Your Happily Ever After Won’t Look Like Everyone Else’s
“When you thought you’d be baking pie & living behind your very own white picket fence, you’ll find yourself doing something so entirely different, you couldn’t have even imagined it a year before. There will be moments when you’ll look around and not even recognize your own life…in a good way.” ~Kate Northrup
The other day I was leaving my usual post at Starbucks where I frequently write from when I spotted three young girls, probably 19 or 20, tops. They were dressed in typical college girl fare, cutoff shorts, sandals, t-shirts…and they were huddled together intently. It was obvious that whatever they were discussing was very important to them. As I passed by them, I overheard a little snippet of their conversation. One girl was obviously the ring leader and was talking emphatically to the other two, waving her arms in emphasis as if trying to get her point across.
“Let’s be realistic here, girls. It’s obvious that we’ll all be married with at least three kids by age 25.”
Her two friends nodded enthusiastically, agreeing with their leader’s dramatic proclamation. And I…well, I giggled.
I couldn’t help myself. If I closed my eyes just a little and gazed at the trio through the lens of time, I could see myself ten or 15 years ago, making that same prediction to my girlfriends. It was literally like I had hopped into Doc Brown’s DeLorean and traveled back to the year 2000, when I was young and clueless and lacking in life experience and just knew that all roads led to love and marriage and Mandy with the baby carriage.
The three girls looked at me sharply when they heard my accidental giggle. How dare I burst their bubble by presenting them with a new path, a different picture, a living example of THEMSELVES, a decade later, in a completely different place than where they thought they might be? I smiled apologetically at them so they would know I meant no harm. And I really didn’t. I just wanted them to know that if their prediction didn’t come true…they would survive. And even thrive. Maybe even more so than if it DID.
“Girls, I just want to let you know that I thought the same thing when I was your age,” I said kindly. “And I’m 34 and I’ve never been married.” I paused for a moment as they let this information sink in. “I just wanted you to know that if you’re not married with three kids by age 25…you’ll be okay.”
They all looked a little confused, like they didn’t really know how to take my deviation from their life plan. Then they smiled and nodded and I went about my day. Who knows if what I said sunk in, or if they just viewed me as the poor desperate exception to the rule…the girl who somehow fell through the cracks of marriage and now wanted to rain on everyone else’s “Happily Ever After” parade. That wasn’t my intent or my heart at all. Actually, quite the opposite. I honestly viewed the girls as younger, more naïve and innocent versions of myself…and it made me long to hug my fragile 20 year old self and tell her that her life wasn’t going to turn out the way the majority of her high school friend’s lives did…but that she still has a beautiful, magical, wonderfully messy and miraculous journey ahead of her.
And that’s true for all of us.
We paint an idea of what our lives are going to look like and are “supposed” to look like in our minds, and the reality very rarely matches up with the fantasy. You lose the job. You lose the love. You get sidetracked. You get discouraged. You get blindsided by bad news. You get beat up by life. You lose your way and you lose your career and you lose your faith. And you wonder if you’ll ever get your Happy Ending or if you’re destined to wander this planet alone.
But what you can’t see at the time is this.
You lose the job because it wasn’t your destination, but merely a stop along the way. God KNOWS that you were never meant for a cubicle even though you don’t yet realize it. You lose the love because to cling to it would hold you back from everything else you’re meant to experience. Your arms are now free to grab onto LIFE. You get “sidetracked” because God knows the only way to get you off the stubborn path you’re on is to allow you to run smack dab into a detour. You get discouraged because you’re human, and fallible, and sometimes you need the “down” moments to rest, regroup, and prepare for the “up” moments. You get blindsided by bad news and beat up by life because this IS life and bad things happen…but the beautiful flip side of your present struggle is that it prepares you for your future success. You lose everything you think is so vital to your very existence because God longs for you to not just see, but to truly GRASP, that all you really need in this life is HIM. You wander the planet alone for a longer time than you would have liked because you have a destiny that’s so special, and so important, and so far beyond anything you could have ever imagined for yourself, a relationship before its time would only distract you from fulfilling it.
And somewhere along the way, amidst all the loss and tears and triumph and tragedy and joy and pain and laughter and transformation and restoration and lessons and love and LIFE…you realize that the true meaning of it all isn’t to settle for merely a Happy Ending…but to hold out for a Happy Everything.
If you’re ready to write your own rules AND your own fairytale…my new book. The Single Woman: Life, Love, & a Dash of Sass is for YOU! Available at all bookstores or order it here!
Would you have said anything to the girls at the coffee shop? What would you say to your younger self? Comment below!