Those words really resonate with me lately. My beloved fiancé celebrated his fortieth birthday in September and it really got me thinking. I recall my younger years when I thought I knew so much and had the nerve to make plans for the life that I would lead.
I was going to marry my high school sweetheart; we had enrolled at the same college after all so that was a no-brainer. While in college I was approached to participate in the Miss America pageant, so that meant I’d use my supermodel earnings to pay off my student loans. After college, I’d work for the U.N. and balance travelling the world with raising 2.3 beautiful and perfectly behaved children. We’d settle in the south of France and tend to our vineyard, then go on holiday in Tuscany.
Ah, the folly of my youth! The sweetheart cheated on me during our freshman year at school. (Left, Rachel with her beloved poodles)
Fantasies of being his wife were replaced by the enjoyment of dating. He had been my first real boyfriend and thus I hadn’t really experienced the ups and downs of dating in high school. Eventually, I married a different man and our vision of a life far away from NYC saw our relocation. France became Phoenix, AZ and while I did get to visit several European countries, more often our European vacations were courtesy of Bellagio, Paris and The Venetian on our frequent trips to Las Vegas. We spent our honeymoon in Vegas and often joked that we spent the week jet-setting between Paris, Italy and Egypt.
The 2.3 children became three dogs and a gaggle of nieces, nephews, god-children and random youngsters that hold a piece of my heart. I experienced the joys of first steps and first words without having to endure sleepless, colicky baby nights (although I often chose to endure them in support of my friends and relatives). Summers and holidays became joyful reunions at which I could marvel at kids’ weed-like growth and then fill them with soda, ice cream and candy before sending them merrily back to their parents. I often got late-night phone calls about that too, but isn’t that my duty as a beloved Auntie?
While I was still in college I became more aware of world affairs and the bombings of embassies. That quelled my desire to work in Foreign Service, so my professional goals changed. I found myself working for almost 15 years in corporate America and making a very nice living too. I cherished my six weeks of annual vacation and my year-round sunshine. I took up golf and hiking and cultivated an interesting circle of friends with whom I’ve shared countless travels and adventures.
Eventually, I went through a difficult divorce and later reevaluated my life choices. I hadn’t accomplished any of what I had intended to do all of those many years ago. I found myself far from my loved ones, dissatisfied with my career and feeling beaten and broken by love and life. I envisioned myself dying an old, childless, lonely woman who would be buried with her 37 feline companions—or in my case, 37 teacup poodles.
As I approach forty I find myself smiling more. I relocated to find myself back in the family fold on a fulltime basis; there are even more nieces and nephews now to gobble up my time and energy. I’ve reconnected with old friends and have the pleasure of visiting the desert from time to time to catch up with the folks there. I took the time to heal my wounds and simply enjoy myself and my life—not the one I had planned, but the one that manifested itself one I allowed it to do so.
The life I lead now as I am approaching forty includes closer relationships with my relatives, renewed friendships from long ago, an occupation that I truly enjoy and a loving man who surpasses every dream, fantasy or expectation I ever had for a mate, as well as deep religious faith. None of this would have been possible had I not let go of the plans of my youth and accepted the life I was meant to live. Are you living the life you want to live or are your expectations, fantasies and misconceptions keeping you from what you desire and deserve? What will it take for you to let go and realize the life that is waiting for you? Don’t wait another minute—decide that you’ll embrace it at forty.
Rachel Dachel is a freelance writer and editor, and the creator and author of the blog Rachel-y Motivated Incidents.