Are We There Yet? Are You There Yet? My Thoughts on 'Having It All'

Jessica Mason Brown

Owner and designer at Ivy & Aster. Single mom to an amazing little boy. Making dreams come true one dress at a time.


If you had asked me in my early 30s where I would be in 10 years, I would never have said that I would be:

  1. Divorced
  2. Single
  3. Mom to an only child
  4. Self-employed
  5. A writer
  6. Dealing with aging parents
  7. Living with a chronic illness

My 30-year-old self would have said that I would still be married to the man I'd known since I was 13, have more than one child and likely working for the same company that I started with just out of college. At the time, that was my vision for my life, and that was my version of having it all.  

I thought everything would stay in place if I just tried hard enough, if I was perfect enough. I assumed life would get better with each year as long as I stayed the course.  Seemingly to the outside world, I did have it all: house, child, job, car, etc. But things are not as they may seem when you look underneath the hood.  

Back then I was unhappy, unhealthy, depressed and struggling to keep up with the facade that everything was A-OK. It was exhausting. I turned off my ability to feel my emotions. Instead, I felt how others around me were feeling. As an empath, I have that ability, and I felt as long as everyone around me seemed OK, then I was also.  

But when my son was born, that all changed.  

I could no longer suppress my emotions, and I began to awaken to how life was playing out around me. Every day I questioned myself and felt like this was not how it was supposed to be.

"Man plans; God laughs." This saying about the irony of life and trying to control what happens pretty much sums up my path. I found myself trying to buy into the belief that I did have it all — and that I should be happy. I am confident that to others on the outside, maybe that is how things appeared. Around my mid 30s after having my son, I realized no matter how hard you try, if something is not meant for you, you cannot make it be yours. No matter how hard you push the square peg, it will never fit into the round hole.  

I think it is fair to say that none of us knows our exact path or what life will bring us, but indeed, a lot of people seem settled in their lives. It is not a bad thing, but it does not mean their lives are what they seem. Their lives may appear more consistent, and that they are content. I see it with my old school friends on Facebook; their lives seem happy, full, accomplished. It is natural to compare yourself or your life to others, to benchmark such events as marriage, children, new jobs, etc. we all know that what you put out for the world to see may not be what is going on behind closed doors.   

I see others continuously wandering, searching for something more, something better, something more fulfilling than the place they find themselves. I feel some people live their lives trying to fill a hole inside. Maybe the hole is left from something tragic in their childhood, a broken heart, the death of a friend or family member. I see people all the time trying to fill their lives — their “hole” — with the wrong things. And by things, I mean objects or stuff. Or harmful habits such as drug or alcohol abuse or even food just to numb the pain or emptiness they may feel. Me? I feel I have reached a place in life where I realize these things do not make you feel better. It may be a quick fix or a Band-Aid, but that does not last or feel as good as pure raw emotions: love, pain, friendship, compassion. By no means do I think I have all of this figured out, but I certainly have a different level of understanding of what is important in life and what is most important for my life.

So, do I feel like I have it all? Today the answer is yes. The reason I can say that is because I am in charge of my feelings. I have perspective now and a positive attitude regardless of what comes my way. I live my life in an authentic way. I think that is the difference in being truthful about where you are, grateful for where you have been and hopeful about what is to come. I have a roof over my head. My child is well taken care of and thriving in his development and school. We have plenty of food to eat. And I have so many friends who I know would drop anything in their lives if I needed help. I have a small family, but there is nothing they would not do for us. I am healthier and taking care of my physical and emotional needs.

That is not to say I do not have bad days, days that make me question my choices in life. But if I can redirect my thinking, I think about the world as a whole. How many people or families can say the same as I can? How many wake up each day and cannot find something to be happy about, that makes them smile or that makes them feel content. How many people on Earth do not have even their most basic needs met? So to me, I do have it all. It also does not mean I don't want more. It does not mean there is not room for improvement because there always will be ways to improve and grow.  

Today, I am living for more vibrant relationships, more success in my business, maybe a companion who wants to share their life with me, for my son to continue to grow into who he was meant to be, and most importantly to help others in their lives. I feel I can do this by sharing my story, being there for family and friends, providing help to others and living by example. One day that may look like listening to a friend, or sharing an essential need, including food, clothing or shelter. Another day it may look like just being present with my son and enjoying him and all that he is excited about in the world. There is not a day that I think I do not have enough. My life is full because of how my perspective on life changed after having my son. Every day is a choice, and I choose to be authentic with my feelings. And most of all I am so blessed to be healthy, to realize my life is everything I want and need, and everything else is icing on an already beautiful life.