When we were younger, we dreamt about our future. We made plans for our lives based on a prescribed path. We decided where we would go to college, what our careers would be, at what age we’d get married and how many kids we’d have – all before we could even drive a car.
In my adolescent years, I imagined I would meet my future husband at the grocery store or a coffee shop. I expected to have a small, simple wedding in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., and I certainly thought the only children I would have would be those of my own flesh and blood.
Clearly, my actual life path was nothing of the sorts, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I’m guessing 9.9 times out of 10 our paths take a different course than the ones we charted.
As we grow up, our desires change, uncontrollable events occur, and sometimes you are chosen to star on a reality TV show. All these elements steer our lives in a different direction.
When I reflect back on all the forces that have brought me to where I am today, whether it be good or bad, I realize just how much each experience has helped me grow as a person.
I remember when my first love broke up with me. Oh, how I thought my world was coming to an end! At the time it was easier for me to focus on my loss rather than what I could gain from the heart-wrenching breakup. Fifty viewings of Love Actually and a handful of Dairy Queen Blizzards later, I realized that I actually don’t like being with the “too cool for school” jock type; I’m more of a down-to-earth, family-guy kind of girl.
It was my summer internship with Kohl’s Corp that made me realize I was destined to work in retail rather than in communications. There I was able to learn about fabric sourcing, shopping patterns, and trend forecasting, which I found fascinating. These positive experiences led me down the successful career path I’m currently on, which makes every day stimulating.
I believe it was the trials (while “The Bachelor” drama was unfolding) that forced me to grow more than I ever had before. It took hours of worrying what was being said about me on the Internet to realize it: I just can’t please everyone, so I shouldn’t waste my energy trying to.
Hate mail and nasty magazine stories helped me focus solely on the important things in life, and the dark cloud I was living under brought me closer to God and my faith, as I knew it would show me the light at the end of the tunnel.
From all of my experiences, good and bad, I have learned to be grateful for anything that is thrown my way. It is because of the trials and tribulations that I have grown into a strong woman, and it is because of my successes that I stay motivated in life.
Whether or not our lives follow the path we first dreamt of, the journey is what makes us who we are.
The best part is this ride never ends. We will continue to learn and grow throughout our entire lives. Tests and triumphs will happen, and our paths will once again change directions, bringing us to new places and introducing us to new people. The most we can do is respond with open hearts.
“The journey is the reward.” -Chinese proverb