On Expectations and Timelines

Married at 25. 
Kids by 30. 
Move back to the suburbs or maybe Hoboken after a bunch of years in the city and buy a house. 
Have a job as a magazine editor and leave it to stay at home with kids and work on my book. 

That’s what I thought my life plan was.

Not single at 36. 
With a dead mom. 
Giving my sweet dog up two years ago just before my mom died. 
Renting a one-bedroom apartment. 
Two suicide attempts. 
Six weeks at a residential mental health treatment facility. 
Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and having to take three daily psych meds just to achieve some level of baseline. 

But I also didn’t think I’d ever live in California (though I’d always dreamed of it.) I didn’t think I’d travel to all of the continents but three, stamping my passport ~10 times in the past twoish years. I didn’t think I’d ever have enough work to have a steady freelance income. I didn’t think I’d pick up three fitness certifications along the way.

For so, so long, I tried my best to be the Theodora I thought people wanted me to be. Family. Friends. The internets. Society. Man…even the person I thought therapists wanted me to be.

Uh, that turned out well… (a note on the therapist part: I can now see I was so embarrassed by my feelings that I was afraid to share those deepest ones—the ones, of course, that most need to be shared. This was never a conscious thing—I had no idea how to even access them until a few months ago.)

I didn’t think I deserved to travel. Deserved to live my dream of living by the beach in California. I was supposed to just stick on that traditional life path with the two kids and white picket fence.

I’m not at all slamming anyone who is on that “traditional” life path. As long as that’s what you want, not what you think you should do. Life is WAY too short for shoulds. I wasted 36 years should-ing.

I was not put on this earth to live a life that can be put in a box. (Hi, I’m an Aquarius.) I have stepped away from that timeline and into my own life.

It involves writing.

Sharing my story—all of it, even/ESPECIALLY the messy parts. Because I am messy as fuck, but I live and love with all of my heart. I want the best for myself. For those I love.

Seeing the world.

Connecting with others deeply and building community.

Being the weirdass goofball that I am and not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks.

Opening up my heart.

I’m done playing small and playing on someone else’s timeline. I’m not saying I don’t want those things—honestly, I have no idea right now if I do or not—but I’m also going to enjoy the fuck out of where I am right now, too. And I don’t just mean being by the beach, although it is absolutely fucking amazing to be living that part of my dream.

More Reading/Listening

There’s a few things I’ve been reading to or listening to lately that ignited the thoughts in this post.

Grace wrote an amazing post on living at your own pace.

Danny J had a really thought-provoking podcast episode on “the mind fuck of aging.” She and her podcast host/bestie Jill both got divorced in their 30s, changing what they thought their paths would be—they are amazingly unapologetic about embracing the fuck out of the lives they’re living right now.

Ali had a recent podcast episode with Sarah MacKay Robinson of Oiselle, where they talked a ton about expectations. It’s more about motherhood, but so much unhappiness comes from when reality doesn’t measure up to our expectations—and we miss the amazing that’s around us.

Jordan wrote a post that slayed me. She writes about how her therapist called her a performer. “There is a difference between openness and authenticity. You speak about your emotions, but I’ve never seen you actually feel them. You perform them. And then you smile and put them away.

Hi, that’s what I’ve been doing over here for 10 years. I can tell you the story of what happened and how I “feel,” but that’s long been the extent of my real processing. It now blows my mind that for a big portion of my adult life, I processed my feelings (in the limited way I knew how) on the internet, in real time. You’ve probably noticed that I have been pulling back more on writing about my emotions and what’s happening. I’m learning, at 36, how to feel my feelings offline and actually feel them and not blog them away, eat them away, exercise them away, drink them away…

Maybe this post doesn’t make sense either, but as much as I want to be an amazing writer—and a lot of the time I think I am a pretty damn good writer—I’m learning to let go of some of that wanting to be perfect, too.

It’s really tiring in my head.

20 comments on “On Expectations and Timelines

  1. Theresa

    You’re amazing!!! Keep plugging through and you will get there. At the age of 52 this resonates powerfully with me.

  2. Abby Weiss

    Makes a lot of sense to me, keep going, sounds like you’re on to something. Signed Abby, girl who ambushed you in the Brooklyn supermarket.

  3. katie

    Thank you! I think women need to be more open about the goals they made that they didn’t reach. I thought I’d be married at 30 (when my mom was) that didn’t happen, and my career also did not go the ways I hoped. While I love the idea that women are strong and powerful, I also want to hear about how women adjust to life’s twists and turns.

  4. Heidi

    I’ve seen quite a few of references to this topic on the internet lately. I can honestly say I don’t really relate, but feel for those who experience these feelings. I have lived a very non traditional life and I never had any vision of how things “should” look, so I have never been disappointed. I’m a “go with the flow” type person and it’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve come to realize how incredibly lucky I am to basically not give a f*ck about what society expects. I’ve also been supported by incredible family and friends along the way, even though they haven’t understood many of my choices. Good job on embracing where you are at and I hope that you experience more peace as a result of all your hard work.

  5. Anonymous comment

    Timelines and the notion that there is a single “right path” are impossibly hard notions to live up to. I’m 30 something, single, and I give zero f***s about getting married or having kids. I can say this confidently both here as an anonymous comment on a blog or in person to close friends. But as comfortable as I think I am in living my truth, I constantly feel the weight of other people’s expectations OR my assumption of what other people may expect of me. I want to dissolve in to tears anytime somebody asks – even when clearly well meaning – “isn’t it sad being single? Won’t your be disappointed if you never have kids?” All this is to say: you’re not alone. We’re not the first to forge our own paths and we won’t be the last. And it may never be easy. But damnit…it can still be totally wonderful or totally right for us. Power to you, girl. Sincerely wishing you the best.

  6. Melissa

    I hope you don’t give up on that book thing. I would definitely buy a copy. Your writing is captivating.

  7. Allie

    First of all – I love this and love that you’re just writing your feelings and touching on a topic that everyone on the planet can relate to. I kind of went the opposite way and thought I would probably never get married and I certainly did not want kids…until life happened and I was married with twins by age 35. I wouldn’t change a thing and I live a life I absolutely love filled with all the things I wanted to do without a family – travel, run, swim, bike, adventure, write and now, going back to school at 44 to get a masters degree in clinical mental health so I can hopefully help people like me who went though trauma and need to access those incredible feelings you write about 🙂 Life is what you make it and it’s not something that happens to you – whatever plan you think you have is usually tossed around quite a bit. If you’re lucky (smart? intentioned? honest?) you can love your life no matter what. MUAH!!!

  8. Stacey Lawrence Lee

    I haven’t read your blog in ages but you’re always so inspiring and I needed a little boost so here I am…..surprised by all your big changes but even more inspired than ever! You really are an amazing writer and an even more amazing person….I’m not going to fall off the Preppy Runner wagon again. You are the bestbestbest and I’m sorry for the NYJL’s loss but excited to keep up with everything you’re up to. XOXOXOSLL

  9. Danielle

    You are so, so amazing. I admire you SO much.
    Nowhere near the same, but I feel like my life has changed course from where I wanted it in my 20s – but it’s definiteky gotten so, so much better.
    I live in CA too (originally from NY) and hopefully will run into you at some point. <3


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.