When You Thought it Would Be Different: Reconciling the Adulthood You Live With the One You Dreamed

I thought that it would be different. I thought I would know more. I thought I would have more: more time, more confidence, more energy. I never thought at my age that I would look at a word like “more” and feel uncertain because although I’ve seen, written and read it thousands of times, it just looks wrong. This is not how I imagined adulthood. All those seamlessly put together images I had of myself as an adult, way back when, were sheer fantasy. Maybe the formulation of these images were simply an early part in my story, foreshadowing the uncertainty that would characterize my thoughts throughout my lifetime.

I’m unsure if it is just me, or if there comes a time where we all just feel so off that we question everything we have dreamed and focus on all the discrepancies. After the whirlwind of college, working, having a family, years in family court, raising two children, divorcing and continuing to raise two children by myself while juggling work, family, friends, my health and hoping to find some time to just relax, I have not really had much time to contemplate these disparities in perception and reality. This does not spare me from facing reality.

I thought I’d have more kids. I thought I would have my Master’s Degree. I thought I would have a marriage that would last. I didn’t think life would be one long battle after another and that life not only would not pause while I continued to pursue my dreams but it would actually up the ante and throw curve balls just for fun. I thought I would continue to have dreams and long term goals and not just divide life into short little hurdles I just needed to get passed to feel better. I did not think I’d have to wonder if anyone else feels the way I do or if I am just so out of touch with reality.

I also thought my shortcomings would, like my own mortality, be a personal matter that I dealt with on my own, rather than a topic of small talk. It is amazing how many people I have gone no further with than exchanging pleasantries, while washing hands in the washroom at work, repeatedly asked me, after my first child, when the next one was coming. It is pretty easy to just blow off the question the first ten or so times, but after that, I am not sure who felt more uncomfortable when I answered the question honestly, that after we finish court and can trust that my step- daughter’s mother will not use our divorce as a reason to rack us up a few more tens of thousands of dollars in lawyer fees, then we can get divorced since our relationship failed, and then if I am lucky enough to meet someone while juggling single-motherhood and eventually get remarried, if my eggs are still viable, maybe, I can have the next child I wanted to have. Okay, I did not go into so much detail, but I politely made it obvious that this was not a topic I wanted to contemplate every time I washed my hands.

There is no avoiding reality, but honestly, I would not change anything for the world. Had I not married the wrong guy, I would not have my two beautiful children. Had I not stuck with a job that wasn’t meant to be a career, I would not have had the flexibility to get through court and look after my step-daughter when her mother became unfit. Had I changed one thing, I might not have all of the blessings life has bestowed, and I might not have learned just how strong I can be and how many challenges I can overcome.

So I may not have that white picket fence, the supportive husband, the lucrative career, or a one or two extra mouths to feed, but I have the best thing I can hope for, happy daughters who still enjoy spending time with their Momma. I have a close family who gets together often for parties, vacations, picnics, holidays, book clubs, and just for fun. Now that I think about it, the scene may be different, but as I look back on everything I thought adulthood was, I was right, at least about all of the important parts. It was the smile on my daughters’ faces over dinner. It was my children spending time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was my continued relationship with the people holding those same roles in my life.

Adulthood is watching my children play with my siblings’ children. It is watching my parents have the patience they never had before they graduated from parent to grandparent. If becoming older means I get to graduate from parent to grandparent, I know I will be blessed. I will still plan and struggle for better, but whatever life gives me, the most important expectations I have are about the faces surround me, rather than the places and things.

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