Maybe it’s time to throw out life “timelines”

There’s been something that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, and this little motivational post is inspired by my own thoughts, as well as the thoughts of others in my life.

Timelines. We all make them. And you know what, we should stop caring so much about them.

For instance, if you had asked me years ago where I would be at 33, I’d probably say that I had a couple of kids, a house and a steady corporate job in communications. Well, not so much. I don’t have any of those things. Don’t get me wrong, what I do have is amazing and more than I could possibly ask for. But if I looked at the timelines I had secretly laid out for myself, I would not be meeting them at all. Does that mean I can’t be happy? Sure doesn’t. In fact, because of how the cookie has crumbled for me (oatmeal raisin, of course), I’ve gotten myself into an entirely different situation, which I could not have guessed, but I sure do love.

Maybe it's time to throw out life -timelines- by A Lady Goes West

You never know where life will take you, and that’s okay

Why? Life happens. I didn’t know that Dave and I would relocate across the country almost five years ago and make huge changes. I didn’t know that our places of residence would get increasingly smaller in square footage all of the years we were together (although we did have a slight bump in size when moving to Walnut Creek this last move). I also didn’t know that my career would take me out of the office setting and pointy-toed heels and into the gym with leggings and a laptop. No idea. In fact, I would have guessed I would have some sort of “director” or “vice president” title at a big company in Florida right now, and I definitely wouldn’t be wearing activewear on weekdays. But I don’t have that title, and I sure am comfortable in my clothes right now. And did I mention that I don’t always know what my income will be each month either? How’s that for unplanned?

You see, it’s smart to prep your meals, plan out your workouts and even pick out your outfit the night before. And yes, you probably want to make a plan for your business to grow and you want to coordinate with relatives before holidays, but guess what … sometimes you can leave the rest of life up to chance.

Appreciate what you have and what you’ve learned

As most of you know, Dave and I are expecting our first child together in October of this year. That means we will have been married for almost five-and-a-half years before having a human kid. (We welcomed our first fur baby together two years ago, and little Rudy Pitt continues to fill me with more joy than I can humanly explain, but that’s neither here nor there.) Even though I would have imagined us having a family by now, that’s not how life worked out, and I realize now that was perfect all along. Our fertility struggles as a couple and my own individual fertility struggles — well — they made me healthier than ever and better prepared than ever to be a parent. (And if you want to know more, please, please, please buy my ebook.)

Throughout our relationship, we’ve had so much time as just the two of us. We’ve traveled so many places and so often — sometimes just picking up at a moment’s notice for a getaway. We’ve lived in perhaps the best city in the United States (San Francisco, of course) and soaked up all it had to offer. We’ve shared a closet, a studio apartment less than 600 square feet, a car, a mini-fridge and the experience of moving across the country — none of which are easy things to do. But these are things we’ve focused on together, and they’ve made us stronger and better people. And we’ve each worked really hard in our respective careers, with mine being all over the place the last few years.

Most of my friends back in Florida have multiple kids and a mortgage and are climbing the corporate ladder. They are so happy. They love their lives. And I love them. But that path, which perhaps I saw myself going down years ago, clearly wasn’t my path and also wasn’t my timeline. I’m on my own little journey, and although it may seem strange to some — especially to those who still don’t even quite know what it is I do for a living — it’s just what I want, and it’s just at the right time. 

The reason I’m writing this post, which has virtually nothing to do with health, fitness or food, as most of my posts do, is because we can all be our own worst enemies when it comes to self-doubt, self-pity and self-reflection — and negative thoughts can affect our health too. Positivity. Mindfulness. Gratefulness. These are the types of things that bolster our health. But you have to be proactive to think them and feel them.

It’s never too late to make a change

What am I trying to say with all of this? Basically, where you are right now, is where you are meant to be. And if it’s not where you thought you would be, that’s okay, you’ve still got time. For instance …

