When Your Life Isn’t What You Hoped It Would Be

If I had a diary from my teens and early twenties, and I wrote down what I hoped my life would be, it would read something like this: “I will have become an Olympic team member, gotten a full ride from a college in the top 10 of women’s swimming, gone to law school, no husband and no kids, and now I’m a really important judge.” If I’m being honest.

A few of things came true. I did go to law school. I did get a scholarship to a college with a top 25 (barely) women’s swimming program. And . . . well, that’s it.

I didn’t make an Olympic team. 21st place at Olympic Trials is 19 places short of the top 2 you need to be in an individual swimming event, so not even close. I’ve talked to judges, appeared before them, and been yelled at by them, but that’s as close as I’ve come to “the bench.” I do have a husband, marrying at age 23, rather young for my generation, and have two amazing children.

You don’t know what you don’t know at age 18 or 25. And you don’t know what you don’t want.

My life is not what I hoped it would be. It is so much better.

I don’t regret my dreams, and I sure wished some of them came true, mostly related to sports. But I’m so happy that in 1984, some of my top schools got faster breaststrokers than me and my “dream school,” University of Georgia, didn’t offer me a full ride. Because if it had coughed up a few grand more, I would be there, living, to some degree, a different life. I wouldn’t have gone to Penn State, I wouldn’t have been a team member under coach Bob Krimmel, one of the best men to ever walk this earth, and I wouldn’t have met my husband, who was renting a room from some of the women swimmers in the nastiest house you’ve ever seen (I digress).

I also thought being a judge was the pinnacle of success. But it turns out I am not connected, don’t want to be connected, and am otherwise not judge material. I respect judges a great deal. But I’m not one of them. And I’m happy.

I never thought I’d be rich, but I did think I’d have a big house. I don’t know why, but as years pass, I’ve become a bit of (or a huge, if you ask my husband) minimalist. I like small. I don’t want stuff. I am most happy when I am discarding things. I am very happy to be writing to you today from my first ever home office, a 5×4 space, or “closet” to those of you who require architectural accuracy. it’s quite a lovely space, copper piping hanging out of the wall and all. My husband tells me that I may not have a tiny house, defined as something less than 250 square feet. We’ll see.

It is joy to be able to live a life differently than you have hoped. Because young hopes are, for some of us, very anemic dreams.

Count it all joy.

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