Where would you be, if not for what has happened to you?
That’s something I’ve asked myself a lot over the years. If it weren’t for what I’ve been through, where would I be? Who would I be? Would my life still look similar to what it is now, or would it have taken me down an entirely different path?
As parents, we’re always talking to our kids about consequences; causes and effects, the results of situations that occur, and how best to adapt and react. We teach them these lessons in hopes that it will better prepare them for things that happen in their own lives. We try to give them the tools to be able to handle what will come their way. But as adults, I don’t think we prepare ourselves enough for these circumstances.
Sometimes…no matter how wide you keep your eyes open, or how hard you try to ward it off…life sneaks up, grabs hold of you, and decides it’s time to change everything.
That’s what happened to me…just as I know it has happened to so many of us. One minute I was on one track, being the girl I had always seen when I looked in the mirror. Then before you knew it, my world took a drastic turn and threw me on a completely different track – headed in the opposite direction, with absolutely no idea what to do or where I was going. I was lost with no way back. With a snap of my fingers, everything was different. My family. My home. My lifestyle. The big, significant things I had taken for granted. All the small, simple things that I would never be able to replace. Everything that up until that point, had made me, me. The entire course of my life had changed forever…and I was about to find out that soon, I would too.
I did change. Not right away; I needed to come to terms with this transition on my own, and it took time. A lot of it. I had to find my footing again and figure out where I wanted to go from here. But slowly, day by day, it happened. I transformed in all the ways a person can. I grew into someone I could be proud of, despite all the setbacks. And I try to remember that even though it hasn’t always been easy, these changes were for the better.
If I hadn’t experienced what I have, I’ll bet that I wouldn’t struggle with half as much as I do today. Maybe I wouldn’t have to constantly manage my state of mind or have to work through my own personal triggers. Maybe I wouldn’t get easily overwhelmed or have uncontrollable thoughts wracking my brain. Maybe I wouldn’t be as stubborn and I would be better at asking for help. I might not fear the unknown like I do now, or have to sort through my emotions like a pile of mail. I probably wouldn’t be stuck dealing with any of this.
But I also might not know firsthand what it takes to truly nourish and care for your mind. I most likely wouldn’t have the knowledge of mental health stigmas that society has placed on us, or be loud enough to use my voice to help end them. I probably wouldn’t be as conscious of what surrounds me, or be as unwavering in every action I take. I might not have empathy towards others the way that I’ve grown to. Maybe I wouldn’t be as in touch with my feelings, or I wouldn’t have the strength that I was forced into finding. And even though I think I would have done just fine before – I think I’m even more of a dedicated, loving, and present mother and wife than I would have been otherwise.
I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. I’m not sure where that original track was headed, but in a weird way, the unplanned detour led me to exactly where (and who) I was meant to be. And in this life I’m leading – who I am, who I’m still working to become, and who my kids see when they look at me – I can’t picture any other version that I would rather be living it as.
I still think about her sometimes; about the person I would have been if things had gone differently. The one I was right on target to be, and never even got a chance to say goodbye to. I’ve thought about her and this “Plan B” version of me quite a bit. I’ve compared the two of us and looked at the differences and similarities. It’s hard not to. It’s easy to get fixated on the “what if’s” when you didn’t plan or cause the life shift that has taken place. It’s easy to point fingers and place blame. It’s easy to feel like you got robbed of a future that was rightly yours. And it’s WAY too easy to think about what could have been. Those are all easy to do. The hard part is learning how to move past what if to what is.
No, I didn’t end up where I originally started…and there are parts of that fact that still hurt. I’ll always wonder what it would have looked like. I wonder if I’d be as proud of that version of myself as I am of this one. I’ll never get the chance to find out. But what I have found is that some of those little pieces that had been tucked away, thought to be lost, are still in there. Tiny reminders of an old life I was once a part of; proof that it existed. They’re just surrounded by a thousand other pieces now too, that I’ve uncovered along the way.
I’m right on track. And somehow, even by taking a more unsightly, agonizing shortcut…it landed me in the exact place where I always imagined being. (Funny how that works, right?) The view from here is so breathtaking, I wouldn’t trade it for anything…not even a quick glance at what would have been.
I ask myself “what if?” a lot less these days. Because what is…ended up being such an unexpectedly beautiful surprise. What is, is right where I want to be.