This week, we took time to reflect on how we can make sense when life doesn't go as planned. In our weekly “From the Editor’s Desk” column and in our newsletter, we asked Verily readers: “When is a time that your plans didn't go as expected but you were able to receive something positive from the unexpected?”

Here is a selection of the reflections women shared with us (note: some reflections have been edited for clarity and brevity).

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"Right now. Since last fall I've been doing some serious thought about my career. Thinking about what kind of job I want to have, what kind of life I want to live. I wanted to quit my job so bad. By January, I was determined to find a new job by June. In March, I thought I had figured out my career path. In April, I thought I had found my next career path and also opportunities in it. By May, everything had fallen apart and now I am figuring out how to make the best of my current job while continuing to be open to the next better thing." 

—Margaret, Seattle, WA

"As a PhD student in the UK, I was unable to travel home (to Illinois) for Christmas 2018 due to my lung spontaneously collapsing--requiring surgery and a two-week hospital stay. Although this was completely shocking and upended all my plans for the holiday, my friends from church in England rallied around me amazingly. One in particular spent hours just keeping me company and bringing me books and goodies to supplement the dreadful hospital fare... To cut a long story short, about a month after I got out of the hospital, we started going out, and as of now, we are almost a year into our marriage! I never could have imagined how much good could come out of a freak health incident like that!"

—LaRae, Rugby, UK (originally from Salem, IL)

"All of 2020. I was anticipating finishing the school year in person and getting together with friends over the summer, but when Covid hit, I had to completely re-plan my summer. But it was a very good thing. I was miserable before Covid, and over quarantine, I learned to take better care of myself. I caught up on sleep and exercised more. I learned to be happy as a single woman. And now, as things start opening up, I'm much happier and have grown so much as a person!" 

—Sophia, Los Angeles, CA

"For me, I imagined being married at 23, having kids at 25 and enjoying a happily ever after kind of vibe for my life. Instead, the most in-depth relationship I’ve had with a guy only lasted for a few months, I’m almost 27 and I live alone. It seems like all the things I wanted (sans a fine man and some kids) have slowly crept into my life though, and not in the way I expected. I expected marriage to free me and to bring me into adulthood. But alas haha. I’m a single gal, and yet I’m also debt free, I own my own home, I have a good job, and my relationships with my family members have healed and gotten stronger. Looking back, a marriage and kids at the time I wanted them, would’ve only emphasized the brokenness in my life. I was really immature, broken and hungry for love. Where I’m at now, even in the loneliness and the longing for a good man, I wouldn’t change the way my life turned out. I like me and I like where I’m at. I’m excited for whenever the next season of life comes, but for now, I’m soaking in the healing and the discovery of being single."

—Madi, Hunstville, AL

"My ideal was to graduate college quickly, go to grad school, meet someone, and start a family—all by age 25. Nope. That's the age I graduated (with a bachelors degree, and very single). My 'backup' writing career plan became my focus for the next 7 years. When I finally met my now-husband two years ago, at age 30, I actually had a stable job and confidence, skills, and my own 401k to bring to the table. It feels so good to be truly equal partners—and has made our marriage that much better. Even learned I can like working! This plan (which I believe and feel reassured was God's plan) is so much better :)"

—Emma, Menlo Park, CA

"I took a job with a new company last fall that had everything I could ask for professionally. I expected I would love it and really grow professionally as a part of this team in the years to come. But some undiagnosed anxiety started to derail that plan as work stress increased. And in the fall, I had to make the tough decision to take time off and go through a mental health program so I could get my life back. It was a painful process. I never wanted to hit that rock bottom. And it was even harder when I loved parts of the job, but other pieces were making living feel unmanageable. However, coming to the other side of this experience, I’m so incredibly grateful I chose to get help and blessed to have found a therapist I trust. While I’ve had to grieve the reality that this career I’ve been working towards for so long isn’t healthy for me, I now see how much freedom I have as I’m no longer bound to this single path either. I have options. I can choose to look outside my expectations to find a better fit for me. And I’ve grown so much as a person through all of it."

—Cecilia, Chicago, IL

"Last year, just before the lockdown, I had planned to go on a trip, saved enough money and was heartbroken when everything closed. But in the months that followed, jobless, I ended up answering my exams with the extra time, coming closer to completing my college degree."

—Ethel, Goa, India

"I was 100% certain that I wanted to do equestrian studies and work at a barn for the rest of my life. Instead I went to Northern Ireland for undergrad and ended up a few years ago in an office-based graphic design job in a major city--what I'd sworn I'd "never" do. It's given me incredible opportunities and amazing friends and community that I would've missed otherwise. I absolutely love it and as I've job searched for the past year for whatever's next, I'm trying to be flexible and enjoy the surprises."

—Paige, Boston, MA

"Stopping college after two years because of money and ending up with an amazing job I wouldn't have had otherwise."

—Emma, Grand Rapids, MI

"I thought for sure I would have kids by now (or a few years ago). But that's not the case. In the meantime, I had the opportunity and time to pour my heart into my work and have received two great promotions in less than two years. I love my work, and I truly believe I am meant to be doing this job- and doing it WELL! Of course, my work is absolutely no comparison from the joy I would imagine I would find in having children, and I still feel terrible pain from that longing; however, I can't help but wonder if I would be finding as much meaning and purpose in my career had my dreams to have children a while ago become a reality."

—Maria, Saint Paul, MN

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