All The Things I Haven’t Done (Yet)

When freedom looks different than we first imagined

I got into a fight with my fiancé last night. Well, not exactly a fight. A discussion during which I was upset with him, though he had done nothing wrong. I raised my voice, I cried. You see, there are The Things I Was Going To Do. You know them. You have them yourself. Those things you always assumed you would do. The unexamined, the un-acted on. The things that sit in the back of our imaginations, that go into the mythologies we tell ourselves about ourselves. The things we turn over in the moments before sleep, when we’re bored, when we’re desperate.

They are what I imagined I’d do when I was young, before I went out into the world to try to do anything.

I had vague, romantic imaginings of my future. I always thought, for instance, that I would live in Paris, for a year, maybe more, or somewhere else abroad. This probably came from watching Sabrina too many times. I thought I would marry somebody foreign, live in many different places, do some work that was important, interesting, glamorous perhaps. I never examined any of this, or tried to make it happen. I always just assumed I would at some point, the way I assumed everything would work out, the way I assumed things would get easier, the way I assumed that I would become more free the older I got.

Now I’m at the end of my third decade. I haven’t lived in Paris for a year, and instead of living in many different places, I have lived in one city now for almost six years. My work is somewhat interesting, halfway important, and only glamorous from the outside looking in. I chose all of it, and I made all of it happen. But now that I’m getting married (to a wonderful man, who is foreign born and American now), I started thinking about The Things. I started asking myself, if I get married, can I still do The Things with my partner?

So I brought it up with him. I said, “I always thought I would do these things, like live in different cities in the US, and live abroad, and I’m afraid you don’t want to.” As I spoke, I began to feel angry at him. Angry at him because I thought he didn’t want those things. And nervous to marry him, because I thought marrying him would stop me from doing those things.

But what I should have asked myself was why haven’t I done them yet? Because the truth is, he won’t stop me. I stopped myself a long time ago. Why didn’t I do the things I imagined I’d do? The easy answer is that I was afraid to do them, and I made the wrong choices. This is easy because I can tell myself that if I am braver, I can make all the right choices, do All The Things, and have no regrets.

But the honest answer, the harder answer, is that The Things didn’t fit in with the real life I was living, the choices I was making to achieve what I wanted at the time. Maybe I lived in one place for six years for the wrong reasons (staying in a past relationship I should have ended years before I moved to this city), or maybe the right ones (building the career I wanted during a recession). I made choices, for different reasons, and that meant I couldn’t do All The Things.

After I raised my voice at him, my fiancé said, “You won’t be happy if we just move somewhere else. It will be novel, you will be entertained, while it’s new. Like anything new. But then it won’t be new anymore, and you will have to find something else.”

At first I thought, marriage will take away my freedom. It’s a scary thought, but it’s an easy one. There’s a quick, external solution. Don’t get married, freedom preserved. But what is difficult is coming to terms with the fact that the solution is internal. I thought freedom was being able to do All The Things. I thought, I think we all think, that it is the whirlwind of travel, the excitement of new loves, the state of endless possibility. But what freedom looks like after the whirlwind is over is being content in the silence. It’s forgiving myself for not doing All The Things, for not being what I imagined I’d be. It’s facing down the empty spot and making something with it. It’s being able to make a choice in the face of endless possibility.

Sarah Bumbarger

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  • Moe

    “But what I should have asked myself was why haven’t I done them yet? Because the truth is, he won’t stop me. I stopped myself a long time ago. Why didn’t I do the things I imagined I’d do? The easy answer is that I was afraid to do them, and I made the wrong choices.”
    Awww that’s the kicker!!! Ugh!! Living with the regret of things you should have done (or wanted to do) is harder than living with the regret of the bad choices I’ve made! Every choice in life is always going to cancel out the possibilty of something else. Because I married my wonderful husband I will never be able to marry Christian Bale. (he’s still on my crush list though)

    The real challenge in all this is taking on the personal responsibilty for the choices that I did make. If I allow my circumstances to decide for me then I remove myself from responsiblty and I get to blame the new spouse or whatever on why I’m not living the life I want.

