Why I’m Glad Things Didn’t Work Out As Planned

Back in my 20s and into my early 30s, I put marriage and babies on a pedestal — a pedestal with a timeline that would determine my self-worth and happiness. At the same time, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, who I was, or what I deserved.

So I did what so many of us do and mapped it all out. I would get married by 28 and have my first baby by 30 — and had we spoken back in my mid 20s, I would have told you my life would basically be over if those things didn’t happen exactly as I planned. Moving to Chicago, growing my personal blog, launching The Everygirl, meeting my future husband on Tinder, and getting married after my 35th birthday were not part of my plan.

 

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Let’s go back to my early 20s and how I came to the decision to move halfway across the country to a city where I didn’t know anyone. I had no sense of what I wanted to do career-wise, and my personal life wasn’t much better. Most of my high school friends and I had grown apart. I started dating a guy who ended up being a verbally abusive sociopath, and a mix of fear and low self-esteem kept me in a  horrible, dead-end relationship for the majority of my 20s. Looking back, I feel so sad for that young woman who felt trapped — who didn’t realize she deserved so, so much more.

There was a ticking clock counting the days, months, years until my self-imposed deadline. And looking back, I wanted those major life events for all the wrong reasons. I was looking for something — anything — to define who I was.

I needed a change, and after traveling to Chicago in 2009, I decided to leave Los Angeles for the Midwest in August 2010. I still wasn’t strong enough to walk away from my ex and dragged things on for almost two more years, but I had gotten a taste of what it felt like to be happy and knew in my heart that he had to go.

Then it happened. The summer of 2012, he called to say he needed space. We hadn’t seen each other since Christmas and I lived 2,000 miles away, so I told him to take his space forever, and we never spoke again. It was one of those Kate Winslet as Iris Simpkins “square peg round hole” gumption moments.

I was free.

I was about to turn 30 and was single for the first time in my adult life just as Tinder launched. Great timing, right? Dating was exhausting. There were quite a few three month stints, and, until a year ago, nothing really stuck. I’d go from feeling happy on my own to completely exhausted back to lonely, to happy again.

 

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That same year, my business partner Alaina Kaczmarski and I launched The Everygirl and my goals started to change. I was focused on seeing our company grow and started to think more and more about where I wanted my life to go. Alaina and I spent the first two years working on The Everygirl unpaid and working full-time graphic design jobs to pay the bills. Stress levels were high, and I eventually ended up with shingles (which I didn’t know could happen to anyone that wasn’t 75) — a lesson to slow down and give myself a break. Sometimes, something really does have to give, and that’s okay. Once we went full-time, I started to find the balance I had been searching for and started discovering what worked for me.

To stick with the things-never-happening-when-I-thought-they-should theme I’d been unintentionally cultivating, I didn’t make it to Paris for my 30th birthday, but one month after turning 31, I traveled to Paris, London, and Rome for the first time. That first trip to Europe changed me — I went from feeling like my life would be over by 30 if I couldn’t attain the things I thought I wanted — the things I was certain would bring the fulfillment I was seeking — to realizing it was just beginning.

I’ve been in Chicago for seven years, and in that time have traveled, made the most incredible group of friends, and started a new business. The girl who didn’t travel for a decade (extreme fear of flying) has traveled to Argentina, Iceland, France, Italy, Denmark, and Portugal. Passing my deadlines started to matter less and less, and it turns out my life was pretty full without them.

 

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I met my fiance in May 2015, three years after my self-imposed deadline. I’ll be 35 next month, and I’m getting married less than a month later — something I really struggled with after we got engaged earlier this year. After trying so hard to make our wedding happen before my birthday, I just had to let it go and realize how pointless these timelines are, but it’s still a struggle. I was still putting limits on myself — deciding what my life should look like at 30 and 35, even after I’d found the happiness I was seeking. I’m in such a good place and 35 does scare the sh*t out of me, but nothing else worked out the way I planned time-wise, and I need to realize how it’s all more than okay.

The real lesson here is that the my-life-is-going-to-be-over-if-I’m-not-married-with-kids-by-30 deadline passed and I’m still here. Life is anything but perfect, and I’d be lying if I said I never worry about timelines anymore, but I recognize how far I’ve come and try to take each day at a time.

