If You Ever Find Yourself in the Wrong Story…

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above via Monrowe NYC, purveyor of ultra-chic hats.

There is a stirring quote by children’s book author Mo Willems:

“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”

I sat with this quote for a good stretch the other day. At first glance, it put pressure on my faith in providence, foisting unwieldy weight on the slack-then-taut boundary between fate and agency. Over time, I have come to the view that “God laughs when we make plans” but that I must make them anyhow, must muscle my heart and energy and intelligence to attempt to live an ethical, thoughtful, loving life as if I am going it alone, without a safety net beneath or marked trail ahead. I wouldn’t know how else to proceed. Still, life has proven time and time again that “you may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will look back in a few years and be absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little thing added up and brought you somewhere wonderful–or where you always wanted to be.” (More on that spectacular quote here, though now I might humbly propose the adjustment: “…where you always needed to be.” Most times, my needs eclipse my wants–and for the better.)

Then again.

There is something powerful in thinking about these words from the perch of an author, dipping the concept into the realm of the narrative. Storytelling is a part of life. In some ways, it is life. Whether we are applying for jobs or pitching our businesses or making friends in the carpool line, we are telling stories about ourselves, drawing lines between dots scattered far and wide across our pasts that, without the force of our own conviction and the penmanship we wield, would remain, well, just scattered dots, some of them fading permanently into oblivion. We control the story. We determine which elements stand in the foreground and which recede. We choose the words, too: “I am a writer,” I say. But I could just as easily reply that I am “a working mom” or “an entrepreneur” or “a blogger” or any number of other permutations of the career I have chosen for myself. There have been times, though, where I have not felt such control over my own story and have instead absorbed the ones others have written about me. In my teens, I was all academics — though “not a numbers person,” which, as it turns out, is a story I told myself that was not true. Even though I was interested in other pursuits, I would not have admitted them. I was an excellent student first, and nothing else felt seemly to mention. In my early 20s, I remember feeling as though I had to live up to the expectations of a certain group of friends who saw me as a polite girly-girl. Now, I am polite, and I am a girly-girl, and I was generally flattered by the portrait that they had painted — but I felt myself strangely censored in their presence. I felt I could not admit to liking certain music, or laugh at certain jokes, or air certain grievances. In other phases of my life, I have felt beholden to only reading certain types of literature, worried my secret obsession with thrillers would expose me as a fraud in the pursuit of a career in academia. These are admittedly trivial manifestations of the many ways in which the stories other people tell about us — or, at least, the ones we think they do — can govern our actions. I have witnessed more nefarious examples in the lives of friends who have felt stuck in bad situations at the hands of others. And so I know that it is rarely as simple as realizing you are in the wrong story, and leaving. But the imperative remains, if you need to hear it this morning, or any morning for that matter. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “It’s never too late…to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing…I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

How’s that for big Wednesday morning energy?

Go get ’em, Magpies. Let’s write ourselves out of the wrong stories.


+Praise for a normal day, written while caring for a newborn.

+In media res: memories of studying abroad in college.

+Epistolarity as a gendered mode of writing.

+A humble thing.

Shopping Break.

+Have seen these $13 shades in the beige color on many a chic blogger and may have to follow suit. I did just recently order these fun white cateyes, too!

+A great (on-trend) top for summer, $60.

+This sarong comes in such a fun, punchy print.

+This dress looks just so easy to wear.

+Fun little ric-rac-trim mule.

+Currently in the market for convertible carseats for my children. I had been planning on buying Cleks which seemed to me la creme de la creme — super narrow, strong safety reviews, and very stylish IMO. However, I have been coming across so many great reviews of the Nuna Rava, and I conducted an informal poll on Instagram and people LOVE this carseat. Apparently you can totally remove the cover of the seat and throw it in the washing machine, which is basically the best news ever. I also like that people say it works well for tall children — both of mine are on the tall side. Now I’m undecided! There were also a handful of strong reviews for Maxi Cosi and Diono, but I would say 90% of feedback was ECSTATIC about the Rava.

