This isn’t the life I imagined for myself

In the film Brooklyn, due to a turn of events, Eilis unexpectly finds herself back in her backwater Irish home town.

She gets involved with an amazing man who asks her not to return to her life Brooklyn, but rather to stay and make a life with him.

Her reply:

“But this isn’t the life I imaged for myself”.


Still from the film Brooklyn with Saoirse-ronan

This line really resonates for me.

I’m 39, turning 40 next summer and this isn’t the life I imagined for myself.

This is quite a raw and scary post for me to write. I’m writing to those of you who find yourself feeling disappointed with the hand that life has dealt you.

I talk about what’s it like to be a single woman, with no children, knocking on the door of 40.

These may well not be your circumstances but the theme of ‘things not working out as planned’ will probably ring true.

I can’t believe that I’ve been around for nearly 40 years.

Some days I’ll notice a wrinkle, a tiredness, a grey hair and reality dawns on me – I’m approaching… dare I say it… middle age.

Some days I’m pretty cool with this.

Age is just a number and all that…

But I also have bad days where I carry a pain, a sadness, that this isn’t the life I imaged for myself.

The Life I Imagined for Myself

So what had I imagined?

The only solid things that I’ve hoped for were to be happily married and to be a mother – as a strong independent woman this is quite hard to admit!

Everything else was pretty vague.


It kind of feels like the vague ‘everything’ else bit of my life has worked out so much better than I could have imagined:

I live in a beautiful part of Scotland (Inverness), near to my parents and sisters, who feel more dear to me than ever. I’ve wonderful friends both near and far. I feel known, loved and accepted. I have a home, my own business doing work that I love and find meaningful. I’m healthy, strong and fit. Life is full.

But at times I feel terribly alone.

All the people who are close to me have many other pulls on their lives.

I feel regret for relationships that haven’t worked out. I wonder if I’ve made a terrible mistake somewhere down the line.

I feel fear that this is how it will always be.

Me, trying to make the best of things but in my heart SCREAMING for someone to bare witness to the little moments… The small things… details of life, that most people wouldn’t find interesting.

In lots of ways my life must sound enviable, I can do what I like, I can spend my time and money on what I like, yet I have this gnawing feeling that something isn’t right.

That rather I should be putting my resources into caring for my children.

But my children don’t exist.

Yes, the relationship and motherhood chapters of my life story aren’t over yet. More and more women are starting families later and later so things may work out.

Yet turning 40 seems to be a marker for me in realising that things may not work out as planned.

I’m not sharing this as a ‘poor me’ self pitying post. Rather I share to give an honest context to my message.

Self doubt

I used to tell myself different stories about why I was single.

I constructed and played internal narratives on a loop:

I wasn’t pretty enough, I was too fat, I wasn’t smart enough…

(See my blog on Loving away the self hatred and the diets for more on this).

Through self reflection, counselling and good relationships I now know none of these things are true.

To quote an old aunty, the reason I’m single is:

The ones I’d have wouldnae have me.

The ones that’d have me I wouldnae have!”

Haven't kissed the right frog?

Haven’t kissed the right frog?

I just haven’t been lucky in love, I’m a wee bit fussy and some of the men I’ve liked have been a wee bit fussy too!

I honestly believe that now and I wish I could have sooner rather than filling my head with self doubt.

Self Acceptance

For me one of the wonderful things about getting older is that I feel an increasing sense of self acceptance. I enjoy my own company and like who I am.

I’ve got better at learning how to dull the monsters in my head.

cIMG_3743When I notice a thought that’s unkind or unhelpful I look for evidence for it’s validity. If it’s true, then I have something to work on but usually it’s not.

When life hasn’t worked out as planned it is really easy to blame ourselves but often ‘shit just happens’ and it’s outside of our control.

If you find yourself full of self doubt maybe you can try this same practice? Always measure the thought against the truth. Right now as I write this I have a nagging thought:

No one is going to like this blog. They will think you’re being needy, self indulgent and oversharing.

Is this true?

The facts are:

  • Some people will like it, some won’t.
  • Most people wont read it.
  • Some might think I’m being needy, self indulgent and oversharing/
  • Others might find my honesty resonates with their experience and it may help them on their journey with self acceptance.


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver

Much of this blog has been taken up with description of my story and pain at disappointment but for the most part these things aren’t on my mind. I accept my circumstances and seek to live well. My life is what I make of it. I don’t want to take a moment for granted.

Practicing gratitude is one of the most important disciplines I’ve learnt.

Taking the focus of what I don’t have and zooming in on what I do have changes everything.

negativespace-142-259x172@2xYes, I allow myself to feel my feelings and to sit with the sadness when it emerges but ultimately worrying about things that are out of my hands takes me nowhere.

Whatever our circumstances, life is hard. Pain is an unavoidable part of the human experience.

We all have dreams that seem to be slipping away.

If you’re in a relationship your partner might be pissing you off right now.

If you’ve got kids you are probably too knackered to do half the things that you want to.

For me, I’m going to continue working at losing the self doubt and growing in self acceptance and gratitude.

I might not be a mother but I want to be the best Aunty in the world.

I might not be someone’s partner at the moment but I want to be the best daughter and sister and friend that I can.