 

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So think about what’s most important to you. Take a class, start a travel fund, or rescue a dog. Start that side business you’ve been dreaming of. Figure out what you love and go after it. You might not have everything you want right now, but that’s okay. It’s more than okay. Stop comparing yourself — success is success at any age or time in your life. There’s no universal measurement or timeline, so stop using other people’s benchmarks as the arbiter of your own success. Don’t toss aside your hopes and dreams. Don’t let something you might not have (yet) take away your happiness.

There’s no one thing that will guarantee you the perfect, Insta-worthy life. The sooner you realize the journey is one of the most vital, changeling, necessary parts of life, the more time you have to enjoy it.

 

  • this blog post is so inspiring and true – we should never give ourselves deadlines when it comes to personal life <3
    xoxo,
    Victoria
    http://vickyweek.com/index.php/en/

  • I have so many words of praise for this post but none seem fitting. All I can say is that you’re inspiring, you and your words come at the perfect time, and thank you!

    http://www.starkmirror.com

    • Thank you, Sigal! I’m so glad my story inspired you 🙂

  • I truly was meant to read this post today. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story and inspiring words. I’ve been guilty of doing the exact same thing lately and now I feel I need to take a step back. Focusing more on my happiness and not forcing it on a preconceived timeline.
    http://www.lutececoates.com

    • I can so relate. I turn 35 in a few weeks and have to remember my own words now more than ever. it is not easy! We’ve got this, right?

  • Cheers to missing self-imposed deadlines! Thanks for sharing your journey to happiness.
    Heidi
    http://www.windlasse.com

  • I love this story — I think so many women struggle with this at any age – this idea that life has to look a certain way. The sooner we figure out that we get to make our own rules and write our own stories, the sooner we get to happiness and joy!

    • You’re so right. I felt it when I graduated high school and still struggle with it now.

    • Brandi Lytle

      “We get to make our own rules…” Love that!

  • Just made my morning and spoke to a lot of feelings I’ve been having. Thanks so much!

  • I have to say this post was really inspiring for me (I’m 20 years old) but really scary at the same time. Without those plans, the future seems so scary. Not knowing what’s gonna happen is frightning. But you’re right, I shouldn’t put pressure on myself to feel like if I don’t fullfill those plans, I won’t be happy and my present shows just that: I never thought I’d be where I am right now and still, I’m happy. Thank you so much, this opened my eyes a bit and I’m definitely gonna take your advice.

    Marta – http://www.aroundcolours.com

    • Being 20 is SO scary! I had no idea what the future held, and as scary as it is, that’s part of all of it. I recommend journaling through this time. Such an amazing feeling to look back at how far you’ve come. Just because things might not happen when you want them to doesn’t mean they won’t happen, and that things can’t be better than you imagined.

    • Brandi Lytle

      Making plans is awesome and necessary. Just make sure you are willing to adjust those plans when you need to!

  • I was definitely meant to read this post today. I’m 33 and have been single for a year now, after a terrible relationship with a sociopath ended. I try not to set deadlines but 35 is a looming number. I’m also trying to get a business off the ground! So, I related to this in several ways. Thanks for writing this <3

    • Been there! The worst, right? But we both learned from it, and have to really try not to put all these limitations on 35. That’s something I need to practice too. With change often comes strength and happiness, and I hope you experience that with this new chapter. Best of luck with your new business, too!

  • Nicole Goldberg

    I really needed this today! This is such a great post. Thank you:)

  • Sometimes we really have to hit our own rock bottom and watch all our plans to awry before we get over our own silliness and actually live our lives instead of mapping them out. I went down the same rabbit hole and now that I’m back out, I’m just taking things each day at a time and enjoy the little moments as they come.

    https://on-th3-cusp.blogspot.com/

    • Thanks for sharing, Roze! I need to remember to enjoy those little moments, too.