  • If you are 20 pounds overweight and inactive and that’s not how you saw yourself — that’s okay. Start today to make some changes. And once you adopt a new healthy lifestyle, I can guarantee that you will make lasting habits that will help you to keep the weight off. Because you will have perspective. You won’t go back to where you are now.
  • If you are single and watching all of your friends get married — that’s okay. You clearly haven’t met the right person yet, and you don’t want to be stuck with the wrong person, do you? Instead, you’ve had a chance to date people who maybe weren’t right. Each bad date told you more and more about what you don’t want. And you’ve also had time to work on yourself and be alone. (Do you know how important it is to be able to be alone?) That will make you an even better partner when you do find the right person. And if you thought you’d be married by 30, and you’re not — that’s okay too. You’ll have a nicer and bigger wedding with the right person when the time is right. And you’ll never look back and wish you had done it sooner, because you’ll be so happy once it happens.
  • If you are in a bad spot with your family or friends and wish that things were different — that’s okay. Make amends. Work toward strengthening your relationships and take with you that feeling of what it’s like to NOT have those people in your life, so you know to protect those relationships moving forward.
  • If you are broke and living on your parents’ couch — that’s okay. I’m sure your parents love having you at home, number one. And number two: being able to save up and prepare for your next move is an awesome opportunity. Once you know what it’s like to pinch your pennies, you’ll forever be better with money and will have even more drive to succeed. Who cares if you thought you’d have a penthouse by this point, if it’s meant to happen, it will.

There are all sorts of things in life that don’t turn out exactly how we plan. But that doesn’t mean those things turned out wrong. They just are what they are. Forget your expectations. Forget your timelines. Live your life and know that your individual and unique path is just for you. 

Stay in your lane and know that everything happens for a reason

When I was struggling to get pregnant, I used to get pretty down when I would look around me and see so many of my peers and friends having their second or even third child. I would constantly say to myself “this isn’t where I thought I would be by now.” But you know what — if everything that happened to me had not happened, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have written a book, putting my personal business out there for the world to read. I wouldn’t be able to help other women who feel totally alone and are struggling with something that is a lot more common than we’d like to think in the fitness industry, which I’m part of. And I also wouldn’t be writing this sappy and long, rule-breaking post for you today either.

For those of us healthy-living obsessed type-A ladies and gents, it can be super hard to relax a bit on the life timelines and goals. But take it from this wise old gal … everything works out eventually. Be well, my friends!

Motivational pep talk alert: @apstyle tells us why we don't need so many life timelines ... Click To Tweet

Photo credit: Tamalyn Ann Photography. Linking up with Amanda!

Questions of the day

What’s something that you thought you would have done by now in life?

What’s one thing you are grateful for right now?

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49 Comments

  1. Life isn’t linear. I would have said the same thing (but in architecture and adaptive reuse) when asked where I would be at 33. Right now, I will be happy as a clam to have a child of my own (my blood or otherwise) and or a job that I enjoy. As long has I have my little family, regardless of what it looks like, I will find happiness.

    1. Hi Susie! I know we talked about this a little when we were together a couple of months ago in Chicago — things may not be what we expect, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be great or even be better! And YES, you will have a larger little family (you already have fur ones) one day soon, lady! πŸ™‚

  2. It’s crazy looking at the timelines we set for ourselves. I’m sort of on the same path but there are so many things that have come up and thrown curveballs. But, everything works out. I try to remind myself of that. We may not be where we thought and wanted, but it’s exactly where we need to be.

    1. Hi Heather! It sure is crazy that we set up all sorts of things/parameters that we really don’t need to meet. I guess it’s that we’re never quite present in the present, and we should be! πŸ™‚ Thanks, lady!

  3. Definitely time to throw out timelines. After college I moved from OH to MD, thinking it would be temporary and met my now husband on the first day of work, so that was a major curve ball. I think having timelines makes us not live in the moment and enjoy what we do have. I wish I was a bit happier with my career and that we had a bigger house, but I keep telling myself everything will all work out, you can’t plan it all.

    1. Hi Patricia! Yes, living where you didn’t expect or really plan to live is a curveball, especially when it puts you far away from families (I feeeeel ya!). But it also means you get all sorts of new experiences. And with the career and the house — those things can change in an instant! Thank you, lady!

  4. This is so true, Ashley! Whenever I think back to where I thought I’d be in life, it’s definitely not where I am. But, in many ways it’s way better! I have to remind myself to not compare or try to plan so much! It just causes unnecessary anxiety

    1. Hi Heather! Sure does cause anxiety thinking about “what should have been” — but it’s VERY freeing to forget all of that. And yes, you should be happy with where you are right now! Especially with the big life changes coming to you very soon when your little one arrives!! πŸ™‚

  5. Thank you so much for this, Ashley. I must confess, this made me cry. That second bullet point is obviously me to a tee. I just got back from a weekend away where I was literally the 9th wheel (4 couples and me), and while I felt joy for my friend’s wedding and her happiness, going back to my room alone each night was pretty melancholy. But thank you for making it seem not so bad and for helping me see there can be plus sides to it.
    Xoxo.

