26. Twenty-six. Sounds old, right? Like an age where your grandmother or your preacher or your friends expect you to have your life figured out. One of those lucky numbers where by that age you’ll at least have a mortgage and a serious relationship and maybe a kid or two on the way. Or at the very least, a dog you’ve adopted to keep you company while you watch Netflix.
Thats the problem with expectation. It’s inevitable disappointment. Expectation is a liar. It keeps us trapped in fear that maybe our lives won’t turn out like we thought, or that maybe we won’t ever get that dream job, or dream house or dream relationship. Thats what expectation did to me; kept me trapped in muck and sadness because I was afraid of what would happen if I became brave enough to stop living a life I thought I was supposed to have.
To understand that last sentence, let me take you back to me, age 25/26 PRE husband, PRE house, PRE Dog (and PRE common sense.) I lived in alone in an apartment I could barely afford but was lucky to have. It had a fireplace I had no idea how to operate, a few bugs in the kitchen and appliances that were at least 5 years older than ME. I had a job that worked me to the absolute bone and rarely showed appreciation, especially in Salary. I had just been dumped by someone I could have sworn I was “supposed” to marry. (approximately 5 minutes before a movie date we’d planned, and about 15 minutes after I’d put on a dress and a statement necklace, and 1 day after a weekend long trip in which I was dumb enough to purchase a fitbit, and a hotel room for his birthday with my TINY TINY salary.) Basically, I was exactly where I thought I’d never be at that age.
What I wish I would’ve been able to see back then was my freedom. After the sadness and the heartache and news of betrayal all settled, I remember sitting out on my patio in some vintage wicker chairs from Goodwill I’d spray painted turquoise. It was late September and I could breathe, the weather was cooler and instead of sadness I felt straight up RELIEF. I was free from a relationship that broke me in every way a person can be broken. I played “One that Got Away” by the Civil Wars a thousand times a day, taught myself to cook, taught myself to love my insanely low paying job, and began to convince myself that I was beautiful, worthy, smart and capable. (you are all those things, too.) I tried to take up yoga, painted more, spent more time with friends, and enjoyed thinking about myself for once. I desperately tried not to compare my lives to those of the people around me with their kids, newborn babies, husbands and wedding albums.
Not even two years later, a man I both love AND admire proposed to me-and my life has been a whirlwind. I have to be honest with you, I still get caught up in expectation vs. reality.
Because 99 percent of the population is uncomfortable with being honest, I thought life after an engagement, a wedding, building a home and starting a life together would be perfect and worry free from here on out. (and y’all, it’s wonderful.) But its not perfect.
I don’t wear flower crowns and maxi dresses while we stare into each others eyes in the woods (pinterest is a liar.) Sometimes we fight, sometimes we forgive quickly and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes all we do is laugh and cook and tell each other how lucky we are. Sometimes all the responsibility of a new house and new cars and a dog that needs more supplements than most humans is overwhelming. Our house is beautiful and new and shiny but sometimes all I want is a tiny shack that doesn’t have as many blinds and baseboards to keep clean.
It’s not perfect, but it’s GOOD. As a matter of fact, its so good that it’s even better than I ever thought it would be. The only reason I can see that now is because I’ve gotten out of my own way. I try as hard as I can to push my own expectations out of the way and I’ve gotten really good at silencing other people. Should really isn’t a word I allow in my mind often.
Get out of your own way. If you’re single, enjoy your freedom. Married but kidless? Enjoy your finances, freedom and sleep. Wish your house was bigger/nicer/more impressive to other people? Less to clean and you’ve probably got less debt. Heartbroken and a little lost? Your expectations have been yanked out from under you- and I can honestly say that was the best thing to ever happen to me.