“As the legend goes, when the phoenix resurrects from the flames, she is even more beautiful than before.” ~ Danielle LaPorte
Why do I have the same ridiculous recurring dream? Is my mind somehow clinging to the fairy tale that I expected from my life?
The beautiful princess with long flowing chestnut hair, pearly white teeth and genius level intelligence wakes up to the sound of birds singing in her room as they put up the luxurious ball gown from the charity event of the night before and gingerly lay out her clothes for the day. Warmed by the glorious sunlight, she leans over and tenderly kisses her Prince Charming, the gorgeous, kind, passionate man who she was fated to spend her life. He smiles at her like she is the most wondrous thing his eyes have ever beheld. Her life is completely joyous, and in between charity events, television appearances and mothering the perfect children, she skips merrily off to work where she makes millions of dollars providing legal services for the homeless, orphans and puppies… wait, not just puppies, all baby animals!
I chuckle at how far this dream is from reality.
This used to be something I beat myself up over, since like most young women, I set out to discover my “true path,” the one that would make life look like my silly dream. Guided by misconceptions about life from Disney movies, fairy tales, romance novels and societally reinforced stereotypes, many of us set out to find a spouse and profession fated by the stars, God, or whomever is the director of our life’s movie.
It should be no surprise that at the age of 18, we might not know what we want to do for a lifetime or who we even are for that matter.
Many find the perfect career and never have a moment’s doubt about their life’s work, but some of us are divergent, just like the movie—only the clothes and day to day existence are much less bad-a**.
I have been a lawyer, stay at home mom, college professor, domestic violence/sexual assault program coordinator, diet coach, fitness center manager and personal trainer, just to name a few. I felt tremendous pressure to find out where I had somehow missed the divine message. Where was my fairy tale, dammit?!
In my capacity as a personal trainer, hereinafter referred to as #8, I was working with a client one afternoon, and in what I believe was an attempt to delay her next set of lunges, she brought up careers. She viewed my adventures in the job world as exciting, where most thought I was insane for not continuing my legal career. Not sure whether it was the timing or my admiration for her, but this conversation planted a seed that would set in motion a process of self-compassion and acceptance that would change my perception. Maybe my life was not a failure just because I had yet to find what I wanted to be if and when I grow up.
As we live longer, many will not only have multiple employers but multiple and distinctly different careers. I know several women over the age of 40 who are back in school or starting new lives, personal and professional. What I once viewed as floundering, I am able to see as growth and a normal progression.
Once the cloud of fear and judgment cleared, I was able to see:
1. Transition is not failure; the willingness to adjust takes courage and resilience. Life allows for shifts that may include deviation from the choices we made when we were adults legally, but children mentally and emotionally. We get to choose! If we are not happy in our life, we have the ability to change it.
2. Instead of measuring our worth by money and fame, the magnitude of our joy and the ability to touch the lives of others can be the gauge. We should value encouragement, support, empowerment and kindness. How many wealthy people do we know who are unhappy? Happy people living simple lives? Wealth does not directly correlate with bliss.
3. There may not be a dream career for us for a lifetime. Many of us will have several professions that incorporate and maximize our skill sets and passions at the moment. Imagine the expansive nature of our world if we could align our wisdom and personal evolution with our passions in either our personal life, in our career or both?
Unlike the idyllic princess of my frivolous dream, I am not married to Prince Charming, don’t make millions of dollars, and sadly no birds put up or pick out my clothing. I am more like the phoenix recreating myself than a princess—living in a constant state of becoming.
Despite the demise of my childhood fantasies, I do believe there is a happily ever after; it is just not as linear as I originally thought.
Author: Lisa Foreman
Editor: Catherine Monkman