  • It’s the conundrum that when you choose one door, all the other doors close behind you, all the other paths disappear. And now that you join with another person’s life, all these decisions have to be made together, with consideration. At times this is easy and at times this is hard.
    I love this article. I really really do.

    • Lauren from NH

      This really says it for me. I think you have to remember that all paths are choices and all come with some drawbacks (even if only the drawback of being different from the other possibly paths). And for me it definitely speaks to getting married young, or in my case finding your person young. I had less wild nights, romantic flings and shortly after graduating we moved in together. And there are low times when I feel isolated as many of my school friends live in the next city over and if not for my partner I would probably be sharing a house with one of them. But I chose this. You can’t have all things at once and of all the doors I could have chosen, this one as the one most important to me. It’s almost the easy choices that we have to go back in mourn in a way, when we were so confident and got just what we wanted, we start to wonder if we missed something. And of course we did, we miss things all the time, but for me the things I would really regret missing are the experiences I am having right now.

      • NicoleT

        I feel like you just wrote about my life right now. I found my person young as well and I’m experiencing the same exact things. It’s hard visiting my friends and hearing about great parties or late night hangs that I couldn’t go to. But at the end of the day, I think I would be horribly unhappy and confused without my FH, so I’m glad it’s worked out this way. And I know that if I really take a good, long look at myself, the only reason I’m not doing things I want to is because I’m subscribing to the opinions of others, convincing myself that they’d think poorly of me if I did [blank].

        • Lauren from NH

          Yeah a part of it is definitely the narrative of what you are supposed to do when you are young, party and get around, and part of it is nostalgia and missing your friends and in some ways being in a different life phase than them. We could definitely go to parties or bars or clubs as a couple and have a great time and do occasionally but really we are homebodies. So he’s not holding me back from doing those things, instead he is my cuddle buddy on the couch watching our favorite shows and being assistant to my head chef when we explore cooking new dishes and dragging me to the gym with him or me dragging him out for a run. I think you realize that you have to try harder and re-imagine some of the pieces that fall by the way side when you chose a certain path. In this instance, I am working hard to make new friends (which sometimes seems as daunting as climbing mount everest) and finding ways to expand and treasure the limited time I have with old friends, and with a bit of luck sometimes the two go together. And it is wonderful to always have my partner’s support, even if he cannot do these things for me.

          We hosted a wonderful little potluck this past Friday, which we like to call “Family Dinner”. It was great to reunite and be together like when we all lived on the same campus.

          • Dess

            so good to hear from other people in this situation!

    • Felicity

      I’ve found that I actually need to mourn the closed doors sometimes because I can so vividly imagine the alternate choices. Maybe it sounds weird, but I felt this way when I chose a college. I loved where I went, but I could still picture the alternate versions of my life if I’d made a different choice.

      • Meg Keene

        UGH CHOOSING COLLEGE. I was so absorbed with the idea that I’d marry someone different depending where I went, just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

        AND THEN I MARRIED SOMEONE FROM HIGH SCHOOL. Joke’s on me, universe.

      • Jules

        Same boat! When I was in school, I started wondering aloud what it would have been like to attend somewhere else – what would my life look like? Then my friends from college didn’t understand at all and assumed it meant I was unhappy (I wasn’t), so I shut up about it.

        Now I have the same conundrum with my job (like it, very grateful, don’t love it, what if this isn’t party of My Thing?) and am working on shifting gears to be a PA. It’s terrifying.

        If there’s anyone who truly loves her job out there, and it wasn’t where you started out, I would love to know what it took to get there and how you knew you’d arrived.

