How to Appreciate the Life You Have and Let Go of the Life You Think You Should Have

If you know me, you may have heard me shriek groan ruminate wonder about finding a partner for my golden years my third act. You may have read my Letters to My Future Boyfriend. You may know about my last significant relationship with the nature-obsessed neighbor from hell. You may even know that the planet Uranus is in my house of partnerships which every astrologer will tell you means my life will not include a traditional household with a picket fence, a puppy, and 2 adorable children!


But you may not know I have been grappling with this human need to couple and breed produce offspring for years. I was always clear about the offspring part, though. I didn’t want them. Even though I was a classroom teacher in my 20’s and 30’s and loved kids, I was happy to send them home to their parents. I was driven, instead, to design a career path that was meaningful and fulfilling. (I did!) And I was fiercely independent. Probably since I was about 6 years old. Maybe 5. It was my survival strategy in the family. And it served me well.

Until now.

Now, in my old-ish age, I’m wondering if I might want to be a little less fierce. A little less independent. I’m wondering how to manage life with humans at this stage even as I remain an introvert who is easily overwhelmed by groups of more than two and who prefers blogging-consulting-writing to rock concerts, cocktail parties, downhill skiing, and rodeos. I’m wondering if I am secretly narcissistic because I never had kids and if I’d had them if I would have learned how to cook turkey dinners. I’m wondering if there were choices I didn’t make that might have led me to a career with the Metropolitan Opera or to a life raising sheep on a ranch in Wyoming with eight kids and a scruffy ne’er-do-well husband. (Do they have sheep in Wyoming?) I’m wondering if fan mail qualifies as a relationship. I’m wondering if I had made different choices, would I be experiencing more aliveness? More loneliness? More love?

And yet, here I am. With this life.

It is darned good. A little sweet. A little wacky. And it is mine. It fits me.

It fits me.

And, that is the key. Right? Living the life that fits you. Not your Uncle Jack. Not your sister Doris. Not even your beloved teacher, Esther. You.

As I write this, I feel a sense of relief. I did not start the post with this in mind. My plan was to write about finding friends and companionship. Modifying my fierce independence. Going to more rodeos peopled activities. But the Spirits-of-the-Blog had other things in mind, I guess. And maybe that’s it, too. Think about it. What makes you, you? And if that is unclear, ask the Spirits-of-your-Heart what they might suggest. Write to them. Ask. Then let them tell you. Or imagine yourself in 5-10 years. Ask your Future Self what you are doing and how you might get there. You can use my handy dandy journal for more guidance.

And, sure, some days I wish I was Jacob Collier. And I’m still wondering about my future boyfriend and considering learning how to cook turkey dinners. But, the truth is, I’m good with sweet.

And a little wacky.


To my bloggEEs: How might you appreciate the life you have? What makes you, you? Try writing to your future self and let us know what they said. Of course, if there are painful issues you need to address, there might be therapy in your future. And, if you are looking for a way to manage life with humans, check out the Evolutionary Collective‘s free event in October. I joined this group a few years ago and it is revolutionary, in the best possible rainforest-y way!

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Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

17 responses to “How to Appreciate the Life You Have and Let Go of the Life You Think You Should Have”

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  1. cd1122 Avatar

    Thanks for another timely post Paula. I don’t know how you manage to ‘get in my head’, but I suppose the Spirits-of-the-Blog help, haha. I read this right after you posted, but September as a teacher…busy times, as you know. I love that photo from when you were little, experimenting with music! And yes, being Jacob Collier would be fun. Just having all the instruments and a dedicated music room in my house like he does would be beyond amazing.

    I have done some writing based on this post, but will only share here that the affirmation that it is acceptable to let go of the identities and lives that I think I could or should have (based especially on so many past influences, habits, and education) is always a welcome reminder. You captured how choices lead us down different paths, that open up more possibilities and choices. There are so many paths that I didn’t pursue, but I am grateful to have more awareness of why it is important to keep exploring all the many potential paths that still do exist (and that combinations, variations, multi-lingual and mixed-media explorations of those are extra fun). I try to remind myself that it is valid, fulfilling and joyful to do such exploration and that it extends beyond myself to connect to everything else in the universe (in both visible and unknown ways); that it is an assertion of freedom in a world where societal, economic, political and other pressures have us so constrained, but that isn’t always enough. Reminders from you have a big impact, thank you as always.

