraced all kinds of closed toed shoes, and realized that my life is ok even if my feet are imprisoned for most of the day. (Also, I didn’t become a doctor, but I did end up in a position that still requires my toes to be covered.) =)

    • Mary says...

      For what it’s worth I also hate closed toe shoes hahaha

  61. Megan says...

    Living in the burbs! 13-30 year old me would not approve. But I like it :)

  62. Louise Harvey says...

    My younger self would be amazed and surprised that I 1) became a Christian (after not growing up attending church in England), 2) have a French degree and worked in France for three years, 3) moved to America and got to live my dream here, and 4) that I am a fairly confident and happy adult after miserable lonely and insecure teenage years.

  63. Margaret says...

    I’ve always disliked when people say things like “I knew this would happen for you” or “I could have told you that you would end up doing this/being here/marrying him/dumping him” because it feels unfair and is certainly untrue. My mom tends to do this a lot, to which I have to bite my tongue not to say “then why didn’t you tell me this would happen?!”

    We never know where we will end up. I had a massive career change and a devastating break up in my mid 20s, which is surprisingly common it seems, and yet it’s hard to imagine life any other way than it is now.

  64. Katherine says...

    I’m not yet 30 and already my life has surprised me in so many ways. From attending school in Utah (where I said I never would, but tuition and cost of living brought me in), to getting married at 21 (and celebrating 8 years of marriage this summer) when I always said I would never get married before 30. How hard a true, loving relationship is, the ups and the downs, and the totally silly moments in between where in the middle of an argument you both break down laughing over something stupid. The shared heartache, the hours of tears.

    Giving up my dream of becoming a marine biologist to become a Francophile, marrying a man who is fluent in French, and moving to France for grad school to pursue my dream of becoming a contemporary French culture professor because why not be young, married, and poor in Paris (the best two years of our life). Coming from a background of no second language in the home to now being fluent in French and speaking it with my husband regularly. Feeling more at home in France than I ever have in America, and missing it every day.

    Adopting a hedgehog that I knew I would love, but the unexpected pleasure (and pain) of loving him more than I even thought was possible. Will I be able to love children more than I love my hedgehog? I’m not sure it’s possible.

    Realizing after moving back to the states that following our dreams sometimes isn’t all we’d hoped it would be, and my husband deciding to attend law school at age 28 (one year left!). Me leaving non-profit work to work for a consulting firm so I could pay for law school life in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

    Being diagnosed with PCOS and told it would be extremely difficult for us to have children, to finding out I was pregnant when I took the pregnancy test pre-fertility treatments, to miscarrying at 10 weeks. The difficulty of a miscarriage. The jealousy at others living their dreams while we put ours on hold so my husband can hopefully provide a stable career for us so we can live our dreams with our family someday (read: teachers don’t really make enough to be able to live and support a family on).

    And so much more still to look forward to, along with what I’m sure will be many curve balls. Hopeful for a PhD, but dependent upon my husband getting a job with a firm that has French offices so I can perform research on-site. Hopeful for children. Most of all, hopeful for a happy life that always keeps us guessing, and many more years of adventure. And a job after law school – that would probably be the most wonderful surprise of all.

  65. In college, I came early to my shift as a front desk receptionist at the freshman dorms. The guy working the shift before me engaged in some small talk, asking what my classload was like this semester. When I mentioned that I was taking French for fun, he really pushed that I should study abroad. So much so that he made me sign up for the info sessions right then and there. Months later–I got accepted into a yearlong program in Paris. I never saw him again after that, but I’ll always be grateful for that push to do something out of my comfort zone and for that year abroad that altered me forever.

