Is Your Life On Hold at All?

how to stop putting your life on holdSomehow this came up with a friend recently — we were discussing times our lives had been “on hold” for one reason or another. I thought it might make an interesting conversation here — particularly about how to STOP putting your life on hold. Some questions, to kick off discussion: Have you ever wanted to do something, either personal or career-related, because you were waiting for something else first? “I’ll buy a house/good plates after I get married…” “I’ll get a new job after I’m in a solid relationship,” etc. How did you work through the holding pattern? Did the thing you were waiting for happen, or did you just go forward and take the plunge anyway?

For my $.02, I’ve definitely been guilty of this. I stayed way too long in my firm job in part because it was a known quantity — the personalities, the demands, the hours — but I found a rhythm where I could date in it. I was at a time in my life where I didn’t want to take two years to put the dating search on pause while I spent hours on a job hunt, wrapping up my old job, then settling into a new job. Similarly, I’ve definitely held myself back from pursuing blog-related opportunities (speaking is the big one, or a book requiring a book tour), mostly because I’m waiting until the kids get older.

On the flip side, some of the best things that have come out of my life came when I said, “Screw it, I’m not waiting,” and soldiered on — launching this blog, for example. I was working full time as a litigator, I was looking for a new job, and I had only just started dating my husband, so it wasn’t a great time. But I felt strongly that if I didn’t do it, someone else would . . . so I did. (On a much, much lesser degree, I had waited through a lot of my 20s to “set up house” because I figured I’d get married at some point, but we still use the nice dishes and silverware I bought for myself when I finally decided to take the plunge!)

So let’s hear it, ladies: What are YOU waiting for? For those of you who just said “screw it” and threw that hesitation out the window, how did it play out for you? What are your best tips for how to stop putting your life on hold? 

Picture via Stencil.

 Have you ever felt like your life was on hold -- waiting until you got married to buy nice dishes, or until you got a new job to start dating, or something like that? We've all been there -- so today we're sharing tips on how to STOP putting your life on hold...


  1. Anonymous :

    This is a huge problem for me. I was a late bloomer in terms of finishing school, career, etc, compared to my peers, so I feel like I keep waiting for real adulthood to begin before doing stuff…but I’m 33 so I guess I am an adult now. I didn’t want to seriously date until I was more settled with my career/finances. I think this is as settled as I’m going to get, yet I’m not dating. I never wanted to paint my apartment because I might move out if I meet someone, but I’ve been here for 5 years now and I’m probably not moving out anytime soon and still haven’t painted.

    In general I really struggle with change, but it’s also hard for me to accept that my life hasn’t turned out the way I thought it would so I guess I’m still waiting.

  2. Yes, my life is on hold for work. Been dating intermittently for 5 years in my city. My job is extremely demanding. Either the man tires of it (gets fed up after another cancelled date; my inability to commit to a vacation; my late hours), or *I* get so incredibly busy that I start to resent him as one more demand on my time, brain, and body – and I dump him just so I can be selfish with my limited personal time.

    I don’t know how to break this cycle. My job is highly specialized and I feel like I have to make serious money while I can because nobody else is around to share the load. As the only single person in my work group I am also expected to cover for everybody else’s vacations, parental leaves, family dinners, etc. – meanwhile I was ordered to come home on day 2 of my last vacation, and when I asked if someone could get up to speed and cover this one thing for me, my boss told me “tomorrow is Sunday and both X and Y have young kids, so we really need you to handle this.”

    • Brit, you could be me (at least if you are on the other side of the “pond”, that is). I have much of the same issues that YOU do! Work is far to demanding for me, and as a result, I do not have the time to find the right guy to marry me, winding up dateing loosers who are not worth my time or if they are, they are not interested in anything other than for me to take my panties down for them. FOOEY on them! I do NOT really have time for real vacation’s, and I wind up working from home so often on weeknights and weekends that my HDTVs often have to do software update’s b/c they have been off for days! DOUBEL FOOEY!

