As we get older, there's one thing we all inevitably come to terms with: all the times life didn't look like what you were expecting it to. Rarely does it turn out as perfectly as we're hoping; and nothing can really prepare us for all of the twists and turns we'll face — not school, not parents, not friends. In fact, sometimes, these things unintentionally make matters harder: when we're younger, the people and institutions around us try to shield us from the harsher realities of life, and understandably so. But we're going to face them eventually, and they can catch us completely off guard.
Does that mean life is cruel or unfair? Of course not. Life wouldn't be nearly as interesting if it was perfect, easy, or predictable. The curveballs are what make this wild ride worth it. Eventually, a lot of us come to find that even in our lowest points, we came out the other side having learned something immensely value. And honestly, don't the really awful times make the good times so much better?
That's why we can appreciate the highs and lows of life — even in these moments that we totally didn't see coming our way.
1. Friendships That Just Ended
Sometimes there's a falling out. Other times, there's... nothing. You stop being friends and you don't even know why. We lose touch with people we thought we'd be close to forever; and slowly, you start to doubt the validity of any friendship that comes your way. Is there ever really a way to determine whether or not a friendship will last?
Don't let unhappy endings get the best of you. Instead, try to accept that sometimes, friendships will come and go. Enjoy them while you have them, and do everything you can to make them last. And importantly, don't let an unfavorable ending tarnish the way you look back on the good times — because they were, truthfully, really good.
2. Discovering That Maybe Family Isn't Everything
Ugh. This one stinks. Blood makes us related; but it takes more to make people family. As you get older, you may learn that just because someone is a parent or sibling or cousin, that doesn't mean you have to be best friends with them — or be anything with them, for that matter. We're still human; and not all humans get along. Eventually, you might not feel obligated to keep someone in your life just because you share DNA. It might hurt, but sometimes, it's for the best.
3. Romantic Relationships That Went South
So often, relationships don't end with a breakup. Feelings last for so much longer, which leaves even more opportunity for heartbreak. In chatting with a friend the other day, she shared with me that her first love — whom she was with for seven years — became very bitter after their breakup, dismissing their epic love as childish, stupid, and fake. It hurts her to this day.
You can't always leave your relationships in the past. Some of us will mourn lost love for years to come. This doesn't have to be a terrible thing; but that doesn't mean it'll be easy. What else can we do but get comfortable with the fact that some things will always feel uncomfortable?
4. A Job That Didn't Live Up To Its Expectations
Maybe you got fired. Maybe you stayed for five years but spent half your time pouring coffee and running errands. Maybe your job didn't give you the paycheck or open the doors you thought it would. Because we're always looking for the next best thing, a job that leaves us feeling like we've stalled can seem like the biggest hurdle in the world — a letdown, a disappointment, a failure.
Perspective is crucial here, because you will always, always leave a job — even a horrible one — knowing more than when you went in. Looking at it with regret as time wasted really doesn't serve you, even though that might be your instinct.
5. Goals That Take Much Longer To Reach
Things don't always happen like we plan them to. Maybe you're not debt-free by 25 or married by 28 or growing your family by 30. Every time another birthday passes and we have to acknowledge that we're not as far in life as we had planned, it hurts a little more. Why do we put ourselves under so much pressure?
It takes a little while, but we eventually learn: it's not about the number; it's about learning to enjoy the experience. Life is not merely a series of mountains we climbs; it's all the peaks in between, too. You can't have the good without the bad; so you might as well do yourself a favor and learn to appreciate it all.
6. Struggling With Money For Years
I know people well into their 30s still trying to pay off debt from college; problems like this can make us feel worthless. We're grown adults — why are we still battling with money?! When will it get easier? When will the stress and the burden ease up? When do we get to work a little less and play a little more? It can feel like we're always trying to catch up, and yet we're merely struggling just to keep our heads above water.
It may feel wrong, it may feel pathetic, but it's more common than you think. If you're not whizzing around town in a fancy sports car headed toward your summer home, don't worry — most of us aren't (yet). Statistically, the majority of Americans stress about money. You aren't alone.
7. Having To Work At Staying Positive
As the years wear on, we each experience our own fair share of ups and downs; and sometimes, the downs are too much. You used to be effortlessly upbeat and optimistic; now, it's a struggle to find the good in things. You really have to try, you have to work on it; otherwise, you let the negative get the best of you.
Sure, some people are just more cheery than others; but positivity doesn't always come naturally. We have to practice it every day, or else it can go away. Similar to how we need to exercise regularly to stay healthy, so do we need to practice gratitude daily, find the good, and learn to see the silver lining in the bad. Having to work to be happy doesn't mean you've lived an unhappy life; it just means you've lived.