  66. K says...

    In many ways, my life (thus far) has been quite nontraditional and might appear “surprising” to others, and yet I’m not that surprised by it! Maybe because I have always enjoyed, even craved, change and living just on the edge of my comfort zone (which is admittedly pretty broad from my multicultural family/childhood). As a kid, I thought I’d be an editor or publisher, or maybe a journalist. Now I work in the non-profit/human rights world… not too far off. I attended my “dream” university (but as a transfer student… not in the plan). The turning point in all my life plans was choosing to study abroad in Africa: I moved back after graduation and lived in West Africa for SIX years. What?! (But also, became totally normal to the point of craving more change.) In many ways, my time living in Africa fundamentally changed my personality, transforming my concept of time, my ability to sit in discomfort and be flexible, my body image and confidence (for the better) and my perception of race and systems of oppression (and my part in these). I look back at my high-strung, easily-embarrassed high school and college self (with a tendency for obsessive, unrequited crushes) and barely recognize her. Now I live in London, with my husband (dated him for a year NEVER thinking it would be long term), neither of us have any attachment to the UK, and yet here we are, building a quaint little life in a corner of London, carving out our careers and aspirations. Pretty random when I take a step back and look at it… but also evolved so organically (and not without many unexpected challenges along the way and more to surely to come).

  67. Megan says...

    So true. I write this sitting behind the desk that I once sat on the other side of as a student 11 years ago. I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that I’d never be where I am working today – I was going to be a corporate transactional attorney. Somehow I ended up as a prosecutor, which then led me back to my law school as a counselor. The path has been winding – full of loops and switchbacks – but I look around this office content with where I am.

    I also married a man almost 20 years older than me, stayed in my college town, and never became the journalist or writer I thought I’d be.

    You really never know where life will take you.

  68. Nina says...

    I’ve often felt like such a hypocrite in my life – doing something I said I would NEVER EVER do. But maybe I need to give myself more grace and realize this is all of us. The world moves and we change.

    I’m now living in Georgia – not at the beach! – and would never have seen that! I’m a single parent to a great boy – I wanted so many kids and yet, pregnancy was awful and being a single parent (which was a plan) is harder than I imagined.

    I’m a freelancer and wonder sometimes why I went into debt for law school yet I love what I do – marketing and advertising for companies and helping small business owners figure out social media.

    I do set goals and I work toward them but life has taken me so many places I never set as a goal I try to enjoy the ride and relish in the wonder of it all.

  69. Lizzy says...

    What a great article. And I think younger me would be both horrified, elated, and having a good laugh about where her future self has ended up. The most obvious example being my marriage. Post college, I lived in Italy for a year with a family and their 15 year old boy (who was a very sweet but incredibly spoiled and catered to). I adamantly told my best friend that I would under no circumstances marry an Italian man, a sentiment she reminded me of while giving her maid of honor toast several years later when I married my (Italian) husband. I guess the laugh was on me! (Although I will say that my husband is much more self sufficient than my Italian host brother!).

  70. Emily says...

    What a sweet story, Caroline, and congratulations on finding that perfectly imperfect person! It’s not my immediate reflex, but I do work to keep an open mind toward not only other people’s decisions, but future choices or opinions I might I have. I believe this is a little different than the point of Caroline’s essay, but I find the “immediate ew/immediate no/immediate ‘i won’t try'” to be one of the more unattractive qualities in a person – it’s like the opposite of curiosity. I don’t know where I picked up this piece of advice (probably Cup of Jo), but I try to always say “Good for you/Not for me” when it comes to things I don’t *think* I like or don’t *currently* understand. It’s polite, which I appreciate, and totally absolves you of the cringe when you look back and your mind may have changed.

  71. Maia says...

    21 year old me imagined she’d get married around 25, have 4 kids (I love kids) and stay happily married ever after. The reality? I got married at 32. Three and a half years later, I met a lawyer just this morning to file for divorce. We have no kids.
    This post couldn’t have been better timed. I have gone through so much grief already, before reaching this decision. One year ago to this date, I had just newly lost 45 pounds of weight and was looking and feeling my youngest, beautiful best – inside and out. I still feel that way, despite the overwhelming sadness of my failed marriage.
    I don’t know what the future holds, but this post and the comments give me so much hope.

    • Mercy says...

      Sending hugs and positive vibes your way. You sound like a strong, confident woman, you’ll get through this! <3

  72. SB says...

    High School Me: I’m going to go to a small New England liberal arts college, definitely going to study abroad, maybe graduate early and then go to law school.
    Reality: Went to university in Canada with 17,000+ students, did not study abroad, took 5 years to do 4 year degree.