      But I am really trying to break that cycle. I am going to hire another FEMALE associate to help me so that when I become the manageing partner, I will have a staff to help me with the difficult WC issues. Right now, I am overworked and have no time to find the right man, who I continue to believe is out there for me somewhere. I too must make my 401k grow, b/c I have no one to help me or be married to who could also have a 401k for us. Your manageing partner is like mine, but we have no one else but me to do the compliecated WC breifs, which we must file now electronicaly. That is why I work weekends, b/c the website can accept our filings w/o human intervention. Dad says I will find a guy, and Grandma Leyeh agrees, but she wants me to compromise my standards, which I will NOT. I did NOT get a JD and work my tuchus off all these years to marry a looser! TRIPEL FOOEY! If I wind up singel I will freeze my eggs and have a baby in 2021.

    • Anonymous :

      Commiseration to the “always covering for those with kids.” Bosses have said the same things to me. I countered with “and I have a life and other family members.” I wasn’t fired, but I left soon after.

    • +1 to that feeling of resentment against a partner/spouse/significant other when things get crazy at work.

      After a few years (and several thousand dollars) in therapy, I am finally “seeing” the cycle and working on breaking it. Hang in there!

    • Fortunately mostly everyone I work with has kids, so we all take turns covering for each other for awful late night or weekend demands. And those of us with kids spend time covering for the weddings, boyfriend dinners, other family member events or even personal trainer sessions of the non-kids-people. I’m sorry your workplace is so sucky – but they’re not all like that!

      • Yes this! Everyone (married, single, dating, committed relationship not married) is equally entitled to a life outside of work.

    • I am in my twenties and terrified of this because I see my own career heading in this direction. Among my friend group and my work group, I’m starting to be the single person who has to accommodate other people’s family/relationship schedules. And I find my personal life suffering as a result of being stressed out and overworked so that I’m too tired to get myself out there and date. Does anyone have any advice or thoughts on how to prevent myself from going down this path?

      • This is where deciding and setting your boundaries/priorities is important. For people with kids, taking care of their kids is a non-negotiable and so they are forced to say “I can’t do x, can we work something else out?”. I’d say figure out your non-negotiables and stick to them. And talk to your manager/boss about coming up with a system that puts limits on how often you cover for people. It may be that people, being busy, don’t realize how much they are putting on you.

  3. Diana Barry :

    Travel. We haven’t gone anywhere (except one Disney trip) since our first kid was born 10 years ago. We are going to the UK this fall and I can’t wait!

  4. Anonymous :

    Can we please redefine “life”? It seems like we have defined “life” as dating, getting married, having kids. And work is just kind of an appendage that’s a necessary evil. What if we love work? What if that’s our life?

    • Then it doesn’t sound like you’ve put anything on hold.

    • I’m glad you said that! I’m totally with you.

    • Most people I’ve talked to about having an “on hold” feeling were unhappy in their jobs in some capacity (and often finding that the search for a new one was longer than they would like).

    • I agree as well. My work brings me more joy than any other sphere of my life and I don’t want marriage and family to ever damage my career. Diversity and inclusion as applied to work-non-work choices is not represented.

  5. Argent for Work :

    Any experience with Argent clothing? CLO at Fortune 250 with BOD responsibilities. Finding fewer and fewer options for appropriate, well made, and comfortable clothing. INterested in any experience with this brand.

    • The pieces are really well made. They did not fit my swimmer shoulders, but if you have a narrower shoulder I would give them a try.

  6. I felt like my life was on hold during the three years my husband was doing postdoctoral positions. His job wasn’t permanent and he was applying to jobs all across the country every year, so we had no idea where we’d be moving and we were pretty much always in a state of “we might not be living here in six months.” We were in our late 20s and all our friends were settling down, buying homes and some even starting to have kids and it was so hard, because I felt like we couldn’t do any of those things until he had a permanent position (I was probably right about buying property, wrong about having kids, but in hindsight it worked out). I didn’t handle it well and was an absolute wreck about my approaching 30th birthday. Fortunately he got a permanent position a few months before my birthday, we bought a house in the new place and my 30th birthday was the best I’d had in a long time. The uncertainty was definitely tough but in hindsight I wish I’d enjoyed that stage of life more – we were well-off, childless and living in one of the best cities in the world, I shouldn’t have been so mopey! But the truth is I’m a zillion times happier with my life now even though many people would consider it more boring (suburbia, kid, unfancy job, not nearly as wealthy thanks to daycare + saving for college, etc.)

