If you’re a planner like myself, I’m curious: Has your life gone exactly the way you’d expected it to ten years ago? If it has, can you please direct me to the next winning lottery ticket? As for the rest of us planners, I’d guess that our lives are nonetheless different from what we had initially anticipated. Personally speaking, I did not go to the University I had expected; was rejected from the first place I ever interviewed (after crashing my car on their employee patio – but that’s a story for another time); broke up with three different guys, all of whom I had at one point anticipated marrying; and am not enrolled in law school, as I had initially anticipated upon starting my undergrad at Boston College. If you are currently struggling with doubt or disappointment given that your most grandiose, admirable goals have not gone according to “plan,” let me reassure you that oftentimes that very plan not coming to fruition is the biggest stroke of luck you will ever be granted. As I reflect on my past, let’s call them, plan divergencies, I realize that instead of following the path I had wanted for myself at the time, I ultimately achieved the accomplishments that I was meant to, and every deviation from the intended path led me to somewhere even better. Maybe that’s how most lives materialize; as much as we anticipate or hope things will realize a certain way, they oftentimes turn out differently, and that is beyond okay. It’s actually pretty awesome.
What’s the key to transforming these aforementioned plan divergencies and incumbent disappointment into the luckiest possible thing that could ever happen to you? I opine that while every setback in life totally sucks, the mentality we have around the bumps in the road is what truly determines whether this “failure” (which is, for those of you who aren’t planners, what deviating from our initially-intended plan feels like) is a setback or an advance forward. Most motivational speakers will likely concur. Instead of sulking over the breach from our intended path, or my coined “plan divergency,” it is important to question whether or not we are open to exploring other directions that may be intended for us in lieu of this item on our life’s to-do list. Otherwise, this failure demonstrates just how imperative this item on our list truly is, which fuels us with the required tenacity to achieve it. Either way, life is full of uncertainty, and it’s important to be okay with a little change. It is only when we are open to this aberration, that we encounter endless blessings and possibilities along the way.
I’d like to delve into the utterly controversial topic of family planning. I don’t mean birth control or IUD’s, but instead the actual planning we contrive surrounding at what age we’ll marry, start a family, buy a house, and so on. When I first began seriously considering postponing Law School a bit longer to have the opportunity to work abroad in my late twenties, I found myself subconsciously doing the math in my head. It went something like this: Crap. How am I going to be graduating from law school, potentially relocating, and starting a family all at once? What’s worse, is that the few people I did tell about these aspirations had a similar reaction: Isn’t that a bit late to be finishing school? My heart raced as I felt as though I was running out of time (at the mere age of twenty-four, mind you), and I had to make some sort of a decision. When I panicked, I went to my go-to person: Nana. Her response was succinct and simple: What’s the rush? You have an entire life ahead of you
What is the rush? Well, unless we’re all in this secret race to pop out as many kiddos before the rest of our girlfriends, I think this rush comes from the infamous female biological clock that incessantly tick-tocks as we approach the intimidating age of 35, which is the point at which science deems a pregnancy “high risk.” This clock is really cramping our style, because these alleged age limitations on starting a family are changing the way many women see their twenties and thirties.
While the 21st century has brought forth an abundance of new visions and opportunities for women, like breaking the glass ceiling and equal pay, it seems that the burden of bearing children and starting a family still plagues the minds of many millennial women (even subconsciously, as it sometimes does in my case). When I subconsciously struggle with these very thoughts myself, my feminist brain challenges them: “Are any of your male colleagues passing up an opportunity to work in Europe because they’re nervous about starting a family ‘on time’?” Logically, the majority of them are probably not.
Fear-mongering doctors, family and friends, fertility experts and the media perpetuate this idea that if you are able to conceive a child after 35, it’s some type of miracle, even if it still means that your pregnancy is “high risk”. That is, they attest, even if you are lucky enough to birth a child at such an age, you could easily give birth to a child with disabilities or diseases. Women of all ages are smothered with horror stories of infertility, and are shamed into believing that our “limited” supply of eggs might soon be entirely depleted. As more women are conned into rushing to these $10,000 egg-freezing clinics, it’s important to look at the facts. The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant, written by Jean Twenge, contests these very beliefs. Twenge undermines the common notions by showing that they reside upon French birth records dating back to the 1600s. Lucky for us, science has come a long way since.
This narrative that society upholds surrounding women and pregnancy is limiting and damaging. How can we possibly expect women to put their careers and ambitions first, when these daunting pregnancy messages loom ubiquitously? What if a woman does not which to have children, ever? What if a woman does not feel pressured to meet anyone, because she knows that adoption and IVF are also viable options should she want children down the road? What if a woman simply wants to enjoy where she’s at in life, without getting skeptical looks from a passerby when she explains a decision to being law school “later” in life? While women have the liberty (thanks to many arduous female fighters before us) to use birth control, get an abortion, dress how they please, and make it all the way up to the C-suite, our common perceptions and misconceptions around pregnancy are severely limiting our progress. So, to all my readers, stop pressuring others if you happen to be one of those aforementioned “I like to give my opinion on someone else’s life” people. Start planning less. Let life happen. After all, what’s the rush?