If Your Whole Life Just Turned Upside Down, Here's How To Get It Together
In case you haven't figured it out yet, life rarely goes according to plan. We often have an idea of the direction our lives will move, and when we find ourselves off that path, it can be a struggle. We imagine careers, families and a certain amount of security. We imagine we'll be more sure of ourselves when we get older, and there will be less upheaval in our lives. When we find this isn't so, it can be difficult to reimagine our lives.
I am now 34 years old. I thought at this stage of my life I would be working as a therapist. I thought I would be happily married with two children, a dog and living in a home of our own. I didn't imagine that I would get a master's degree and become a therapist just to go through a career change a few years later due to changing priorities.
I didn't foresee having two children, then going through a divorce after giving up my job to stay home with them. I would have never guessed I would have to find a new home for my dog when she didn't adjust well to my children. I never imagined working part-time and living in an apartment.
While this may all seem very depressing, I also never imagined that I would love this life.
I love my apartment and the town I live in, and I wouldn't be here if not for my divorce. I found out I am good at being a single mom and happier divorced than I was married. My part-time job may not be as a therapist, but I enjoy the work I do and my colleagues are endlessly entertaining. Thanks to my new schedule I have the opportunity to stay home with my children most days, and the chance to spend more time on my passion: writing. I haven't traveled yet, but I am in the process of booking my first trip. After all the unexpected turns my life took, I enjoy it more than I imagined I could.
When facing uncertainty, it's easy to feel discouraged. It is easy to think of these obstacles we face as setbacks, but instead I began to see them as opportunities. Life is constantly bringing us challenges, it is up to us to find the courage to leave our comfort zones and learn to embrace them. It will be uncomfortable, but when we allow ourselves to take chances and be vulnerable, we also allow ourselves the opportunity to grow.
Here are some ways to begin to reimagine your life, if you're finding yourself dealing with changes you never saw coming.
Spend Time Considering Priorities
What do we need? What parts of our lives are the most essential to our happiness? For me, it was time at home with my children while they were still young. Yes, I make less money, but this challenged me to become better at managing my finances and more creative with my spending.
Allow Ourselves To Dream
If we could have any type of life, what would it look like? Let's skip the lottery fantasies and go straight to what's possible, even if it seems out of reach. I want to travel. While I do have limited income, if I make sacrifices here and there to put away part of my tax returns, a nice vacation won't be so far out of reach. I have my first cruise scheduled in a year.
What Can We Sacrifice?
I was able to concede with finances: I make less money so I have more time with my children. I insist on my independence. Instead of moving in with a relative after my divorce, I got my own place to create a stable life for my children. I also insist on living the type of life that is more consistent with my dreams, so I make sure to write nearly every day. Sometimes I stay up late when I'm tired, but I'm making sure that the life I'm living aligns with the one I desire.
Let Go Of What "Should" Be
When things don't work out, there's no use telling ourselves how things should have been. When we begin to let go of where we "should" be in life, we can look at where we are and decide where to go from there. I had to let go of the idea that I was not the kind of person who gets divorced. When I realized my marriage was beyond saving, I had to accept that the life I would live would be different than the one I had imagined. Instead of imagining myself alone and struggling, I dared to imagine creating a full and wonderful life for myself and my children.
Stop Caring About Other's Opinions
I will say, this was not a big challenge for me at first. I am the type of person who cares very much about other people, but I care very little about what other people think of me; or so I thought. When I started to write some pieces for elephant journal, I was terrified of allowing other people to read my work. It all seemed so deeply personal, and it was difficult to imagine being so vulnerable on purpose.
However, since I'm seeing my obstacles as opportunities and reimagining my life, I leaned into the fear and let go of my attachment to what others would think.
Allow Others To Help
Utilize your support systems. The mistake in my marriage was pretending everything was fine when everything wasn't fine at all. When I began reaching out, I found support more often than judgment. By holding back in my times of difficulty, I had hurt some of my friendships. It was very healing to finally let people in. The people who love us want to help and support us when we struggle, so let them.
While going through personal challenges can be soul-shaking, I hope that we'll find a way to reimagine our lives as something wonderful. I know there are some changes, so tragic, we are unable to process what's to come, but I hope we'll reach out and let the ones who love us help hold us up until we can dream again.
I challenge us to turn those obstacles into the opportunities that enrich our lives and to always keep our hearts open.