    1. Hi Courtney! Oh no — a weep? I hope you weren’t at work yet when you cried hehehe. But if you were, that’s okay too. I know it is SO hard in the moment to realize that things will work out — BEEN THERE — but they will. Keep your HEART open! And it’s sad to be alone, but you also have so many great things going for you, lady! You’re a CATCH!! Thank you for reading, my friend!!!!

      1. Thanks for the kind words, Ashley! I actually was at work, but it wasn’t a full on sob, so I managed a quick recovery. No shame in my emotional game!

        I truly enjoy these “deeper” posts, even though they break the rules and are probably a bit out of your comfort zone. You have always been such a positive person and that is so admirable. But the raw, real you is quite lovable and relatable (is that spelled right?!) and I am sure I’m not the only one who is enjoying the insight.

        I am halfway into your eBook and loving every line of that as well. I’m looking forward to continuing on your journey as a reader and {hopefully} a friend. Xoxo.

  6. Love this post! It’s so true!! I ended up having kids later than I expected as well but I’m thankful too BC I can stay at home with them & teach fitness classes (which I love). I never would have guessed that we would live in LA for 3 years and be in Dallas by now too!

    1. Hi Marielle! Yup! Living in new places is SOOOO good for you as a person — and I would NEVER trade my experiences with that, even if it means being far from family. And how awesome you can take care of your kiddos and teach classes — a DREAM set-up, although not an easy one either! πŸ™‚ Keep up the good work, lady!

  7. This. This is perfect. I am extremely type A and have continually set up “timelines” for where I thought I needed to be. I will be 28 in a few months and constantly think I need to finish my Master’s by 30, have a kid or be pregnant by 30, have a bigger house and it’s stressful and consumes my time with worrying rather than enjoying life where I am right now. Thank you for the reminder to be grateful for the fact that I have a wonderful husband, a house to live in, no matter how small it may be, a great job and wonderful family. The perfect read to help me re-evaluate my mindset πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Ashley! 30 is nothing significant, except for an even number hehehe. I know we all like to have things set by then, but really, you’re still figuring things out at 30. I TOTALLY get it that you want to move forward in life, but it will happen it it’s own time. And some people like tiny houses as a thing — you know? hahahah! Keep doing a great job at life, lady! No stressing!! πŸ™‚ And THANK YOU for reading!

  8. I love this!!! Thank you for writing it. I had a tough stretch when I was pregnant thinking about how my career wasn’t what I had envisioned for myself – it’s a good career, no question…but I thought I would be doing something totally different. When I stepped back and realized – “hey, who cares, I’m happy!”- I was able to get over it. Life is a journey for all of us. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Stephanie! TOTALLY! I think it’s very easy to think that things would be better if you had a different job or a different house or more money, or whatever. But really, we can all make things better by just appreciating what we have! And you will continue to grow and make changes and maybe do something entirely different in your job one day. The journey!! YES!! Thank you for reading and saying hi, lady! πŸ™‚

  9. I love this post Ashley, thank you! I agree with everything you say, and I think the toughest part can be comparing yourself to others, but it is true what they say – ‘comparison is the thief of joy!’
    I may not have kids of my own, have a huge house or earn a heap of money, but I do have a long term partner, 2 beautiful stepkids and an awesome dog so I have a pretty full life and I guess I need to remember that.

    Thanks also for the reminder that it is never too late to change something we’re unhappy with – for me I WILL get those 20lbs off ha!
    Love from Scotland. x

    1. Hi lady! You have a LOT to be thankful for with a list like that! And yes — it’s SO hard not to play the comparison game. But it is totally the thief of joy. And social media doesn’t make it any easier on us. You have your whole life ahead of you to make changes, and when you feel you are ready, you can do it. When it comes to weight — it won’t happen overnight, but even those first few pounds will feel SOOO good! You can do it!! πŸ™‚ Thank you, thank you, for reading! πŸ™‚