        • Libby

          I just mentioned this in a comment above, but I did make a big job change. Here’s how I did it. It took me about a year to work myself up to just admitting that I wanted a change, and another couple years to secure the job I now have and love. I was a high school teacher, which was rewarding, but I knew it wasn’t right for me. My partner is a teacher, so for me part of the challenge was really being honest with myself about wanting to choose a career for my own fulfillment and happiness. I spent a lot of time journaling and really thinking about who I am (my values, priorities, skills) and what I wanted out of my work. I read two books, “Do What You Are” and “What Colour is Your Parachute”, which helped me clarify these things. I knew all along that I wanted to write/edit/work with words in some way, so I decided to take two continuing education classes that focused on those skills: a copy-editing class and a “writing for print media” class at a reputable university. My B.A. was pretty general, and I’d been out of school for a few years at that point, so I found it incredibly helpful to a)learn a set of job-specific skills b)meet other students who loved the same things I did and c)be learn things that fed into what I loved. It was incredibly empowering. As I started to narrow down the fields that might suit me, I started conducting “informational interviews” with people who worked in those fields (What Colour is Your Parachute explains this well). That helped me build some contacts and also get a better understanding of the job market, and what roles would/wouldn’t suit me. I applied to an internship that was posted through the university where I took my courses, completed the internship and got some continuing freelance work with them. That gave me the confidence to start doing more freelance work when I moved to a new hometown for my partner’s job. For me, the biggest challenges had nothing to do with the job market. The challenges were pushing myself to put myself out there, believing that I deserved it, and really doing the work that it took to get the type of career I wanted. For me, it paid off when I was offered a job I had never even considered. I’m now the editor of a regional magazine, and a contributing writer at the local newspaper, and I love it. At the end of the day I come home happy & fulfilled, and to me that makes all the difference. Feel free to contact me if you want to know more – this was a pretty long post!

          • Jules

            Thanks for the info! I will definitely look up those two books.

            Fortunately I have a lot of contacts in the particular field I’m interested in, which has helped me get a handle on whether it’d be a good fit. It is definitely be hard for me to look past the security of my relatively unfulfilling job…or maybe it’s just the workplace. (If you’ve read some of my recent posts, ha.)

  • MC

    The last paragraph = YES. Especially as someone getting married young-ish, I love complicating the “marriage is the end of freedom” message you (or at least I) hear constantly. Yes, there are choices that will be harder to make now that I have a partner for life, but there will also be easier choices, too.

    • Felicity

      Yes! Decisions might be more complex or multifaceted, but now I’m part of a team, which has benefits.

    • Dess


  • JDrives

    So much this. I also semi-panicked when I met my now-fiance and felt those “this is the rest of my life” feelings. I always dreamed of living/studying abroad, or at least doing some solo travel before getting married. I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to do those things anymore. It didn’t help that marriage is so often compared to some sort of weight or bondage in our cultural narrative – “tied down,” “settled down,” “ball and chain.” “Never” is not a fun word.

    But, would I have ever had the courage (or even true desire) to upend my life and move an ocean and several continents away from my family? Probably not. I had a hard enough time being at the other end of the state for college. And of course, if I had done all that, would I have met this person who has become my best friend and awesome travel buddy? Almost certainly not. So, I count my blessings. I see my relationship as an anchor, in a good way, grounding me and reminding me of what’s important. I have still been able to do some of The Things that I wanted (grad school, solo travel), and those experiences were enriched by having someone there to support me. And right now, the best is that we get to plan The Things we are going to do together someday.

    • up_at_Dawn

      I think that perhaps the cultural narratives around marriage that seem to say “your life and all fun ends here” really need to change. That’s part of the problem- we’re framing it as marriage = giving up all the dreams you had. Which it isn’t.

      • Dess

        It reminds me of the “ghost ship that didn’t carry us” essay a little bit

      • JDrives

        You’re so right. Which is why I love posts like this, that encourage discussion, and encourage us to tell stories that counter this prevalent line of thought that a marriage is the hard and fast end of fun, independence, etc.

      • Lauren from NH

        I find you hear this especially directed at men, which makes me very uncomfortable. When applied to married men, which it often is, it seems to say they would have been better off never getting married, and when applied to unmarried men, it seems to feed this almost allergic reaction to commitment. This stereotype as aimed at men, implies or openly states, your family is a massive burden, the black hole that sucks all fun out of everything, and your wife is a tyrannical dictator. I don’t understand how this stereotype endures when most people do eventually get married. Do they just sign up to hate their life because getting married is what people do?