  • Charlotte

    Oh, this hits so close to home for me. I think a lot of young women struggle with all these self-imposed timelines. Most of us are way too hard on ourselves. Love this quote from Michelle Obama: “Life is hard, but life is long”. All things will come when we are ready for them, and sometimes we are only ready for them when we stop trying to force them. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding and an early happy birthday to you, Danielle! xxx

  • When things don’t work out, that’s when we experience the magic of chance. Even in my early twenties, I have come to understand how exciting that can be.

    https://outdoorkarma.squarespace.com

    • I love this!! New life quote/mantra, perhaps? It’s so great you figured that out in your early 20s!

    • Brandi Lytle

      “The magic of chance…” Now, that is awesome!

  • This is such an interesting and inspiring post – over the last few years things haven’t gone exactly how I planned & whilst a few years ago I would have told you that it was the worst thing ever, everything has actually turned out for the best! You are so right & you can still be happy when things don’t go to plan people!

    Holly from The Art of Being Holly xo

    • I’m so glad to hear that, Holly! Wishing you lots of happiness now (and always)!

  • Jimena Membreno-Sierra

    wow !! Great story great inspiration I feel the same pressure about having kids by certain age , and I can tell a lot of women feel the same pressure!

    • I still feel it (hello, 35th birthday in a few weeks) but am trying to remember what I thought I needed in my 20s, and to embrace where I am now.

  • Ngoc Tran

    Thank you for such a great post. I’m learning to be kind to myself in my 30s. It hasn’t been easy. I will keep you words in mind.

    • You’re welcome! It isn’t easy, but we’ll get through it. 30s really aren’t old but society can make us feel like that’s not the case.

  • I can relate to your story so much. I just finished writing a post for my blog about how I moved to Chicago in 2010 to start university and seven years later I have left the Windy City to move back to Southern California. I’m 25 and my timeline was similar to yours but I’ve realized that life doesn’t follow a plan and you just have to take whatever comes your way. Thanks for sharing your story with us xx

    https://dreamofadventures.com/

    • Thanks for sharing your story, too! Best of luck! Know how scary 25 can be but it’s such a fun / exciting time, too!

    • Should we not plan then? Just wait?

      • It’s not about not planning, but sometimes, it doesn’t work out the way you thought it should, and that’s ok.

  • Nicole

    This article clearly stated everything I feel! This article really helps me see that I am not alone. Thanks for the great post!

    http://www.dreamincolor-mke.com

  • GeoDiva

    Really nice post. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. As someone who just turned 50, I can tell you that age is just a number and my life is nowhere near to what I thought it would be 30 years ago. However, that’s what makes life an adventure!

  • Regina

    Hello Danielle-

    Thank you for the gift of the Everygirl blog. And thank you for sharing your story. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for me when this year has revealed the struggle and also the beauty and freedom of what happens when things don’t turn out as planned. While I can articulate that things have turned out for the best, you’ve given me conviction to live my life and find joys in places I’ve never thought to look. You are an inspiration.

    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding and the travels and successes along the way.

    • Thanks so much, Regina. I really do know what that feels like, and it means so, so much to me to think that I inspired you, even if just a little bit.

  • Leandra Beabout

    Thank you for writing this! I turn 30 next month, and I feel behind because I *did* hit my deadlines — was married, co-owned a business together — and it all crumbled beneath me. Now I’m hitting my stride again… but it sometimes feels like I’m a decade behind.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay, that hopes and dreams don’t have time limits. I needed to read this today.

    • Sometimes things have to come undone for us to get where we are meant to be. I’ve seen so many friends go through divorce or a business not working out, only to have things turn out so much better. Change isn’t failure. It’s just an opportunity for something new!

  • It’s amazing how perfectly things did work out for you girl! I also had a thought of how life “should have” looked and omg it was not the same lol but how beautifully surprising, life works out just how it should. You have had a beautiful journey and inspired so many of us, thanks for sharing and keep it coming sista! <3 xxx
    http://www.thequeenofconfidence.com

  • Karissa Regaliza

    Wow I didn’t think I needed to hear this… but I certainly did. I subconsciously have those self imposed deadlines :O :O good to know that I shouldn’t put too much weight on it!

