How Is Your Life Turned Out Different Than You Expected It To?

"How has your life turned out different than you expected it to?"

Wow, what a question.

The word 'different' implies a negative bias. There is a masochistic undertone in asking: in what ways were your past expectations > your current reality? But I also think it could and should be interpreted in a different way: in what ways are your current reality > past expectations?

In either case, your reality isn't what you thought it would be. Maybe it's close. Maybe it's not. Maybe it's too hard to even entertain.

Some people say looking into the past is useless, but I think it's powerful. Reflection helps us understand where we went wrong, where chance played a role, and what we can do to redirect our trajectory if necessary.

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When I thought about myself as a 26-year-old as a 16-year-old...

I pictured a woman making boss moves in a courtroom, raking in money, and living in some fancy flat in NYC. That is about the furthest picture of where I'm at today. I found out I like art, creativity, and building businesses a lot more than money, power suits, and the NYC transit system.

When I thought about what my family would be like, I pictured flying home for the holidays to spend a long weekend in our little cape at the end of a cul-de-sac. My mom would be cooking; I'd be helping. And Harvey would be running around. But Harvey, my mom, and that house no longer exist. It sucks. But we've made it work. My family and my friends that have become family, too.

When I thought about what my dating life would be, I pictured being engaged to a successful (male) investment banker or doctor or something like that. Instead, I fell in love with my best (female) friend and haven't looked back ever since. I'm more than okay with that. She is quite literally the best thing that has ever happened to me.

The list goes on and on and on... life isn't what I expected it to be. Nor do I think it should be. I couldn't have possibly known where I'd be sitting right now. I imagine it'll be the same in about a decade from now. I'll wonder how I got from here to there.

It's an interesting reflection, on both sides of the spectrum. Positive and negative.

The question not only forces you to take an inventory of everything you have, everyone you love, everything you do, and ask: did I think this is how my life would play out? It grants you the chance to be grateful for how it has.

Kate Ward