  7. While I was dealing with secondary infertility, I definitely put my life on hold for two solid years. Then finally the baby came, and there was another (much happier) holding period as we settled into our new lives and routines. Unfortunately, some work situations during the past two years have led to another holding period of not traveling much or even taking the time I need to be a healthy, whole person. And I’m tired of that and have been slowly digging myself out of that hole.

    Basically, my responsibility button is a little too finely calibrated, so I really struggle with putting thing off under the guise of being wise, responsible, practical, etc.

    • Not sure if trying after ectopic is considered secondary infertility, but it took two years to get pregnant and that was more than a hold. More like my life stalled. When I finally decided to focus on and make a leap in my career, I finally got pregnant, and started the new job right before third trimester. Essentially spending my first years in a new career with an infant at home, which also felt like a hold on my new career. But, hang tight, because look how much progress can be made while “holding still.”

  8. On hold right now — Work has been terrible… but I just found out that I’m pregnant. Not going to start looking for a new job until post-baby.

  9. Anonymous Engineer :

    I’m on hold on some minor things because I have reason to believe within the next year I will be moving from a “stopgap” job to a place I could see myself long term – so I’m putting off consolidating all my old 401Ks, etc. into one account – why do it now if I will likely have to do it again in a year?

    On the other hand, I’m 32 and single, but I bought a house a couple years ago, and then, screw it, bought myself some china so I can host Christmas dinner. Why wait for wedding presents?

    • Anonymous :

      You rock.

      • Anonymous :

        +1,000 I told myself I was putting off dating to get serious about school, then career, then after a few bad relationships, I decided I just really wasn’t into full-blown serious relationships. No more feeling like I am putting that on hold!

        I bought a house almost 10 years ago, while I had student loans, but I did wait to do that until I had paid off all credit card debt. I have the dishes I want, I change jobs when it’s right for me, have moved a couple of times, do the hobbies I want, save for retirement, save generally, buy what I want for my house, and have a great life. I suppose some of that is much easier when single though, yes?

    • Anon Finance :

      Just a note -unless you just want to roll your 401ks into another one, you absolutely can consolidate your 401ks to an IRA at a inv’t company of your choice and then when you move, you only have to do one.
      I say this because I see people get busy at the new place and forget about money at the old place and never handle it. Also, new place may have a weird retirement setup and no 401k.

  10. Anonymous :

    I really want to buy a house, but that’s on hold right now. I’m in a long-distance relationship, and the boyfriend (likely to be a husband eventually) will be moving here within the next year. I’m starting to look at options, but don’t want to move forward with anything until it can be an “us” decision instead of a “me” decision. Until then, I’m throwing away money on rent every month.

    • Anonymous :

      Right there with you. Except we still won’t be in a position to buy when he moves back, so I’m daydreaming about the apartment we’ll rent together when he moves back. Sigh.

      So ready to be together and start living life in the same place! But the good thing is that it’s given me plenty of free time to really lean in at work.

  11. This is a huge one for me.

    I find that when I’m “on hold,” I’m always less happy–and I also do less well at whatever I’m doing. I’m thinking of the time as “temporary,” so I don’t invest in myself or my life when I’m thinking about it being on hold.

    Now, I’m in a really good place–my job is bananas, but I’m in a happy relationship (getting married this summer).

    I’m trying to think of the problems-I’m-not-solving-today as being just for a moment, rather than a holding pattern. So, for instance, I travel nonstop for work and it’s utterly unsustainable–but I’m trying to embrace it and enjoy the hotel/exploring life, because I know I won’t be able to do this when I have kids. Similarly, I’m dying to get started having kids, but instead of feeling like we’re “on hold” until things fall into place, I’m trying to “relish” the fact that I can binge-watch netflix uninterrupted.

    Bottom line, I’m trying to turn that “hold” feeling into a positive one, because I know that when I’m thinking in “holding” terms, I neglect myself and my own happiness.