  • Sim

    Gosh this is such a great write up! SO blessed to have read this today,I used to have self imposed deadlines and honestly I realised that we miss out on being present in the life we have been given when we try to live in a different or parallel time period.My biggest issue has been the fear to try new things but now that will be all over at the end of the year when I move to a different country for my sabbatical year.Thank you for sharing this and i hope you have a great day on your wedding and a strong,beautiful marriage 🙂

    • That’s so amazing, sim! Where are you moving? it is a life dream of mine to experience living in another country someday. Congrats and thank you so much for the kind words.

      • Sim

        Hopefully SWEDEN:D

        • Haven’t been but it’s on my list. I hope that works out for you!

  • SUCH a good blogpost – I love reading these kinds of things. I’m 22 and definitely have self imposed timelines for certain things. I guess maybe it’s natural and everyone goes through it? But to be honest at a time when everyone seems to be living longer and longer I’m starting to get less and less worried and caught up about ‘doing everything before 30’. p.s. that picture of you and your husband/husband to be is so sweet! 🙂

    http://www.diaryofanexpatgirl.com

    • Think of how much you can do from 22 to 30! Everything I listed here happened over the last 5 years!

  • MeaganDut

    I’m from a smaller(ish) city, and I found that it was so much more difficult to abandon that “timeline” when I was there – it was more expected, more normalized. Moving to a bigger city where my friends are still unmarried and renting apartments has been such a refreshing reminder that it’s *okay* to not do that small town timeline.

    This article is such a great reminder to just do whatever the heck makes YOU happy. <3

    • But if you follow the “big city” timeline you may find yourself left behind.

  • Melody McFarland

    This is beautiful and speaks to me SO much. I too struggle with my own self imposed timelines. Thank you. I needed these words today!

  • Brandi Lytle

    I love this post! My life has definitely not turned out like I expected, but I love it nonetheless. I was talking with a friend this morning who said, “There are so many different ways to be happy.” Isn’t that the truth?!
    http://www.notsomommy.com

  • KaleenasKaleidoscope

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I, too, had self imposed timelines that never happened. At 25 my boyfriend-who-I-thought-I-would-marry dumped me and I was lost. I quit my job and moved abroad and spent the next 4 years working, volunteering, and traveling around the world. I returned home just in time to turn 30 as a I was single, broke, homeless, and unemployed. But I had lived my dream of traveling the world! I’m 31 now and still honing in on a career path and still single, and the timeline thing really scares me. But I’m also working on accepting things as they are and it helps to read someone going through something similar.

  • Amanda

    PREACH.

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Amanda S

    Preach. Thank you so very much for sharing this wisdom.

  • Brianna Peach

    Really enjoyed reading this. I’d love to hear more about how you finally escaped a toxic relationship. I’ve been trying to escape for 7 years now and struggle to let go even though I know I deserve more than being constantly verbally attacked and abused. I’d love to know what helped you most and how you finally found the strength to let go. It’s inspiring to read that other people did it and makes me want to overcome this hurdle as well. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Just move out if you live together. Start looking for a place now. Let me know how it went.

    • Brianna, I am so sorry you’ve been going through this.
      Can you email me or message me on instagram? I’d really like to talk to you but have a lot more to say than I am able to in a comment here.

  • Angie

    It’s true. Even if you’re almost 43, had to start over your life professionally., and love life’s DOA. Empty pocket, move in with narcissistic parent. Just have to remind my self every morning that life is really worth living, that I still have my health, I’ve got many talents, music being one of them, and just have to, you know, keep moving.

  • Miriam

    This is the article I needed to read today.
    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

  • I read The Everygirl often, specifically for inspiration and motivation and just this morning I said “I need to do something with myself” and so I automatically came here and then I read your story. I just wanted to say thank you for humbly sharing and thank you for being bold in so many ways than just one that led you to create a platform that allows other women to bond, share and know that we aren’t crazy alone in sharing these feelings/moments in life. I will be turning 33 at the end of the year and I will definitely be needing to hold firm to these gems of inspiration.

    • You’re welcome, Meagan! I KNOW that feeling all too well and am honestly struggling with turning 35 right now. It’s not easy and is ok, but it’s really important to appreciate the good, too.

