Did you go straight to university from school? Then get a great corporate job with a clear career path? Meet your man through your 20s, marry around 30, buy a house and then of course next is having children? All your ducks are in a row by 40 and then we live happily ever after…?
Where are these rules written that life is supposed to turn out this way? Why are we conditioned that there is a pre-set order of adult life? And why do we feel so much pressure to “do” life in this order? Does this order of life suit all of us? And for us women if we don’t there is a chance we will miss out on having children.
I didn’t go to university despite my mother’s horror and claims that I will never make anything of myself if I don’t have a degree. I didn’t do well at school as I don’t have what I would consider academic intelligence, plus I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, so why would I endure more torture? So I just got a job straight from school and accepted that I was dumb and wouldn’t amount to much career wise. But that’s ok I thought; I just wanted the white picket fence dream. My man can have the career, I will just (!) be the wife and mother.
I wandered aimlessly through my 20s which is acceptable, but as 30 looms the pressure starts to build. I had been in and out of therapy since 16, after an unhappy childhood, as I always felt something wasn’t quite right with me. I never felt happy or fulfilled and clung to the belief that the white picket fence life was the answer. Isn’t that what we women do? Isn’t that what the fairy tales are all about? The man in shining armour, a dream wedding, a lovely home in the suburbs and beautiful kids is what too many of us women grow up believing is what our life will be.
I was depressed for my 30th despite being in Las Vegas for the event. I had been living with my boyfriend of 3 years and felt that 30 was the time we should marry. So when the fairy tale proposal was not forth coming I forced the issue. Never a good idea… but all I cared about was that it was time to settle down so I grabbed the only man around at that age. I am sure I am not alone in settling for the sake of settling down… tick tock, tick tock; the biological clock starts getting louder when you hit 30.
Needless to say the marriage didn’t last and I find myself back out on single struggle street at the age of 32. The breakdown of my marriage, the loss of my beautiful house and white picket fence dream sees me plummet into depression. For the first time in my life I am officially diagnosed and labelled as clinically depressed along with the associated medication and therapy. Despite being miserable at what had past I was not suicidal at this point as, well, I am still slim, blonde and attractive so I will find another man. I have time..?
As each year of my 30s go by I become more and more desperate and depressed. I did manage a couple of relationships however with men that were over 10 years my junior and certainly not ready for what I was looking for. And of course without a healthy relationship with myself, my depression, emotional and eating disorders as well as various addictions, I was completely ignorant to the fact that I was no chance of finding the relationship I so desperately wanted.
40 is looming… and my drinking and partying is increasing as I try to block out my reality. But also I just had to be out somewhere, anywhere, to find that man! I was dumb, single and childless… how could this happen to me? I felt a complete failure despite holding a responsible corporate job (how was this even possible without a degree..?) But I still had my socially glorified appearance; I was still blonde, slim and attractive and felt that was all I had going for me. I also felt additional pressure as looking like I did means a dream life; doesn’t it? So where is my dream life? There must be something seriously wrong with me… My obsession with my weight and appearance is now at dysfunctional levels and I am doing all I can to maintain and fight the aging process even if that meant going into debt further and abusing my body.
41 comes and goes… and I decide that I can’t wait for the man any longer so I attempt IVF with donor sperm to become a single mother. I did 3 fresh cycles all of which I fell pregnant but only for a few weeks. The 4th and final cycle was with frozen embryos and I did not fall pregnant this time. It was at this point, with hormones being pumped into me at dangerous levels, I decided to end my life. Dumb, single and now truly childless. I had an abortion at 27… the regret and hate of myself and my life was too much for me to go on.
There are many factors to my depression over the course of my life but it is this pressure of “doing” life in the right order by the right age that I feel contributed the most to my feelings of pressure and defeat. I hear all the time of parents pressuring their children to go to university or to marry to give them grandchildren, of married women’s judgement of single women and the condescending remarks of why some women can’t find a man as if they have failed, of how the media portrays the “wallflower” or indeed how the media glorifies the white picket fence life.
Some of us are just not meant to fit into that mould. And the ones that don’t but find their passion in life early on and become successful as a result seem to be accepted. But what about the rest of us? The ones who missed the boat but haven’t found anything in life to replace the “norm”? The ones who haven’t found their passion in life but also don’t have the career, man, house, kids? Have we failed in life? Why does society frown on this group as non-achievers? Is this how we measure success? What if the person who doesn’t have the career, man, house, kids is the kindest most generous person you will ever meet? Doesn’t that count..?
And what about the ones who actually achieve the acceptable order of life but aren’t happy? I know of a number of women who fall into this category. They have fallen into the trap of “doing” life in the right order, giving up on their dreams and are miserable. And with the responsibility of a mortgage and children it is very difficult to change course.
Well you know the end of my story. I found my passion at the age of 46 and I am not joking when I say that bodybuilding literally saved my life. My full story here. If my journey has taught me anything it is that we are never too old and it is never too late. The portrayal of a woman aging is another misconception we hold on what we should be “doing” and looking like at a certain age. At 50 I am supposed to be fat, frumpy, complaining about menopause and wasting away in front of the TV as I don’t have the energy for anything else. I celebrated my 50th birthday on stage in a bikini and am planning my next photo shoot at 51. I also enjoy no symptoms of menopause despite being well aware that this time of life is upon me.
Our beliefs about aging and what we should be doing at a certain age are seriously all in our mind. We have been influenced and conditioned that our bodies and life should be a certain way and deteriorate after mid-life. And they will if we believe that this is the case. If we allow the influence of the majority or what we see on TV or what our doctor says or what happened to our parents to determine our story. With the right support anything is possible. Twice I have been told by misguided doctors that I will never lift again and I need surgery. I just shop around until I find a doctor who tells me what I want to hear. Now I have found my passion in life nothing, and I do mean nothing, will stand in my way!
If you have a dream you owe it to yourself, to your life, to chase it! It doesn’t matter what stage you are at in life if you know what sets your soul on fire incorporating it into your life will change your life. Life is too short! How will you feel when you wake up at 60 and realise that time is running out? If you don’t know what your passion is then hire a coach to help you find it! And to help you manage your life to be the best you can be. Please download my free eBook on how I have come to embrace the aging process, achieve what most would consider impossible and defy the norm on this “doing” life in the right order crap!