Preparing to turning 40 has woken me up to the fact that I’m not living the life I imagined – but maybe my imagination wasn’t big enough?

Post script:  19th May 2020.

A few years have passed since writing this blog and my imagination for my life has grown in unexpected ways. I’ve learn more about what really feeds my spirit – through my connection with the outdoors, with wildness and through my counselling work.  If you’d like a safe space to explore the gap between your life situation and what you want to imagine for yourself you might want to consider working one to one with me. More details are here.

11 thoughts on “This isn’t the life I imagined for myself

  1. Deborah says:

    I can very much relate to this. I hit 41 before it occurred to me that I might not meet the man of my dreams and have children, so I set about doing it myself. (The babies bit anyway.)

    I tried off and on (through assisted means) for a few years before some tests (at 43yrs) showed that my chances (even through IVF) were less than 1%.

    It was very hard to come to terms with the fact that the life I was then living was going to be IT; that the life I’d imagined wasn’t to be.

    Sure I’d travelled, I had a good job, nice apartment and car and was comfortably off but it wasn’t how I’d pictured my life. Like you I blamed myself… particularly around body image and weight issues. (And the impact they had / have on me.)

    At 44 I undertook a seachange and left my old life… and many of the memories that held me captive for so long.

    At 47 I have many regrets but have now moved past the ‘when I have kids’ part of the ‘happily ever after’ dream.

    Accepting that has meant that I’ve been able to move on but I’m still working out what this re-imagined life might look like!

    • Shona Macpherson says:

      Deborah – thanks for taking the time and care to share this. I am really encouraged to hear you moved passed the bits of the dream that no longer were for you. I love the idea of a re-imagined life. xx

  2. Cathy MacDonald says:

    Shona – beautifully written and the open and honest sentiment shines in every word. From your blog, I visualise you as a very balanced, strong and amazing lady who is real in every sense. Granted I have met you and sort of knew that anyway 🙂

    I believe that few people on earth are living the life they imagined and while elements are truly sad, it is so easy to lose sight of the great parts – for you and for me that is time, independence, a strong and genuine focus on others and loving those around us, despite the gap that not having children creates. Many of your words resinate with me for sure and I know they will with so many others. x

    • Shona Macpherson says:

      Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words Cathy. Much appreciated. I look forward to meeting, talk and learning more from you in the new year ahead. You are right time, independence and a focus on others is a huge gift. xx

  3. Debbie Ruppenthal says:

    A brilliantly courageous post, which I am positive will resonate with lots of people. I think the whole room took a deep breath and sighed when you had finished sharing this blog post on Saturday. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been brave enough at 40, or any other age!
    I wonder if many people have the life they imagined? I had a crisis at 40 when my marriage broke up. I thought I would be married to the same man forever. I thought I would be as fit and healthy as I always had been. Things didn’t work out that way. How we respond to those challenges and disappointments is what makes us grow, what makes us who we are in many ways.

    Your life may not be as you imagined, but your hope and positivity indicate that life can be much more than our limited vision allows if we can embrace ourselves and our situations and keep growing. You’re a lovely person Shona, and that’s a valuable and beautiful achievement.

    Thanks again for your frankness and hope.

  4. Bree says:

    I just turned 26 a couple days ago. And I have many things to be thankful for. I have a wonderful fiancé who I love dearly, and we hope to be married in October. I have a roof over my head, a family who loves me, and friends who support me through everything.

    But my life also isn’t anywhere near where I expected it to be. 10 years ago I imagined myself out of college by now, a teacher, and much more established in life. I thought I’d have a young child by now (this factor, at 26, wouldn’t bother me so much if so many of my friends hadn’t already started having children at 20. I promised myself I’d wait to start until we’re married and we can afford it). As it stands I’m working a part-time job for about a dollar over minimum wage (I live in the States), and no matter how many full-time jobs I apply to, no one’s biting. I dropped out of college because I realized I wasn’t so sure teaching is what I wanted to do after all, and since I was paying for it myself, I was running out of money anyway, even with loans- loans which I’ll be paying off a long time, reminding me how deeply unaccomplished I am. To top it off, I fell off my dad’s insurance on my birthday, and as it stands now I have no coverage. And I have absolutely no idea how we’re going to afford this wedding.

    And the thing is… some of these I can fix. And yet…sometimes it feels like there’s this crushing weight on top of me, and a voice that says, “What are you doing? What’s the point? Every time you’ve tried to better yourself in the past it’s all fallen to crap anyway.” And it’s hard to silence that voice. It really is.

    How do you learn to love yourself? To accept the things you can’t change, and figure out where to start on the things you can? I know I’m only 26, but at times I feel so much older, and at others I feel so young and small, and so in need of help. It’s incredibly frustrating.

  5. Carol harley says:

    Gratitude for sharing so resonates with me 2 failed marriages tho I never wanted children my brother has 5 children so I have had the best off both worlds I love my neices and nephews unconditionally am a great auntie as you say life is shit sometimes and we are going to have good and bad days it’s how we feel through this process that we call life! I am scared, horrified to take one step forward and two steps back! But it’s what we do! Thanks for sharing carol Harley

    • Shona Macpherson says:

      Hi Carol, thanks for your comments – for sharing something of your journey and your insights. Much appreciated. xx

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