    1. pprober Avatar

      And your sharing of your experiences, thoughts, and feelings have a big impact on me, as well, cd1122. I am so grateful for you and for everyone’s sharing and support!

  2. Alia Avatar

    Imagining what-ifs can be fun (or sad). But, I truly believe we are who we are, as much or as little and in the proportions that circumstances allow. We contain multitudes, but they’re all “us”-flavored. If you had a wellspring of turkey-dinner-cooking in you, likely it would’ve found its way out somehow, no personally gestating the whole crew at Norman Rockwell’s table required. Not to say you can’t take up turkey frying as a conscious choice and learn to love it, but it’s obviously not your natural waterline. Better to make friends with someone who lives for turkey-dinner-cooking. That way you can share in their joy, maybe play sous chef, and enjoy the cold turkey sandwiches all without making it your “thing” when it’s obviously not. Same with peopled activities. Those aren’t just going to transmute into not being draining suddenly; but you can get craftier about selecting the ones you can endure and find pieces of joy amongst the exhaustion. (Or at least I hope that’s true!)

    Meanwhile, I wonder how much of you yearnings towards the June Cleaver road not taken is, consciously or unconsciously, due to how our society is relentless in telling women that that should be the singular height of our ambition? We’re not supposed to be fiercely independent and we’re certainly not supposed to be happy that way. And anything you get told often enough can worm its way into your noggin. Coupled (ha) with how our culture is downright weird about both multi-generational households and friend households vs. those based on a sexual partners, and, again, you get that insidious push towards marriage as the solution to what really is a yearning for companionship. And, oh joy, we’ve managed to arrange our culture so that making and maintaining friendships as an adult is ridiculously hard.

    The song that autoplayed after initial Jacob Collier link was “Somebody to Love,” because of course it was.

    As for me? All respect to Mr. Mercury, but heck with love. I need is to borrow a fashionista stalwart enough to help me pick out frames. No one should have to march themselves into Target Optical for their first pair of glasses alone, but especially not me, as I’ve got no instincts and a head like a potato. I did the thing but I’ve also second-guessed myself into some previously unknown quantum state. “I need an adult!”

    1. pprober Avatar

      Love this, Alia! Thanks! 🙂

    2. cd1122 Avatar

      This post really made me laugh and nod my head.
      “We’re not supposed to be fiercely independent and we’re certainly not supposed to be happy that way.” So true (coming from a single, childless woman of childbearing age who struggles in this ‘modern’ society we live in).
      Be well.

      1. Alia Avatar

        I’m happy for my peers who have successfully paired off. I’ve enjoyed playing with their kids and then giving them back. Love to stop by to help make and then eat the occasional turkey dinner. But I’m mystified by the supposed “requirement” that I join in full-time, just like I was stumped when I overheard girls making elaborate wedding plans on the playground. Nothing is one-size-fits-all. Certainly not an entire lifestyle determined by nothing more than the chromosomes you got handed when you arrived at the party.

        As it happens, I just read an article about the recent rise in discourse surrounding the push for women to (lower their standards and just) get married. Cure for all societal ills, supposedly. Or maybe just handy because it frees up a dwindling pool of good jobs that “should” go to men. What women are “for.” Notice the lack of actual benefit to women? Yeah. For some, that’s a feature rather than a bug.

        Being alone suits me, at least until I figure out how to lure all my friends into living in a giant house, while also somehow controlling for how I’m an introvert and would definitely want to get away from all those people.

        Good wishes to you.
        (I’m embarrassed by the typos/skipped words in my last post. Sleepy dyslexics make lousy proofreaders.)

        1. pprober Avatar

          I will check the article, Alia. Thanks!

