I have been raised to excel in the systems I was in. The path was clear: Get a “useful” degree, a “respectable” job, have a “serious” relationship, get married, have children. All my life, I measured my worth in terms of progress on this path—productive, but unhappy.
The problem wasn’t that I hadn’t thought of alternatives, but rather that none of them seemed preferable to the one that I knew would make me excel in this system of life, so why should I have pursued anything else?
It took me almost 30 years, several broken relationships and near-burnouts to start defining “good” by my own standards instead of an external set of criteria. I redefined what a “respectable” job, a “serious” relationship, and a “happy” life are for me. Even after years of unlearning, I keep finding old beliefs that no longer serve me, and it’s exhausting.
One of the hardest beliefs to let go of and an integral part of this journey was the decision not to have children. I feel like I have only recently gotten to know myself and am still discovering who I really am, so how could I put myself on the back burner now and surrender to a tiny human’s needs?
At the same time, the thought of not performing well according to others’ expectations horrifies me, and there is a temptation to just give in and do what everyone expects of me – especially while I am still of childbearing age and have to endure endless comments on what my life should look like. I hope I will be able to navigate this path with grace.