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The Lives I didn't Get to Live

Yesterday I had this moment where I had a glimpse of a path I lost. I got an email from a colleague I worked with a few years ago. At the time, we were at the same level in the company and now he’s quite a few levels above me. Just seeing his name and title triggered a whole slew of emotions.

I thought about how I chose to slow down my career and work from home and how I changed job groups to be able to achieve that. And, not just that, but how I gave up potential promotions, raises, power, etc, etc. along the process. The name was a reminder of life I never got to live. The career success I walked away from.

When I drive to school to pickup Nathaniel from school, I have a similar flash of another unlived life. I see all the moms who aren’t working at all and can spend all their time with their kids. I see them take their kids to fun classes or play dates after school. I see them meet each other and socialize. I see the life of a truly stay-at-home mom and yearn for that life I didn’t get to have.

And the same happens when I am around my coaching classmates who are starting their businesses. Or artists who sell their art and pursue it fulltime. People who teach.

I think of all the paths I didn’t walk down. All the lives I didn’t get to live. The direct reminder of the choices I made (or didn’t make) that caused me to be here and not there.

This isn’t about regret. I don’t regret the paths I took. I know that I spent time thinking about my steps and the directions I chose. But when I saw his name, it was just a tangible reminder of what I walked away from. If I had stayed at work, I might not have been able to stay home and hug my kids but I could provide so much more for them. I would be more powerful and maybe they’d be proud of that. I just found my mind wondering and aching a bit. Where the path I didn’t take felt like a loss.

Instead of chastising myself or even reminding myself that there was a reason I made the choice I made, I let myself mourn. I gave myself permission to be sad and really let that soak in. And then I imagined having taken that path. Let’s say I was this powerful, recognized employee now. How did that feel (I tried to imagine since I can’t really know for sure.) and then I remembered the last time I was close to that feeling and how it wasn’t anything special. How it didn’t really fulfill me. Others respected and looked up to me maybe. But I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel special. I didn’t feel fulfilled.

Which was the reason I chose this path to begin with.

I just needed the reminder. There’s a reason I am not working the full career path anymore. There’s also a reason I am not fully at home. Or a full-time coach or artist or anything else. I am very purposeful about what I do and don’t do. I work hard at living my life by design.

But even with that, sometimes it’s ok to mourn the lives I didn’t get to live. It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to doubt. It’s ok to imagine trying it on and making sure it still feels like the path I chose not to take. We change over time and it’s valuable to make sure the decisions we made are still consistent with our goals now.

So I let myself soak it all in and then I felt a huge rush of gratitude for where I am. For all I get to have. For all I get to do. Maybe I don’t have the ultimate version of any of those lives but I get to have a bit of all and I get to experience the joy of each.

And, for now, that’ll do.

That’ll do just fine.

9 comments to The Lives I didn’t Get to Live

  • Cheryl

    Yes, yes, it will.

  • Karyn Halter

    Your post took me down memory lane myself. Now being in my 50′s I remember making that decision when my precious daughter was 2 to leave my corporate job and go to art shows on the weekends allowing me the flexibility to stay home with her. Sometimes I look back an wonder also how my life would have been different but I do know one things for sure, no amount of promotions or status at work can take the place of the precious early years of your child’s lives! God Bless!

  • Goog

    “If I had stayed at work, I might not have been able to stay home and hug my kids but I could provide so much more for them.”

    I bet if you asked them, they would tell you that you provide MUCH more for them by being there than you could by making more money. Kids don’t thrive on “stuff”. They thrive on love and time and attention.

  • I enjoyed reading your perspective. I am looking at various paths right now and missing some things from my past. It is always beneficial to remember why we made certain choices along the way.

  • Jesa

    This post hit right at home as these similar thought crossed my mind many times when I put my career aside to raise my now 7 year old. It was an internal battle I fought with myself for nearly three years before embracing my new role as a stay at home mom. Unable to just be home, during our move to N. Califirnia, I took photography,cooking, sewing, card making and stamping classes just to keep me occupied. This is when I discovered BPS and opened my world to e-classes.

    From time to time though, I reflect on where my life would be now, how different things could have been and the different opportunities in my career that I will not know. But I was able to fully participate in my son’s first year of kinder and teach art once a month which fills some emptiness I left behind. It also gave me the opportunity to have me time as well as spend time in the mornings with friends. Now I have a bigger reason to enjoy being liberated from working and dedicate it at home- my almost 2 month newborn. And this is when I know it’s all worth it and made the best decision

    Thank you for sharing your inner most thoughts that many of us career moms battle/battled with many times.

  • This was very well said. Having arranged my ‘career’ choices around my daughter since the day she was born (I stayed home 24/7 until she went to pre-school and then after elementary school I home schooled her) I so understand…I had just received my Masters degree in Psychology/Counseling when she was born…a $50,000 education vs being a stay at home mom…who does that??? I did. Now that she is a few months away from being 18 and in college…I thank the heavens every day for those choices I made…we may not be as rich as we could have been if I used my degree to it’s full potential…but we are so much richer in the things that truly matter…and I have a heart full of memories that would have otherwise been empty had I made a different choice. God bless…you are doing what your heart requires.

  • Yes. It is okay to have these thoughts and feel these feelings. Acknowledge them. Evaluate if you’re still in the right place. This type of clarity and perspective is one of the gifts of being 40-something, I think. When I see my daughter interact with little children, I feel the pang of knowing she’ll remain an only child. We chose this without choosing, by virtue of my age when we had her and because I’m the one with the full time job and benefits.

  • Wow, reading your post was so real for me. Why do we do this to ourselves. Love that you give yourself permission to dream about what that life would be like if you had chosen the other path. Thanks you are amazing!

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