        It is now being aimed more at young women too. Like others have said you have to get all your living done before you meet someone and get married because marriage is the buzz kill of your youth, growth, and adventure. Yet that whole “no one to tie me down and keep me from chasing this or that dream or opportunity” sounds independent to the point of being selfish, self absorbed and lonely. It wouldn’t be only romantic relationships you would leave behind or have to compromise if an opportunity involving great change arose. Relationships with friends and family would also be impacted if you took on a demanding opportunity or moved far away and having people in your life is very important. I tend to think it is the most important, but that’s just me.

        • KH_Tas

          When it is aimed at women, I think it is based in the historical context, because women having independence in marriage is a relatively new thing (I found my aunts teacher training papers, which treated a woman being fired for getting married as both legal and acceptable). From that background, marriage being something that builds up a woman’s outside-the-home dreams is a very radical concept

  • kmlc

    Oh, I could have used this 4 years ago. I had this exact same fight/discussion when I was engaged and we had just bought a house. I was terrified that this step (really, the house more than the marriage) represented The End of All My Half-Thought Dreams.

    And sure, some of those dreams have not/did not come true. And some of that is because they weren’t the direction that worked for me at the time, or even the direction I truly wanted to go. (And some of it’s because I was too scared/lazy/distracted to really work at them). I think that’s just life/early 20s. I hope so. I know it’s a challenge to really look at those dreams and figure out which ones you really want and which ones are doable- and then have the guts to go do them (married or no, homeowner or no).

  • ruth

    Wow! Thank you for writing this. I really needed to hear this today. I’ve been dealing with a different version of “the things” in my life recently – I did “the thing” I’d always dreamed about since I was a little girl, namely, move to New York City. I’m glad I picked up the courage to do that “thing” – because the past 10 years here have been an incredible adventure – but recently my husband and I looked at each other and realized that life here is just too f*cking expensive, unsustainable, and stressful and hard. I realized I had wrapped up a lot of my identity with this “thing” – this city – I feared if I abandoned it, I would loose a part of myself. As we move to close on a house in the suburbs, which fills me with joy and terror – I’m starting to realize that what I really wanted was a certain state of being – a life filled with joy and wonder – and in my mind, I made it mean a certain city, a “thing.” But that feeling doesn’t have to come from that thing – it could come from all sorts of things, things I haven’t even dreamed up yet. I wish you the best with all The Things in your life! As someone who was terrified of marriage, because I thought it had to mean the end of freedom, I’ve learned recently that marriage can mean whatever you want it to mean.

  • Laura

    It’s important to grieve the life you thought/hoped/dreamed you were going to have when it doesn’t turn out that way. I was brought to tears, for instance, walking through Lower Manhattan last (magically bright and sunny) weekend thinking about the life I had imagined/nearly attained for us. But circumstances change, things happen that you can’t anticipate, and you have to adapt, sometimes slowly without noticing, sometimes rapidly and gut-punchingly. And sometimes maybe it would be easier if there wasn’t somebody “chained” to your side, but. I wouldn’t trade it. Having been given the choice, I did not trade it. But I mourned (and still mourn) a life I thought we would have.

  • cg

    I totally relate to this. When I moved in with SO it was a tough year or two. I had always wanted to be independent, I’d always been open to a serious relationship if it happened – but it was never a goal. Giving up my own place, merging things and lives and goals was hard and I took it out on him. It took a while for me to realize he wasn’t changing-me/stopping-me/holding-me-back and for him to realize I wasn’t actually angry at HIM. Since then we have really grown together, and give each other room and support to do things independently as well as together as a team.

  • up_at_Dawn

    I was briefly overwhelmed with nostalgia- as I too, have seen Sabrina (both versions) many many times. It was my grandma’s favourite movie. <3 This is also perhaps why I have wanted to live abroad- and have yet to do it.