  10. I love your blog because I love YOU, but I can’t always relate to fabulous health advice because unfortunately this is not my healthiest shape I’ve been in. I’ve gotten busy and left healthy eating and exercise “unchecked” on my never ending to-do list. I can however definitely relate to this post, maybe more than any other. When I look back on all the things that didn’t go the way I planned, or perhaps was even a giant fail at the time, I can without a doubt say those events shaped the amazing life I have now. Sometimes its nearly impossible to see the silver linings on the bad stuff, but there really always is one. One of my favorite quotes of all time (by Marilyn Monroe oddly enough hehe) is “Sometimes good things fall apart, so better things can fall together”. Its totally true…… xoxox Kristen

    1. You are so wise, my friend! I have never heard that quote by Marilyn Monroe, but it’s amazing! I will have to use that one day. You are the sweetest, and I forever will appreciate your friendship. I LOVE that you can look at things that have happened and know that they totally shaped you — they did. We are each a collection of our life’s happenings, and we need both good and bad to learn! LOVE YOU, Kristen!!! πŸ™‚ As far as being healthy right now, it only takes a little change each day to feel better in some way. You’ll do it eventually!

  11. Yes to all of this. I can totally relate — growing up when I pictured myself at 26 almost 27 I would’ve assumed I’d still be auditioning and hustling as an actor. I never would’ve guessed that I left that world to pursue fitness and I DEFINITELY would’ve have guessed I’d be getting my masters degree at a business school.

    This different path isn’t better or worse. It’s different, it’s where life has taken me and I’ve decided to go along with it.

    1. Hi Kayla! Living in a big city can definitely lead us in new directions, and that’s a beautiful thing! I LOVE that you’re in fitness and also getting a business degree — that’s a lot of work, lady! πŸ™‚ Keep up the awesome job!

  12. Thank you very much for this post. It’s exactly what I need at this time in my life. You book is also very helpful and amazing. Thanks again for putting your story out to the world.

    1. Hi Colleen! Thank YOU for reading the book and the blog. I know it can be tough to think you are alone in a hard situation — but usually — you’re just growing and getting stronger throughout the struggle. You’re doing great, lady! Keep the faith! πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Ashley. This was a fabulous article. Being retired for 14 years I read it in past tense than to the present or future as many of your younger readers would. But as I read it I felt that I had gotten myself to where I wanted in life. I taught elementary school for 35 years. Fifth grade all those years. I felt very comfortable in that position. Also coached at the high school. I felt I had the best of two jobs. Worked with young minds during the day and coached young adults after school. Your article just reenforced how I felt about my professional life. Thanks for that article.

    1. Hi Richard! That is amazing to hear! You probably made a HUGE impact on the lives of all the kids you got to teach throughout the years, and how cool is that? I can think back of a few teachers that were important to me! Thank you so much for reading and saying hello!! πŸ™‚

  14. Amen, sistah! I thought I would be married with kids by the time I was 30. BUT…. I didn’t meet my amazing man until I was 29 1/2. Then, I thought we would be married within two years BUT my dad got sick and ultimately passed away right before our Two Year Mark. I needed time to move on from that before getting engaged. None of this was ideal BUT now I know what my relationship is made of and just how lucky I am. And at the Four Year Mark, at age 33, I get to marry my best friend. Funny how life works – gotta just roll with it!

    1. Hi Nicole! Wow! I’m so sorry to hear that your Dad passed, but I have a feeling that that experience brought your closer to your fiance — even if it meant delaying your marriage. We learn SO much from hardships. And perspective is everything! Thank you for saying hello on the blog, lady! πŸ™‚

  15. Such a good reminder Ashley! I can definitely get caught up in the “timeline” of how I think things should be. I am learning that my life is not a straight neat, path- and that is the beauty of life! Trusting the process can be hard, but it feels so much better to be in the moment and let go of that control and stop “shoulding.”

    1. I like the term “shoulding” — I may have to use that, Sarah. Good one! And YES, YES, YES — we need to stop shoulding. Life goes in strange paths, and if we soak up every thing from the path – we’re way better off. Thank for saying hi, lady!

  16. I relate so much to this. At 33 I’d assume I’d be married, in a house, with a kid on the way.
    Instead, I’m not married, in a condo, with two cats, and definitely zero kids. None of it was planned, and that’s okay, because I’ve learned a lot and I’m probably a better person for it.

    “Do you know how important it is to be able to be alone?” <– THIS. This was so important for me to learn. I think everyone needs to know how to be their own company.

