Is This How You Thought Your Life Would Turn Out?

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Once upon a time, you had a pretty good idea of how life was going to turn out for you.

You were going to be married, have babies, adopt a couple of dogs. Or maybe you were going to climb to the top of the career ladder and live in a fancy penthouse in a hot metropolitan centre. Perhaps you set out to be Carrie Bradshaw 2.0 — have awesome girlfriends, spend your nights partying and your days writing about your nightly escapades while you contemplated the meaning of life.

We all have those dreams when we’re first setting out on our paths. When we leave home and we’re young enough to think the world is our oyster and everything is possible, we set out to experience all those adventures we’d only dreamt about.

And for some of us, our dreams unfold just like we imagined. For others, those paths veer wildly from the direction we set out on, and we end up somewhere we never could have imagined. What’s interesting about both those scenarios is that whether or not our young adult dreams came true, we all get to a certain point where we look back and think… “Is this it?”

There’s a certain hollowness that comes with the realization that we’re no longer just starting out on our paths. We’ve made decisions that have cut off particular avenues and possibilities. We’ve made choices that have cemented our direction. And although we still keep choosing to put one foot in front of the other, and we always have the option to change course, we’ll never quite have the open-ended world of possibilities spread out before us like we did when we transitioned into adulthood.

This is how most mid-life crises start, by the way. We find ourselves in a place of restlessness, with the potential for fewer years ahead than behind us, and we panic. We question every single choice we ever made, and we find them lacking in one way or another. Even if we’re mostly content with where we’ve ended up, there’s always going to be that troublesome sensation of wondering, “Could I have done more? Could I have been more?”

The truth is, you’ll never know. There are no time machines, no do-overs. Life may unfold like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel, but once you’ve picked a path, you can’t just go back and try another one to see if you get a better ending.

The key, then, is acceptance.

Accept that your unique path led you here. That you’ve made every decision up until this point with all the information available to you, and that you’d make the same choice, again and again, given the same set of information you had at the time you originally made it. (FYI — this is how you avoid regret. If you always make your decisions to the best of your ability with the information you have at any given moment, then you can’t possibly regret it if things don’t work out… especially if you understand that you would make the same choice again and again given an identical set of circumstances.)

Accept, as well, that you’ve still got oodles of options, choices, and decisions still to come. You can change course, veer off the beaten path, backtrack and choose again, over and over, as many times as you’d like. And while you might not have eight decades of trial-and-error ahead of you, every single day from here until you breathe your last can be spent aligning you closer to your goals, your authentic self, and your heart’s true purpose.

And that’s something you couldn’t have known when you were 18.