    I agree with other posters that in making a choice- other choices become impossible. When I started to get serious with my SO I had several panic attacks related to similar things (never living abroad- see it's the movie, never being single again, and so on). There are pros and cons to making any of these choices. I was worried for so long that making a choice would stop me from doing all of the things I wanted to do.

    But then I realized the major things holding me back were me (duh) and also finances. But we do change through our lives and I'm not the same person I was at 16 with the same goals or priorities- and therefore my life in my midtwenties looks pretty different than I expected. But it's not really better or worse, just different. Also I have a kick-ass partner- so in that way, life is better than I expected.

  • Kirstin

    Yes. Just yes.

  • Dess

    This! wow. Acknowledging the simultaneous beauty of dreams and realities that don’t always line up nicely together (hello wiley ducks!) while holding fast a determination to authenticity can be so. damn. hard. Speaking as a young woman, I think that many young women face a particular social pressure to “resist losing your freedom”…which sets marriage up as a losing situation and implies that it is a diminishing force, thereby making you a diminished version of yourself once you enter into it. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but yikes!

    Ps. Dear Meg and APW Team: Thank you for providing a platform for these realities that so often go unspoken or ignored!

  • Felicity

    THIS. APW, how do you always read my heart and publish what I need to hear?

    I have a version of this freakout in cycles, often brought on by reminders on Facebook or through alumni publications about what people I knew in college are doing now. I have to remind myself that K and I want to live abroad together. It’s a shared goal. We are now a team moving towards our mutual and independent goals. Sometimes it helps me to remember that “get married to a wonderful person” was on my All The Things list, too. That my stable relationship is a thing to be coveted and to work towards, just living abroad or doing the other things I glamorize.

    • Lauren from NH

      This is part of it for me too! I have always been such a high achiever, not trying to win at everything but I love a challenge. And the crappy job market post grad has left me feeling like 2 years out and I don’t have much to show for my education. But my personal accomplishments, including my relationship, are nothing to sneeze at. I have to keep telling myself that, rather than kicking myself in the nads on behalf of the cultural stigma that only professional accomplishments matter

  • Daniella

    I might just have to print out that last paragraph and read it to myself a few days a week. So lovely and so honest. Thank you, I feel so humbled (and I am sure my man would thank you for helping me to articulate that I am sorry for blaming him sometimes)

  • Granola

    So this: So I brought it up with him. I said, “I always thought I would do these
    things, like live in different cities in the US, and live abroad, and
    I’m afraid you don’t want to.” As I spoke, I began to feel angry at him.
    Angry at him because I thought he didn’t want those things. And nervous
    to marry him, because I thought marrying him would stop me from doing
    those things.”

    Especially for women I think the narrative is that you have to do EVERYTHING before you “settle down.” I totally sort of resented my husband for preventing me from doing all these imaginary things I never really had actually wanted to do. Chipping away at that narrative and mindset has been a big project for me.

    • SM

      This! I’m turning 30 in a few months, and I really can’t make up my mind on how to feel. Many of the people I know around my age are getting married and having kids, and a big part of me wishes that I was at that point too. I always thought that my late 20s would be the ideal time to have kids, and that plus the hormones which kicked in a few years ago make me feel like I’m running out of time. BUT… last year I finally found the courage to go to study last year to pursue my dream of being an ecologist, and pretty soon I will be beginning a really amazing internship. A number of people have told me that they are impressed/jealous of what I am doing, but I have so much self doubt at the moment that I find it hard not to beat myself up for not having done ALL THE THINGS already (established career, travelled more, bought a house etc) so I can start on the marriage and babies. And the crazy thing is that if I had have pursued this career path earlier, I probably would never have met my wonderful FH. In my moments of doubt (and there are a lot of them) its easy to forget how lonely I often was and how much better day to day life is when you have someone to share it with.