  12. Currently on hold. Doing fertility treatments for our first. It sucks.

  13. AnonymousL :

    On hold:
    * Buying a house (until I payoff student loans – approx. 3 years, including saving for down payment)
    * Relationship (not motivated, not heartbroken, just busy with work/other family)
    * Deciding whether to accept an unsolicited job offer in another city (just joined a firm 16 months ago, not happy with slower pace of work but everything else is good)
    * 401(k) / retirement savings (until I payoff student loans – some say this is terrible idea, I compare average market return to my interest rates and would rather wait 2 years)

    FWIW – lawyer, late 20s, was in-house for 3 years and moved to another state last year for private practice.

  14. Anonforthis :

    This topic has been eating at me and I love your term for it, Kat. I’m on hold and fed up with it! DH got his dream job in a different city last year and has been commuting (we suspected it was a 50/50 chance we would be staying here vs leaving), and it took over a year for me to sign up for the new state’s bar exam and sit for it, and I’m still waiting on results. Then this summer will be devoted to job searching and moving. I would really like to TTC but on hold until I have the new job and can evaluate whether there is a 3mo waiting period for mat. benefits or STD. Plus we will want to buy a house when we move.

  15. Anonymous :


    We really want to move to a new city, and a really good job opportunity for my SO came up, but then kept getting pushed out and out and out in terms of timing. In the meantime, I got a raise and he got a different job offer that was not as good as the other opportunity in theory, but better in practice because it was an offer for “right now”, not “when XYZ happens we will make you an offer.” We decided he should take it and we should stay where we are. Now I feel like we’re trapped because from a resume perspective he can’t just quit this job he just took in too short of a time frame or it will raise red flags with future employers. I’m really disappointed because moving would’ve meant so much more access to so many things I love to do. This is the best financial decision for us right now, but, I feel stuck and bored.

    • Anonymous :

      If your SO phrases new job search as “I’m moving because my wife got a great offer in this other city”, there is pretty much zero resume hit. People are unlikely to move multiple times in a short time for such a reason so he is not establishing a flightiness pattern, which is what employers are worrying about. But this means you now have to get an offer in the other city :)

  16. Anonymous :

    I’m on hold for now until my youngest sleeps through the night! Right now I’m just trying to get through the day and limit my coffee to 3 cups a day . . .

    • +1. 9 months and still multiple wakeups. CIO doesn’t work out because she is so, so stubborn she will cry for hours on end for weeks on end. Still BFing, so only 1 cup of coffee a day or it exacerbates the sleep issues.

  17. holding patterns :

    Holding out on applying for jobs until I get bar results in 2 weeks. Extremely frustrated at my low-paying, high-demand current job

    Holding out on buying a home until DH and I can save enough for a sizeable downpayment and a possible market crash in a EHCOL city

  18. JD then BSN :

    I feel like I pressed a big ol’ pause button on my adult life. I was looking for an in-house job for 3 years, life happened, and I decided to go to nursing school. I quit my law firm job 16 months ago and haven’t looked back. It’s weird to be looking for entry level positions and trying to strategize how to get into the specialties that interest me. I have 8 more months of school, the NCLEX, and then I hope to join a 1 or 2 year residency.

    My SO wants to move away from our VHCOL area and his job is quickly becoming less fun. We are trying to decide if I should look for a residency in our current area or in our target area.

    And…I really want a dog. It’s not possible until we move and get a yard. So that is on hold for the foreseeable future.

    Fwiw, I have never regretted buying a house or nice things when I was single. I would not go on hold to do those things. I do regret searching 3 years for an in-house job that I never really wanted and never got anyway. Hindsight, I guess.

  19. Decision Fatigue :

    Yes! This is so timely for me right now. Currently in-house at a large firm in DC. Recently moved to this firm from an even larger firm. This firm is so pleasant and easy but also not challenging. Old firm is courting me to return but it’s more drama and much higher-level work. I’ve been married for over 5 years and one of the reasons I moved firms was to settle-in somewhere less demanding before a baby came. But now it’s looking like a baby might not be in the cards. Currently weighing – stay at easy firm/return to hard firm; IVF/adoption/no baby; move closer to city/stay in suburbs with long commute but better for non-existent baby. Ahh! I feel like I am in total limbo. Any advice from the experienced out there?

