life plan

by Molly Kelly

"We have to be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us" -Joseph Campbell

So many of us with "Type A" personalities, have a very hard time with this concept. We plan our days, weeks, months, years and decades. We know where we're going to college, the type of person we will marry, what color granite the kitchen counters in our first home will have, well...maybe not, but you get my point. The idea of our life plan not executing the way we have mapped it out, is a thought almost too stressful to bear. Or so we think.

From adolescence to my early twenties, I planned for the rest of my life. I'd graduate college with a degree in a field that was diverse enough to give me career options but also primarily dominated by men who ended up with successful careers. Political Science, check. I'd find a career in an industry that would allow me to be successful at a young age and again, still remain in the gender minority. Wall Street, check. Neither of these decisions were made because I didn’t want to form female relationships, but instead were based on the fact that they were the quickest means to my "happy ending."

As long as I can remember, my dream life consisted of marrying a successful, Irish, Catholic husband, having a big house in the suburbs, two labs and shortly after, 2 kids, and eventually, a vacation home in the mountains or on the beach. My career didn't really fit into the equation at all, other than the fact that I may need to prove to said successful-husband-candidate that I was smart enough to be a success on my own. Being the Type-A, overachiever that I am, I was confident in my ability to master my plan, but I never in a million years thought I'd have all but one of those goals accomplished before my 26th birthday.

I married at 23 and both my husband and I entered the financial industry with a large Wall Street firm, right before the Internet IPO boom in the late 1990s. There has not been a better time since then to get into our business and the compensation, at that time, was 3-4 times what our friends who became doctors and lawyers are making today. The big house, the dogs, fancy cars, and even a beautiful vacation home in Idaho were all ours at the ripe old ages of 26 and 30. We had some issues with the child plan, but even that was able to be accomplished with the luxuries of hefty paychecks and modern medicine. When our twins were born in February of 2003, I considered my planning and commitment to living out that life plan a huge success. All boxes checked.

As a few years passed by and the stress of my husband's constant travel, me being home alone with twin toddlers, and the ridiculous upkeep of our big house in the ‘burbs started to wear on us, our "life plan" began to fade a bit and our typically rigid structure started to loosen up. I can't tell you exactly why, but I can tell you exactly when. After spending every opportunity we had at our vacation home in Idaho, we really began to fall in love with that laid back lifestyle. We had reserve funds, the real state market was at an all time high, and as we stood in our big, beautiful kitchen in the Atlanta suburbs, my husband said, "what would you think about selling this house and moving to Sun Valley?" I couldn't fathom where that idea fit into our life plan, especially since we were still waiting to hear if he had been accepted to the Executive MBA program at Emory. Regardless, I fell in love with the thought of walking the kids to school and spending my days perfecting my powder turns, so I was all in. We called a real estate agent and before she was able to put the sign in the ground, we had a full-price offer that would allow us to put a substantial amount into savings and ensure that we would live comfortably until we figured out our new life plan.

In 2007, we were sellers at the height of the market, and after a few short months trying to live with two labs and two kids in a town home, we were also buyers at the peak, of a larger family home in the Sun Valley area. In 2008, we watched our real estate and stock portfolios diminish, and by early 2009, we knew we had to get real about this thing we call a "life plan". Despite having earned his MBA at a top business school, having 10+ years in the financial industry, and never once having burned a bridge among his peers, it was a challenge for my husband to find a position in the state of the financial markets at the time. Added to that stress, we found out in May of 2009 that we were pregnant with our third child, which never factored into any plan because of the nightmare we had becoming pregnant with the twins.

That was the day when it became clear to me that it didn't matter how young I was when I started planning or how committed I was to staying the course, the plan for my life was for me to be strong, devoted, loving, and mostly, adaptable, regardless of what curveballs came my way. I could tell many stories about the stresses and strains we would face over the next 3 years, but I would rather discuss where we are today.

Today, I am living in this amazing city and celebrating nearly two years with the same financial firm that I worked for in my 20's. I am more successful than I ever thought I would become, and I love what I am doing as both a career woman and mother. My husband is back with the same firm where he was working when we took our leap of faith to move out west (note the lesson in not burning bridges), we have twins entering the 5th grade and a 3 year old, brilliant, sweet, miracle daughter. Was it hard getting here? YES. Was it ridiculously fun at times? OF COURSE. Approaching 40, do I ever look back and wish that I had stuck to my well-divised life plan? Not for even a minute.

Whether you are just beginning your career on a path you never anticipated, or are contemplating a major change that would derail where you thought you'd be today, you have to let yourself let life take its course. Regardless of your religion or the strength of your spirituality, at some point you will realize that you are not in control of every outcome. If you spend your life trying to control the uncontrollable, you truly are missing out on the life that is waiting for you.