  • marbella

    As someone who married the ‘foreign’ guy and moved across the ocean with him, and then across the US, I can tell you that even doing some of ‘the things’ doesn’t make those feelings go away. You just project them onto the next big thing. I still feel exactly like that about having kids. This has really helped me notice that it’s not the babies that will stop me doing what I want – sure they might make logistics more difficult, but if I want to do things, I can still do them – it’s only me stopping myself. Thanks.

    • traveler

      As someone who travels a lot for work, I also see what reflection the nomadic lifestyle has on people’s lives. A lot of the top experts in my field (or at least a segment of my field) have personal lives that are essentially the opposite of stability – few of them cook, own a home where they spend more than a few weeks of their time, or maintain relationships for longer than a few months. I’ve wanted the adventure and mix of experiences in my youth – and reveled and excelled in it, all with my partner patiently accommodating my roving spirit – but I just don’t see it as sustainable in the long term.
      I love my partner and don’t want to imagine my life without him. More than anything, I want to build a life and a family with him. The challenge is looking at my career in the long term and saying, what now? My easy path to the top involves a lot of time away from home. On top of it, I’m more competitive in countries where I speak the language, which my partner doesn’t speak. To continue to have a life together, there are certain parts of my career that I just can’t pursue. I’m spending a lot of time now trying to map out how to direct my work skills and experience to a less nomadic field.
      It’s not that my partner is cutting off my options, it’s that adventure and stability are two opposite sides of the coin. We’ve established a decent balance the past several years, but as children come along in the future, we’ll need to adapt that balance. I’ve agonized over it for a while, but it’s mostly in trying to figure out careers and family, in the same way that everyone else is. Our support of each other is what will keep us happy, as well as our willingness to seek out adventures together.

  • lisa

    Wow yes, so true! Thanks for this, glad its not just me! It’s only in the last few years I have really started to appreciate the choices I’ve made. And making the choices that are right for Now. That make me happy in the moment. Making a home, marrying a wonderful man, getting a cat. Rather than putting life off on the faint dream of living somewhere else. Because like you said, there will always be a magical, mysterious ‘somewhere else’ but it seems that where it is really at is right here in the moment. I am married now and it is lovely, the first time I have really felt settled. Of course I made my husband promise that we would consider living somewhere else, but who knows if we will ever do it, or ever want to.

  • Kathy

    Someone told me this once and it has always stuck with me…

    “The past is done and behind you, the future you thought you would have never really existed, and all you really have is the present.”

  • JenClaireM

    This is all so profound, particularly this ending:
    “But what freedom looks like after the whirlwind is over is being content
    in the silence. It’s forgiving myself for not doing All The Things, for
    not being what I imagined I’d be. It’s facing down the empty spot and
    making something with it. It’s being able to make a choice in the face
    of endless possibility.”

    I grapple with the work of making choices in the face of endless possibility and of sitting with the silence so much still, and I think it’s really important work to do. I also thought I’d live in Paris for a year, and I’ve also had to reckon
    with the choices I made that were different, choices I made because they
    served me. It can be really hard to let go of the idea of All Of The
    Things, and I certainly came of age in a time and place where I felt a
    lot of encouragement not to. I’m just learning that it’s okay to be who I
    am, and embrace the choices that I’ve made, even when they’re not
    flashy or romanticized. They were right for me, and that’s what matters

  • Grace

    Ah, All The Things. We were kind of just talking about this. I don’t know if I’ve said before but I have endometriosis and it’s been a major nightmare for me since I was 18 (I’m 23 now). I’m also almost a doctor, amazingly, since I’ve been I’ll for big chunks of my course. Part of the urgency for us to plan our engagement and marriage for soon after my graduation is knowing that since we want to have children, to give ourselves the best chance and to keep my years of pain to a minimum, we will have up start trying soon after our wedding next year. We love each other ages we are 100% committed to a shared life, but as two very Hungry people, we want to experience and achieve as much as possible. This feeling of not being ready and not having done enough before trying to have a baby is something we’re having up learn to deal with. Friends ask us “will you be ready?” And we say, no, but we’ll do it anyway and just hope it’ll be ok. We don’t know what else to do

  • Ohhhhh geeeezzz I LOVE this post. Every single bit of it – I was nodding my head along with all of it. I hear you. and THANK YOU.

