Growing up, I always thought about what my life would look like when I was older. I think most people do. We fantasize about the job we will have, the person we will marry, where we will live, the places we will travel to. While this is all well and good, it can put a lot of pressure on your adult self to live up to the life that you dreamed of having when you were younger.
My own dream life goes something like this: go to a great college, get a job changing the world where I am constantly engaged and paid well, meet the man of my dreams and get married, buy a nice house, save money for traveling the world in my free time, have two kids and watch them grow into well-adjusted members of society, and eventually retire and grow old with my adoring husband, children and grandchildren. Because I was horse-crazy, my dream life also included owning a small farm for my horses (plural) and competing as far up through the levels of Eventing as I could.
Even with these grand ideas about how our lives will unfold, we know that we will encounter some bumps in the road. Relationships are hard work, and it’s not always going to be easy. Having kids leads to countless sleepless nights, a messy house – and finding cereal where you would least expect it. Maybe you won’t get the job you want right away. Maybe you will have to move farther away from your family than you would like to. It sounds cute, from a distance.
But even my young-adult self thought, surely things will go mostly according to plan, right!? And for a while things did. I graduated from college, but I did not continue on to a higher degree as I previously thought I would. I got a job in my field right out of college – which I feel extremely lucky about – but it wasn’t a job where I felt like I was changing the world. I did meet the man of my dreams and get married, but then the future quickly became murky.
As we were planning our wedding, he was also applying for medical school. When the dust of the medical school application process settled, it was clear that we would be moving. To Grenada. An island. In the Caribbean.
Fast forward and here we are, married and living in Grenada! How cool is that?! While I fully realize how lucky I am to be living on a Caribbean island for the next couple years, it also threw a huge wrench in my ability to meticulously plan out every last detail of our future. Where will we be in two years when we return to the US for clinical rotations? Where will we be after that for his residency? With Zika spreading and the impending mountain of student loan debt that we will be in, when will we be able to start trying to have kids?
Another wrench that the move has thrown into my ever-important plans is that it’s really hard to get a work visa in Grenada. Which means I am, currently, a stay-at-home wife. Woe is me, right? But on the other hand, it has forced me to come face-to-face with the fact that I didn’t feel like the job I had before coming here was right for me, and that I don’t even know what I want to pursue as a career path. The whole basis of my future – getting a job that I find fulfilling, where I am helping others, and that ideally pays well enough so that my family can live comfortably – doesn’t exist. I feel like I should have accomplished that by now, or that I should at least be on a clear path to getting there. But I’m not. And I’m going to try to be ok with that.
I’m going to try to be ok with that because sometimes, I think the biggest expectation that I have for myself is living up to the timeline that I created for my life. It is my biggest expectation, and also the one that causes me the most grief. Right now, my life is not on the track that I thought it would be on, and in some ways I feel like I’ve failed because of that. What I have realized now, though, is that if things went the way I thought they were supposed to go, I would not have had the time to reflect on what career I want to pursue. I also probably would not have had the opportunity to live in another country and get to know it’s culture and people. And I definitely wouldn’t be living somewhere as beautiful as Grenada. It can be hard letting go of your perfectly formed plans, but once you’re done lamenting their loss (and by all means, take that time), take a look around. Because it’s possible that the new direction that your life has taken you will give you just as many – if not more – opportunities than the path you thought you were supposed to be on.