  20. I marvel at others :

    Who are not on hold. Like, I see engagement/marriage and kid announcements on Facebook involving maybe a school friend who asked me out what feels like yesterday, or a girlfriend who had a kid with a man she seemingly married 2 months ago (nope that wedding was 6 years ago!) and wonder HOW DID THEY FIND THE TIME?!! To meet that person and build. To take that vacation. To clean their closet.

  21. Anonymous :

    Put off traveling until I “met someone.” Broke up with someone and booked that trip to Tanzania! Now married to someone else and in a baby/house limbo until we pay down some debt and make a more concrete plan. This is pushing me to have a conversation about this this weekend…

  22. Hate to admit this but I’ve had breaking-up-with-my-boyfriend on hold for months now… there’s no hurt or heartbreak, things are good, but we’ve agreed that we aren’t going to marry each other and I still want to get married so it needs to end at some point!

    We’ve always had an open relationship (I’m poly and he’s the most noncommittal person in the world) so I’m still dating around, but having a live-in partner is pretty obviously a dealbreaker for a lot of men.

    I’m actually moving into my own place next week which will help my dating life, but my partner and I are framing it as “X is moving closer to work for the busy season!” whenever someone asks if we’re breaking up. He also bought me a really expensive birthday gift this month so I don’t want to take it and run…

    Are there any poly commenters who want to tell me how to handle this? Any monogamous folks want to tell me I’m a selfish monster?

    • I’m monogamous so I can’t speak to that aspect of your question, but I don’t think you’re a selfish monster! Sounds like this relationship is alright, just not what you need in the long run. Self care isn’t selfish!

    • You're Not a Monster :

      I am poly and I empathize. I have been in similar situations. Hugs.

  23. Some combination of on hold and torn. I moved to a city B from the city A where I’d lived in for 4 years (after 6 months on the campaign trail in between). Moved because by fiance’s job is here, plus we’re closer to my family. I have what on paper is a great job, but I don’t love it and miss so much about city A (friends, affordability, culture). I want to settle into the job I’ll have when I have kids relatively soon (I’m 28, so not totally freaking out about this yet), and slightly shift my career trajectory. I feel like that can’t happen any time soon since my fiance’s job prospects in city A aren’t nearly as good, and I’ve been at my current job under a year. At the same time, it’s harder to invest in loving city B because eventually I think I’ll leave.

  24. Anonymous :

    One of the best decisions I made was not putting my life on hold while I was searching (for five years!!) for a tenure track job. In those five years I got married, bought a condo, and started trying to have a family. It was good that we started trying because it turned out we needed IVF. We should have lost money on our Cambridge MA condo when we picked up and moved for two tenure track jobs together, but it was 2014 so we really lucked out on real estate. It was a really hard time trying to figure out how to get the career, marriage, and family going all at once, and I often felt like my life was on hold, but we kept on telling ourselves what we’re living is our lives.

  25. Gingersnap :

    Put off travel, buying a house, trying to have a kid til I finished my dissertation and found a stable job. Bought a house, will start trying to have a baby in the Fall. 90% sure I hate the job and town I live in now, but feel like I’m stuck at least til I have a kid.

  26. Anonymous :

    I have left the work force / social life / personal life to be a full time caregiver for a parent who requires complex full time care. I am medically trained, otherwise they would require around the clock nursing/skilled care. A nursing home would not be sufficient care, and would be a quick and painful death. I have been doing this for years.

    I am earning nothing towards retirement/social security/Medicare.

    I have moved to a city where I have no friends.

    No one in my peer group has suffered a loss of a parent, nevermind become a caregiver for a parent. People are oblivious, and insensitive, but mostly they ignore me because they don’t know what to say and don’t understand what I am doing, and because they thank god it is happening to me and not to their family. It is painful to speak with them on the phone, and I even have difficulty responding to their emails, which are either clueless, harsh, or infuriating and patronizing. Although I can’t always pinpoint why….

    I am losing my basic social skills. It is disturbing.

