When I started my undergraduate degree back in 2008, one of my first mini-assignments was to create a timeline of my future life.
Our tutor wanted us to plan out every major life goal we wanted to achieve throughout life, including by when we want to have achieved them.
“This is too easy,” I thought.
I knew my life plan. I knew exactly what I was going to do and when I was going to do it…
18 years old: Start uni.
19-20 years old: Get engaged to my boyfriend.
21 years old: Finish uni. Start my own business. Buy a house. Get married.
22 years old: Stop working and have my first child.
24 years old: Have my second child. Be a stay-at-home mum until both children are in school.
29 years old: Resume working.
60 years old: Retire.
So as I sit here, 30 years old, with my degree sitting in a folder and none of the other goals accomplished, I sigh in relief.
ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, YES.
I am genuinely and wholeheartedly relieved that I didn’t end up taking this life path.
Thinking back to this life plan assignment, I honestly cringe at my naivety. In my head, it made total sense. These goals and this time-frame were just “the done thing”.
This plan just wasn’t me. It didn’t reflect my hopes and dreams, my personality, my core values… It just wasn’t me.
Plus, if I’d have married my boyfriend at the time, I’d have hitched my wagon to a manipulative, emotionally-abusive, lying, controlling, nasty piece of work.
Sure, I could have divorced him later, but how much more shit would I have lived through if I hadn’t put my foot down at the end of my second year of uni and told him I was done, I was moving in with my friends, and we were absolutely, completely over – don’t pass go, don’t collect £200, goodbye and good luck.
Scarier than if I’d just married him, imagine if I’d had children with him? I could be inescapably connected to him for the rest of my life. Maybe I would still have left, but the kids would keep us linked forever. Maybe the kids would have kept me from leaving and I’d have been trapped.
I shudder to think.
I was lucky. I escaped this path before it got started.
I dread to think the misery this path would have led me to. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I know that I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to change my mind and have no regrets about doing so.
I have immense respect for exes who continue to amicably co-parent, and for people who got married and had children young and have a loving and happy family. I’m in awe of people who have broken free of abuse and now raise their children alone. I’m in no way judging anyone else’s path or circumstances. I’m not even saying this path is inherently wrong.
What I am saying is it’s okay to no longer identify with the goals you set when you were a teen, and what’s more, it’s okay to be relieved you “failed” to achieve them.
The thing is, these goals weren’t mine – I just didn’t realise it at the time. These goals were the result of pressure I felt to conform, to shrink myself, to deny parts of myself and make my life more “acceptable” to others.
Plans change. Priorities change. Having the opportunity to realise I wanted something different and make those changes makes me so, so thankful.
I haven’t failed to meet my goals.
I’ve discarded the goals I felt pressured to set, and created my own.
And that feels amazing.
Have your life goals changed over time? How so? Feel free to share your story in the comments.