01/28/2014 09:51 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Things I Thought Before I Knew

When I was a girl, I had expectations about being an adult. Mine were not grand dreams of being rich and famous, rather basic assumptions about adulthood. You know, grown-upy stuff.

I knew that the way my face scrunches up when I smile would leave some cracks in my skin. I was certain I would wear those laugh lines with pride, and be happy about the proof of a lifetime of happiness.

I did not know that by my mid-30s, the deepest lines on my face would be from furrowing my brow and pursing my lips. That the most prominent marks of my emotions would be those of annoyance and disdain. Maps of irritation, rather than joy.

I knew I wanted to travel, and that I wanted a family, and I would go to college to ensure we had the money to be securely middle class.

I did not know how broke middle class could look.

I knew that important jobs paid well.

Hahahaha... nope. Hedge fund managers are riding unicorns to work while teachers are taking out loans for school supplies, and working part-time retail jobs to make ends meet. A paycheck is not a measure of worth, and noble endeavors are rarely rewarded financially.

I knew I would be a mother, and I was certain I would sometimes yell at my future children.

I did not know it would be for things like how they chew, and because they wouldn't stop making that noise like a dying pigeon, already.

I knew other people would see my children differently than I would. That the magic of motherhood would soften the edges of my looking glass, but also put a microscope on the humans in my care.

I did not know that sometimes I would let the incorrect judgment of others impact the way I would see my kids, or how awful it would make me feel. That, more than anything, I would want my children to be understood. For them to be seen.

I thought as an adult I would just know. Know what I wanted to do with my life, know when something was a bad choice, and know how to shake off negative influences and toxic friends.

Now I know that very few people have a clear vision and a clean path. Life is messy, and tricky, and there often isn't one right answer. Sometimes people treat us badly, and sometimes we allow it. Our loved ones are flawed, but we are, too.

I still don't have the answers, but for a girl who doesn't love surprises, I am more and more comfortable with the mysteries of life. My goal is the same as my father's before me, to "screw my kids up just a little less than my parents did me."

Only time will tell.