    1. Hi Ange! YES, so happy to hear that this one resonated with you! And being ALONE is so important. Living alone too. I lived alone for about a year after college — great experience. I feel ya on the 33 thing and maybe not being where you expected — but hey, your two cats are probably pretty darn happy of where you are right now heheh! YAY for sweet pets, who love us all the time. Thank you for reading, my friend! Keep doing YOU! πŸ™‚

  17. Love this! Such a great post and reminder that wherever we are is ok, thank you for opening up. Can’t wait to read your ebook!

    1. Hi Kirsten! Thank YOU for reading! I’m glad that you liked this one — sometimes you have to hear it from someone else to know it’s okay to relax a little. And I hope you enjoy my ebook! Please tell me what you think. πŸ™‚ Have a great night, gal!

  18. I definitely needed this post right now! Being in a tough spot with my job and where to go in life. I am not happy with what I do and am striving to find a passion in something. Such a great reminder that even though I am not where I want to be at the moment, being right here is okay!

    1. Hi Ashley! Glad to hear that you needed this one! And you are NOT alone in wanting to make some changes in your career. Enjoy the perks of your current job and start working toward where you want to go. It’s never too late! Thanks for saying hi! πŸ™‚

  19. Great post! I can definitely relate. I am turning 31 next month and the past year or so has been rough and a lot of transition. My boyfriend and I broke up, I was depressed and alone in a city far from home so I quit my job and moved closer to home, and now live with my sister while I start my own business! Definitely not what I had pictured for this point in my life but that’s ok! I also got to go to Greece with family for my 30th birthday last year so that helped ease the entering a new decade drama.

    1. Hi Jill! Wow! Big changes for you! But maybe this particular set of changes will lead you somewhere amazing? I know it can be tough to start over or start a new thing — but totally worth it. Good luck with your BIZ! I bet your sis is super excited to have you! πŸ™‚ And hey — turning 30 doesn’t mean all that much!

  20. I loved this post! You have an amazing platform and I love that you used it for something that we all need to hear and can relate too. I spent a lot of my 20’s playing the compare game because I didn’t do what I was “expected”. I got married when I was 20, bought my first house at 23, built my career but didn’t have kids until 12 years later! I’m turning 33 next month and I’m exactly where I want to be. I’m married (though kids really change things), bought a wonderful house, have the career I’ve wanted since I was a kid, and have 6 month twin boys. I realize to some I have it all. But everything comes with sacrifice. And I struggled with infertility for many years. Everything turns out exactly how it should. If I had kids when I was first married I probably wouldn’t be married anymore. Having kids has been the best and most challenging thing in my life so far. I absolutely love it! Even though now I am in sync with the timeline I sometimes envy those that played it different. Again everything comes with sacrifice. The best thing is being present and loving where you are.

    1. Hi Alicia! Wow! I cannot thank you enough for this sweet and thoughtful comment. I’m so glad that you have a family now — and yes — I bet it is super challenging to have little kids around to take care of. Your timeline is perhaps different than others — but if you’ve learned from your life and experiences and enjoyed the ride, then it’s made you who you are! That’s wonderful! πŸ™‚ Amen for being present and loving where you are! πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading!!

  21. Such a great post, Ashley! I’m right there with you in that I thought my life would be in a different place by now (I’ll be 33 in Sept). We don’t have babies or a house but I’m okay with that right now. I know it will happen in due time and what’s meant to be will be. In the meantime, being grateful for what we have is the most important thing we can do. <3

    1. Hi Sarah! Well moving across the country can always put a damper on life plans. And I KNOW you guys know about that, just like we do. I’m so happy you have a new pup now and are settling into your new place. We miss you!! πŸ™‚

  22. Love this. And would just add that it’s not just the timelines – but the events ON the timelines. E.g., the expectation (as I found) to have children. We were not able to – pursued some infertility work up – then decided that having kids was not for us. Yes, a choice that I never saw myself making, but the absolute right choice for us. And yet, so many people *expected* us to just pursue all avenues to having kids. Letting go of the “should haves” and “should dos” is so, so freeing. Live your life. Others will deal. πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Anne! Wow! Thank you SO much for your thoughtful comment. I agree that people do NOT have to get married and have kids and follow the same path that others are following. You will always know if your heart whether something is right for you, and this is a good reminder. Forget the “should dos!” Thanks again, lady. πŸ™‚

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