    Post University Me: Going to get a good job, save money and then go to law school. Definitely be a lawyer and married by 30. Potentially kids, too.
    Reality: Spent a year at a crappy job but smashed the LSATs, went to Europe to be an au pair (“to learn French so I could go to law school in Canada and work in government…”) – fell in love with a boy, stayed in Europe, got engaged, started a Masters (NOT LAW)…broke up with boy, but stayed in my new city (which I ADORE), started working in the field of my choice which is my true passion (again, NOT LAW), made some of the most incredible friends, had some fun with another boy for awhile and then parted as friends, used my French daily…

    Now: 30 years old – not a lawyer, not married, no kids. BUT I am working in a field that I am passionate about, surrounded by the most amazing friends and family, feeling like the opportunities are endless. Still hoping for the marriage and kids someday, but one thing I know for certain is who can predict any of it…

    I lost my mother in a freak accident earlier this year which has undeniably been the most traumatic, world-shattering, unexpected experience of my life and I regularly feel like I failed by not having grandbabies in time for her…but she was so proud of me and my random path in life and I feel that’s all we can ever be – be proud of where we are and how we got there and just keep doing our best to be true to ourselves and be positive people in this f*cked up world.

    • Leigh says...

      Yes. Yes. Yes.

  73. L says...

    Never thought I would be living in the same town I grew up in, working corporate and NOT running my own business, married…to a man though having realized my bisexuality and being childless. I try not to be hard on myself but sometimes it doesn’t look like my life at all. I have to remind myself it is and to be grateful for all of it. Some people would kill for the stability and comforts I have.

  74. My younger self would be shocked (and THRILLED) that I’m working for one of my favorite beauty brands and literally naming lipsticks, testing products in important meetings, and racking my brain to figure out our Sephora strategy. I used to hoard beauty products and spend all of my free time combing the aisles of the drugstore (and Sephora, if I was lucky enough to get a ride to the mall!) and testing and reading about products. I never thought I’d work in beauty, because that was my hobby and not a serious career, right? Now I have years of beauty editor experience under my belt, but it’s been working at a brand for the past year that’s been the most surreal. To think that I’m writing the copy and naming the products that young girls like me are eagerly heading to Sephora to test and play and have fun with…it’s insane. And it brings me so much joy to be helping to create and market seriously amazing products that I know just make women HAPPY. It’s a dream come true, and I truly don’t take it for granted.

  75. Lauren says...

    I just embarked on a long-distance relationship with a guy who has been my best friend for 5 years. We lived in the same city for 3 of them, but now live on different continents. He’s 6 years younger than me. So many things on paper that should not make sense, but both of us are astounded by how right this is now and how happy and peaceful we are.

    As we’ve been gradually sharing with friends and family that this is now officially *a thing* (“f***ing finally!” etc.), one reaction from a friend in Australia was particularly striking: “I mean, this was inevitable really.” Was it?

    While my now partner(!) and I sat outside at a cafe in Paris 2 weeks ago (where he lives — lucky me!), I turned to him and said “you know, there’s a million versions of our story where we didn’t end up like this.” I still believe that’s true (I have the scars to prove it). But as surprising as it might be for me, or “inevitable” as it may seem to others, I’m glad this is the version of the story I’m in. And I’m glad he’s in it with me.

  76. Courtney says...

    Wow, love this piece! Life is so surprising. Back in the day, I definitely would’ve pictured myself at this point in life married with kids doing the mom life having never left my small Midwest town. (Which so many people I love are doing…and it’s a beautiful life! That I envy for its simplicity at times :))
    But somehow, life after college led to NYC for 4 years and now South Korea for almost 5 years. I never could’ve imagined I’d be brave enough to live in the big city and much less abroad! I owe so much to my husband for always dreaming big and pushing me out of my comfort zone. Our apartments have gotten smaller, and the only child in sight is our beloved dog. BUT I’ve traveled places, met people, seen/tasted/done things I never thought possible in my lifetime. And who knows what’s next! So many adventures and surprises to be had in a lifetime. I feel so lucky to have this one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver).

  77. Laura C. says...

    Oh, and I have to add. I always wanted to be a mum. And I was blessed twice, but life surprised me with an Aspie girl. I like to believe that God sent her to le because He thought that I could be a good parent for her.