+This under-$70 swimsuit in the blue floral is SO good!

+Cute birthday dress for a little lady for $36 — perfect for sending her into school on the day of!

+Blue! Bow-shouldered! LOVE.

+Mais j’adore these woven loafers!

+Outdoor wicker side table at a great price. More fun patio and al fresco dining finds here.

+And a perfect dress to wear on your patio, too.

+Great $30 blouse in white.

+Oh my goodness, this dress is just speaking to me. Dig the cut, print, length…YES.

+This floral dress (on super sale) reminds me of a mix between an HH nap dress (I own like six at this point) and Emilia Wickstead’s Giovanna dress style (which I own in a different print and am wearing to my son’s birthday party this weekend). In other words, I love it!

+A great gift for a fellow planner.

+Allll my favorite beauty products.

+Prettiest Sleeper x Le Monde Beryle mules, 70% off.

+Adorable little coverup for your little lady.

+Fitness gear to wear as we ease into the warmer months.

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8 thoughts on “If You Ever Find Yourself in the Wrong Story…

  1. What a great prompt — I’ve been mulling this over for some time, in a slightly different way. What is my “story”? What am I called to do? I’ve been reading about this Japanese concept of “ikigai”, which is the intersection of what you love to do, what the world needs, what you are good at, and what you can be paid for. It is interesting to be thinking (or rethinking) this at 42, with a “predictable” career in a specific field and a PhD, and every now and then fantasizing about culinary school — pastry, specifically (oooh even writing that down makes it… more real somehow). It can feel a bit scary after years and years of education and professional experience in something completely different. Do I feel “done” in that part of my story, or is there more I need to do in my previously chosen profession to feel fulfilled? Can there be two “stories”, two paths alongside each other?

    Lots to think about… thank you, as always, for your thought-provoking writing!

    1. So interesting, Mia. I totally relate to this entire thread of thought having gone through multiple major career changes in the last ten years and questioning myself so many times along the way. There is an interesting quote by Shakespeare about how half of life is finding out what you’re good at and the other half of life is giving it away. I have thought about that a lot, too…


  2. I am also in the market for a convertible car seat. Right now if you buy the Nuna Rava on Bloomingdales, you get a $100 gift card. I think I am going to do it… 🙂

    I bought my UppaBaby Vista that way and got a $250 gift card, which I then used for the UppaBaby Mesa car seat – love a good Bloomingdales sale.

    1. Ashley! You may have just tipped me in the favor of the Nuna. Thanks for the heads up on the Bloomie’s promo. What it’s basically come down to for me is that I prefer the look of the Clek seat but the fact that Nuna’s cover comes fully off and can be laundered is more or less impossible to beat. Then you factor in the Bloomie’s promo…


  3. LOVE this Wednesday morning energy! The idea that if we’re unhappy with something about ourselves or our environment, we can change it, seems so obvious and yet revolutionary. Especially in the last year when much has felt out of our control. But as adults, I think that more is in our control than we realize, or more than we want to believe. I’m thinking specifically of small daily annoyances…I’m trying to be more mindful of them (and there seem to be A LOT in the world of parenting toddlers) and ask myself what I can do to avoid the scenario next time, instead of just being resentful and irritated by it day after day. But it also works for big, life-goals type stuff, too! We get in ruts and forget that things can be different (within reason) and we don’t need permission to change them. Anyway, thanks for planting this idea today! I’m all fired up reading this while I eat a post-ride breakfast after setting a PR this morning 🙂 And I’ve been listening to an Olympics podcast, and the Olympics always make me want push myself like the elite athlete that I most certainly am not! Haha.

    1. Hi Stephanie! I love this. I read it right before leaving for my run and I trotted out that door with BIG energy :). I’m also fired up today! I agree with you on your note about changing the small things that nettle. Going to carry this with me into dinnertime tonight, which tends to be a frustrating hour in our house between picky eaters, the reinforcement of manners/staying seated, etc. Going to go in with a different tack tonight. Thank you!


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