    I spend hours every day as a nurse, doctor, nursing assistant, personal trainer, financial planner, case manager, patient advocate, aggressive combatant with insurance companies and poorly managed retirement plans, a lawyer, an accountant, a handyman, a therapist, a housecleaner, a bargain hunter, but never as what I really am.

    I am trained to do nothing. Yet I am trained to do everything, and can tolerate the greatest stresses. Yet, a ringing telephone startles me, and every change in a breathing pattern wakes me up at night.

    And when will this end? Only in a sad place.

    • Please take care of yourself. Can you get someone in for a few hours each day to spell you? We had an orderly who helped in the evenings.

    • Oh, this is sad, but yet you are doing the Lord’s work. People, parents, should not be inconvenient and every life has value. If you’re in Dallas I’ll come by and bring you lunch.

    • Belle Boyd :

      I spent 10 years caring for my mother. I worked full-time most of those years as well. I totally sympathize with you, because being a caregiver when your friends are all starting families and taking their kids to dance or soccer or scouts gets really. damn. lonely. It only takes one or two times for them to call and get a response that you can’t do something and they’re outta there. I don’t know where you live, but where I do, there is NO kind of a support group for caregivers. I know. I’ve tried to find one. If you can find one, join up, even if all you do is get newsletters from them online. It helps to know that you are not alone in this.

      The best advice I can give is to try to find a visiting nurse who will come in and give you a hand. They were a live saver for me. At the very least, they can give you some kind of break so you can keep your sanity even if all you do is run to the closest fast-food place and eat dinner in your car (which is what I did on quite a few occasions. I never thought a damned Mickey D’s hamburger could taste so good!)

      I’m sending you lots of hugs. I know you’re in a rough spot. I’ve walked in your shoes. Please take care of yourself and know that somebody who has been there and done that is thinking of you and keeping you in her prayers.

    • That is such a tough position to be in. If the people in your life really are being clueless, harsh, or infuriating and patronizing then it’s probably a good thing they are drifting out of your life.

      Have you need able to find any caregiver support groups?

  27. Interesting, yet here I am a(38) wife to a wonderfull hubby , mom of 2 a cna with an associate degree can seem to find a job, currently back in school to get into a 2 yr surgical tech program, but afraid anxious n depressed I feel under achieved, yet I am healthy, happy n trying to be positive.

  28. I prefer to say that I am on a plateau. But yes, it feels like I am in a holding pattern.

    Career wise, I have been stuck for a while and recently have come to feel like I am embodying that prediction/warning/idea that the younger generation will be layered on top of Gen X at work. The boomers are finally leaving my context, but due to the financial crisis, about 5 to 8 years later than planned. So I have that much experience waiting behind them and being told to wait my turn. I am a 40 year old woman who is tired of being told: you are young and you have a lot of time.

    One the one hand, this would be a great time to just coast in my career. It seems like it just does not matter what I do in my current job for the next five years. I am in the mid career mommy years. No longer am I as stressed out as early years. I have greater control over my schedule. But no woman in my current organization makes it into leadership for another ten to fifteen years, if ever.

    But it leaves a lot of time for hobbies, Pilates, gardening, researching and developing side hustles.

    On the other hand, I do not want to be stuck. I am bored. Am actively seeking a new employment context with clearer paths to leadership and more opportunities. Please do not laugh at that last statement.

    Has anyone left a safe boring stuck/plateaued job (not career) and transitioned to a more challenging job? Please tell me about your experiences.

  29. I felt “on hold” in my career for a few years. After coming home from an overseas assignment I decided to spend some time in non-profit. Once I was ready to go back to corporate I kept telling myself I wasn’t prepared and need more experience. Finally I hired a career coach who (1) challenged my on why I thought more experience was necessary and (2) gave me a whole new way to thinking about my career.

    After working with the coach I made the decision to leave PR, even though I just earned my APR accreditation, and switch to subcontract administration. It was a little sad to leave a professional field I really enjoyed but so far it’s been a good decision. I was able to get my salary back on track and move to from a boring small town to Charleston, SC.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Thank you for commenting. On the off chance that your comment goes to moderation, note that a moderation message will only appear if you enter an email address. If you have any questions please check out our commenting policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.