  • Winny the Elephant

    Sometimes I worry that I will live my life without ever doing anything extraordinary. I know the little things I do matter but I sometimes I wonder if I could have done something bigger.

  • Em

    Yes. Just, yes.

  • Dawn J

    Sarah, this is wise and wonderful. As someone who is often paralyzed by the myriad imagined possibilities that seem within (or just outside of) my grasp, your words resonant with me. I felt very similar feelings shortly after getting engaged. It is easy to believe that I have abandoned my dreams or taken the easy way out — but as you articulated so clearly, I have not simply bobbed along with the flow. I have made conscious choices that have led me to precisely where I am today. And where I am (and I suspect, where you are!) is something to be proud of.

  • juliadee28

    I love this so much! I work every day with students afraid to choose a major because it seems that selecting one door will automatically close all the others and eliminate All the Things they want to do. Sometimes it will, of course, bit mostly it is just a fear.

    It is also so important to honor and mourn the death of a dream. Not that marriage or kids (I hope!) is “death” but taking time and making space to mourn the end of one dream and celebrate and strategize the beginning of another is something my students, and I myself, find more difficult to remember.

    Thank you so much, Meg & APW, for knowing exactly what I needed today!

  • Caitlin_DD

    Fascinating, great read. I… am struggling to convey my thoughts. I’m really coming at this situation from the opposite direction: I just turned 23, and am here doing the one of the Things, living abroad, having an “adventure”…with my fiance. We have really decided, probably because we are young, that we’ll still do the Things, just together. But here’s the rub. The Things are not at *all* like people make them out to be. Living abroad sounds glamorous, but after a while, it’s just daily life in another country. We still have to fight the power company, have noisy neighbors, and have to decide who gets to do the dishes. For a while, I was angry at my fiance, because I felt like he was making the Adventure into daily life (he attends classes, I don’t, so he’d want to come home and rest, while I was ready to explore, so we would just stay at home), but that was really not fair to him. We had done the work to be living one of the Things, but still I felt restricted, like I wasn’t doing it right. So I suppose what I am trying to say is: with him or without him, you can do the Things. With him or without him, the Things will probably not be at all like you imagined (though that doesn’t mean they’re aren’t worth it). However, don’t beat yourself up over not doing them. You still can, if you want, and they will still be great, amazing things, because you can’t really imagine how they’ll be with OR without another person.

  • Sharon Gorbacz

    I learned a long time ago not to get hung up on “What If?” for all the things I didn’t do, and live with the decisions I’ve made, for good or ill. The road not travelled will always be just that, because even if you walk that road later on, you’re not the same person walking it.

  • Libby

    An interesting post – thanks for sharing your thought process. I’ve lived abroad a couple times, with my partner, and lived in a number of cities, but now that we are more settled in one place, I am happier than ever. I’ve also always wanted to do the “backpacking” thing, which I’ve never really done for more than a couple weeks, but I figure i’m a bit old for that now (30). I’m not entirely letting go of that yet, though.

    What I’ve discovered more recently is that happiness & contentment, for me, come from living a life that is in line with how I want to feel every day/most days, rather than worrying about a vision of how my life should be – because I’ve found that sometimes the things that come up are better than what I could have imagined, and I’ve learned that, often, my reasons for wanting that vision of my life are more important than the vision itself. Danielle Laporte’s book The Desire Map was very helpful for me in all this, but I’m sure it will be a lifelong process of realigning & reassessing. I can say that making a very challenging career change – I now have a job that pays less than my previous one, but really “lights me up” and makes me feel valued – made all the difference for me. When I left my previous career, I would never have imagined that this job would have been available to me. By focusing on how I wanted to feel in my work & the type of work that I wanted to do…I stumbled across something that was perfect for me, but not really in my “vision”.
    Oh and I, like you, was seriously affected by the year-in-Paris bug from Sabrina. A month there did the trick for me :)