Find your own way in your own time and don’t get caught up in ideas of what your life should look like, writes Amal Awad.
At one stage in my 20s, I distinctly remember feeling as though as I was at an amusement park without permission to go on any of the rides.
This can happen when you are existing on autopilot. As the people around you grow, challenge themselves and take on partners, you begin to feel left out, as though something is wrong because the ‘life stuff’ you signed up for hasn’t arrived.
It’s something I think about as I teeter on the edge of my mid 30s. I truly couldn’t have imagined what my life would look like. Or rather, I did, but because it was before I latched on to my intuition, it looks nothing like the cover of the book I had written in my mind.
Thank God for that.
I’m a late bloomer. At least that’s what I tell myself when I think about my (sometimes) surprising life trajectory. Things don’t always turn out as you anticipate.
Thank God for that.
My mother once told me that things don’t always happen when you expect them to, nor do they necessarily follow the ‘right’ order. Some major life events happen to people in the first third of their journey, some in the second, and others in the last third.
It might sound a little grim, but it should actually inspire hope. It essentially means that we are not tied to a particular timeline of events. Achievement, progress, or whatever it is we seek doesn’t have to happen at a particular checkpoint in order to be meaningful.
When I was younger, I thought I would get married early, have kids and learn how to cook while also doing something career-womanish. I’d have it all, although I’m quite sure my main focus was finding a man who resembled Clark Gable or Jon Bon Jovi (in manliness, not necessarily appearance). You see, I was deeply romantic.
As for my career, I had no idea what I would do. But since kindergarten I had always loved the written word and performance. Movies were a childhood staple, as were book collections like The Babysitters’ Club followed by Sweet Valley High and of course, Judy Blume.
While my life in no way resembled these shiny characters’ lives, I still felt a connection to their ideals. You grow up, meet someone and fall in love, and have a great time succeeding at something you love. Easy.
Yeah, so it’s not that easy. But as I ponder my mother’s advice about allowing things to happen in their time, I realise that the unease of life is a huge part of what makes it such an amazing ride.
I’ve talked about this before, but in the darkness you find your strength.
I didn’t marry young, so I did something rather novel and decided to get to know myself. In fact, I tried this crazy thing and tried to love myself. I’m not short on love for other people, but I haven’t always been so kind to myself.
Then, the career. You’ll be amused to know that even though I finished high school, a law degree, and a brief stint as a lawyer, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was one of those fridge magnets that warned of never growing up.
But I did grow up. And I understood that I needed to work, not simply to earn an income, but to have some purpose. I needed to apply myself to something, rather than waste my days doing something that left me feeling empty.
Admittedly, it would be nice not to have to wait for the things we want. It’s especially challenging when it seems like everyone around you was given access to the fast lane while you’re stuck in traffic.
But when the things you want finally do arrive, it might not look exactly as you had imagined them to be. It most likely won’t feel like you expect it to either.
Yet it all easily clicks into place somehow, as though it was a missing piece of a puzzle that was hidden within your reach.
Suddenly, with a deep breath and an exhalation, you realise that everything is as it should be.