  3. Marina Avatar

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Paula! You had the opportunity to design your career path and succeed with it, which is a wonderful gift that is not given to many. Yes, it must be wonderful to feel that the life you are leading is the one that fits you and only you. I’m trying to mold my life anew, after (too) many years trying to fit in. It takes time and countless efforts, and sometimes I just feel like a failure not succeeding in doing this immediately (haha, fast and furious, right?!).
    And you know, strong and independent women like you are simply not really appreciated as life companions by potential (male) neurotypical partners. Anyway, they don’t deserve a lovely person like you and would probably make you feel really miserable. Strong friendships with reliable people probably last longer than relationships with a partner… and I believe you have such friendships. Lucky you!

    1. pprober Avatar

      Thanks Marina. It’s interesting to think about how we do get to where we are in life. How much is privilege, how much is opportunity, how much is hard work, luck, courage, desire, talent, etc.

  4. Clignett Avatar

    I couldn’t agree more with this blog and the replies so far! I’ve always followed my own path, not the easiest and best perhaps, but it was (still is) my path.
    I remember telling my parents at the age of 3 or 4 that they were not to expect me to marry, and not to expect any children from me. No grandkids from this daughter. I also told them that I would not live a long life (how long we will see, I have no age in mind). So far, that’s all come true. No kids, not married, did have partners but that all didn’t work out (caused me a lot of trauma).
    I’ve wondered just like you if it would be preferable (don’t really know which other word to use) to have another human in my life on a regular basis. Daily? Nooo!! Every other day? Nooo!! Every week? Can’t plan that far along.. in my mind, that is. I just can’t picture it anymore, not after so many years being on my own, doing my things when I want to do them and how I want to do them. Do I miss another human? Maybe, but just to talk about the day, whatever has happened, but that’s just it. Would it be easier to have another human in my life? Probably, but only to not have to do/think about everything myself and have a backup for Indie if needed (selfish reasons in my book).
    But.. I don’t NEED another human. And my experience is that people want to feel needed. I don’t. I need animals in my life. Nature. Silence. Peace and quiet. Indie.

    So back to my own path. Best for me and everyone around me (and Indie, although he loves visitors as long as they leave as well 🐶🤣🤷‍♀️).
    It’s a quiet life, a simple life, but it makes me happy. Not lonely or alone as some neurotypical people think. I’m happy to be by myself, especially with Indie. We’re so alike, as if we actually were chosen for each other.

    (Well, when I went to the breeder and held him for the first time at two weeks old, he just felt right. He snuggled up in my neck and slept. When I came to pick him up when he was old enough to leave the litter, he ran to me and sat on my lap trying to snuggle up in my neck again, so we did choose each other 🥰🐶)

    1. pprober Avatar

      Aw. What a sweet story of you and Indie!

    2. Jennifer Avatar

      🥹❤️ beautiful.

      1. Clignett Avatar

        Thank you so much! 🙏🥰

  5. Jennifer Avatar

    Thanks for this Paula.. I do appreciate your honesty (& fun way of writing). 🙂 I also sometimes wonder about my quirky, non offspring (apart from fur-babies 😏) lifestyle but I am pleased I’ve followed my own path.. I think that’s one of the ‘five regrets of the dying’.. ? living someone else’s life. We’re not doing that, are we?

    1. pprober Avatar

      We are not doing that, Jennifer! 🙂

  6. Sam Avatar

    Ahhh Paula, I think this post might have resonated with me the most out of all of your blogs. It has come at a time when I am questioning this the most. What I want from my life and feeling a failure for not having what everyone else has. A recent coach asked me what I want FOR ME, after calling me out on all the times I described what I should have done/achieved by now. Measuring myself against neurotypical heterosexuals with partner and house and car and dog and picket fence and 2.4 kids… me, a single, gay, childless, neurodiverse, career focussed quirky type. Comparison really is the absolute thief of joy, isn’t it.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Yes! Forget comparison! Thank you so much for this, Sam. It’s so helpful for me to get this validation. Allows me to trust my own intuition. 🙂