  • Edie

    Danielle, your story is so much like mine. I had time to myself and eventually found a wonderful and caring man. I don’t even care if we ever get married, but I know I’d never have to talk him into it. Thank you for sharing!

  • Kdot

    so happy for you!

  • You is so inspiring. Thank you! I’m 29 and I am going through a lot of the things you mentioned you have been through. Life looks different for our generation and culture. Someday I’m sure, as you are doing now, we will all look back and be thankful for the way things turned out as well.

  • Thank you!!

  • Whit

    I would love to hear more about your story and journey. Do a piece on overcoming your fear of flying!

  • Tory Todd

    Love this!

  • Megan

    Amazing blog post – as someone who currently goes over a “timeline” at 27 almost every day (get married in a few years, have kids two years after that, etc) I definitely understand the post. Letting go of what it’s supposed to look like is so hard! Will continue to read this over and over until it sticks 🙂

  • Christine Alexis

    Thank you so much for sharing! I have had it all from working full-time while having a side hustle, to even getting shingles from stress (which I was also shocked happens to people under 80 haha). Your post was incredibly inspiring! Needed to hear this 🙂

  • Emily Panda

    Bless you for writing this… I’m 28 this year and I felt your story as if I wrote it myself. Thanks for being the light at the end.

  • I love everything about this post! As I am getting older, the fear of deadlines always creeps in the back of my mind. This is a great reminder to just live and push those fears aside.

  • Katie M

    I’m about to leave a marriage to a mentally ill man with a personality disorder, whom I’ve been financially supporting for the last 5 years. The idea that there’s light at the end of this awful tunnel and there could be a future without him is inspiring. I put the same things on the pedestal and nothing in my life has turned out as planned. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • isabelle

    Just today i was thinking about my future and I was getting nervous about it (and I’m only a freshman in college!!!). Thank you for reminding me of the importance of living in the moment and not worrying about where you are in life, especially compared to others! Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Although my experience is quite different, I do see some correlation. I, too, am glad things didn’t work out for me because I wouldn’t have started Girl In Gamba otherwise. It’s really funny how life is so unpredictable that it can sometimes seem like a bad thing. The thing is that really good things do come out these kinds of situations.

    Thanks for sharing this very inspirational story! I really needed to read it today!

    -GG
    http://www.girlingamba.com

  • Lisa

    Love this. Such a great reminder – I probably need to read it daily to drive in the lesson.

  • Bose Fayodeka

    Love this! Just at a time I needed, I’m currently 21 and feeling very confused about the paths of life. Thank you!

    https://www.bosefayodeka.com

  • Penny

    I’m at my mediocre call-center desk job reading this right now and I have honestly say this is something that I needed to hear. Every single paragraph is something I relate to. Hell, even the quarter life crisis with the “lost contact with friends and dead-end relationship” is spot on with my life right now. I’ve always given myself the timeline of a dream job with 2 kids and a husband by 30 kind of girl and my life right now is nowhere near that. I’ve always had a passion for creation but life right now is so dull and I feel like I’m trapped. This was so refreshing to read as someone who’s been in this position and giving me the advice I needed before it’s too late. Thank you!

  • Sarah

    This is me! I met the man of my dreams when I turned 33 on Tinder. Before, I was dating men that didn’t deserve me and it took a lot of effort to stop the ugly cycle. Now, at 35 we’re married and we had our first baby. It’s been a messy amazing whirlwind these past two years and I’m so happy. I loathe the years of heartache prior, but eventually it led me exactly to where I need to be ❤️

  • Sarah

    This is me! I met the man of my dreams when I turned 33 on Tinder. Before, I was dating men that didn’t deserve me and it took a lot of effort to stop the ugly cycle. Now, at 35 we’re married and we had our first baby. It’s been a messy amazing whirlwind these past two years and I’m so happy. I loathe the years of heartache prior, but eventually it led me exactly to where I need to be ❤️

  • Seriously – thank. you. for. this.

  • Cindy Lee

    Your doggies are gorgeous! Congratulations on your recent marriage too – what a lovely outcome. I’ve never really had a timeline for my life, but friends have, and they were always unhappy, but I wasn’t. We can’t plan life, but we can learn to love ourselves and allow life to flow. You did the brave thing…