I’m Not Where I Thought I’d Be

2016 June 23

At some point, everyone utters the phrase—I’m not where I thought I’d be—privately to themselves.  Some of us, however, are more vulnerable than others, especially when our expectations are frustrated by challenges in life that we never thought, expected, or planned.

Unfortunately, our questions can  often be mistaken for accusations  because we repeat them to ourselves so many times that we can’t help but think they are true. So the next time you get momentarily stuck in the quicksand of—I’m not where I thought I’d be—you might want to keep in mind the following:

  • Where we are now is never where we thought we’d be—ever! When things are going well, we don’t reflect. We keep moving, and going, and pushing. Reflection and contemplation happen when our lives become interrupted, when what we thought was going to occur—doesn’t, or when what we never planned to happen—happens.
  • The past is never a good predictor of our present. The trajectory of our expectations is always the same—they are straight and unchanging lines defined by their end points, not by process. Our dreams don’t account for the need to turn, swerve, speed up, slow down, pause, turn around, let alone change directions. But dreams of the future are powerful because they are seemingly so clearly defined, real in their gravitational pull toward some desired destination. Unfortunately, we can easily become lost and disoriented when what we thought was going to happen doesn’t correspond or make sense given our everyday challenges.
  • For all of us whose lives have at some point been interrupted, there is one undeniable fact: we aren’t who we used to be. Our past dreams often delude us into thinking they are timeless and timely when they are not. Our dreams almost never account for the fragility of life, love, care, illness, disappointment, and rejection. Too often, our dreams can’t keep up with who we’ve become. Dreams are like milk, they go sour and make us sick when they are past their due date, though we rarely throw out our dreams when they expire amidst new realities, changes, opportunities, and insights.
  • Dreams can be incredibly deceptive because they often omit the messiness and tensions and responsibilities that characterize our everyday relationships. Most people’s dreams aren’t about becoming closer to another human being when it’s not easy. Most people don’t dream of loving someone when it’s not easy. Who dreams of what life will be like when we love someone who becomes ill? Who dreams of managing the challenges of work and life and children? Who dreams of being depressed? Who dreams of struggle? Who dreams of bodily interruptions? But we’re not most people anymore, are we?

When you torment yourself with feelings of failure and disappointment because you’re not where you thought you’d be, begin to edit your past expectations. Change the script of your dreams made years ago in a galaxy unconnected from the world you inhabit now. Start with where you are, here and now. Use your current situation as a starting point, not as an ending point. You are changing, so should your dreams.  The next time you question yourself because you’re not where you thought you’d be, remind yourself that the where may not be nearly as important as the person you are becoming.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. June 24, 2016

    Ah, the stories we tell ourselves. This is excellent, thank you!

  2. June 24, 2016

    Another excellent and beautifully written article! Has a lot of meaning for me as I struggle with reshaping my life after devastating loss on top of 17 years of grueling caregiving. My life needs intensive editing, as God has rewritten my whole story.

  3. June 24, 2016

    As always, insightful and timely. As my son transitions to his end game, I’ve had to reflect deeply on my own worth and to my surprise I came to the conclusion that I am actually the person that I wanted to become. What was needed was to tilt the puzzle piece at an odd angle to see that it does fit.

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