This summer, I have focused on reading more, for work, for professional development, and for fun. Recently, I came across the question, “What happens after happily ever after?” This question stuck with me, what does happen?

Growing up we all heard the stories of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and other fairy tales. They all end happily ever after, but nothing more is said. This leads us as children to think everything just works out. Once we find our soulmate the work is done, and everything is peachy. No wonder the divorce rate is high. As children we are led to believe once we find our happily ever after the rest just falls into place.

No matter which happily ever after we are chasing, career, parenthood, marriage, life would be easy, everything would just magically fall into place, and we would sing and dance our way through life. As children we were fed a lie. No dream has ever been easy to achieve nor does the hard work stop. If anything, once we achieve our dreams the real hard work begins.

As a child I dreamed of being a farmer, a veterinarian, a police officer, a paleontologist, an archaeologist, and a teacher. I never really dreamed of getting married or having children. My dreams were focused on adventure, intrigue and making an impact through a rewarding career. Life and fate have an odd sense of humor. As an adult I have sold appliances, worked for several newspapers, taught adults, run nonprofits, worked with high risk populations, and own a business. Somewhere along the line, I realized there was more to life than achieving my dream, the real adventure, the place where impact is made, lessons are learned, and people are helped happens on the journey. And with this belief, I have never had a plan for my career, I have instead focused on the journey, enjoying the moments, learning all I can, and taking every opportunity offered to me.

If I were to define the success of my life by happily ever after, I would never be deemed successful. If I were to say once I became a parent or married my husband, I would find my happily ever after, I would be wrong. Life after the marriage ceremony is hard, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. Being a single parent was easier than being married. And it’s not because my husband isn’t great. Rick is a great husband and he loves me, not some silly romantic love, but really loves me. The kind of love where he checks on me in the middle of the night, buys me my favorite pens, and goes out of his way to cook my favorite things.

What is the story of happily ever after? It’s the story of us, of our lives, of the journey that made us who we are. The scars, visible and invisible, are the after story, the moments which define who we are, build our character, push us past our breaking level and show us our true strengths and capabilities. The journey is filled with tears, not the pretty tears, but the heart wrenching sobs that rack our bodies and make our noses run. The story after is the part of our lives filled with true happiness, wonder, and life. We should never strive for happily ever after, instead, we should strive for a journey so filled with experiences we are late to our own funerals.

I love to hear from my readers, you can reach me at believestrengthpassion@gmail.com.

Sara Orellana-Paape lives in Lawton.

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