Saying Goodbye to the Life I Wasn’t Meant To Live: Thoughts from a Mid-life Crisis

There’s a version of my life that I created as a teen. It’s not the life I have now, but it’s the life I imagined I’d have. It involves so many of the things that actually happened in my life but without the trials, the missteps, & the failures. I LOVE this version of my life, and the person I get to be in this fantasy story. I am the person I wanted to be. I’m proud of my accomplishments and the attitude I had while achieving them. I learn lessons when it’s not too late to apply them in order to get where I’m going.

Some would say that nobody gets the exact life they envision as a teen (if they envisioned one at all), or the one they see in Disney princess movies or rom-coms. Instagram would tell us otherwise, but I’m starting to believe that maybe everyone has a story, an unfulfilled dream, a hidden sorrow. Maybe we really are “in this together” in some ways, as the CoVid slogan goes. Or maybe only a chosen few get the storybook life.

The other day I read this quote by Francis Chan: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure… but of succeeding in life in things that really don’t matter.” It really struck me. My greatest fear has been failure. I’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning things that did not go according to my plans, and things that could have gone much better in my ideal world. As I learn and grow, I feel like my ideas of how much better things could have gone has expanded. Thoughts of “why didn’t I think of that!” and “why didn’t I try that approach” have crowded my mind. And yet… maybe these things I’ve wanted, and these failures I speak of, have mostly been ego-driven to begin with. The truth is, for as many “better versions” of my life I can conjure up, I can also think of many worse versions. When I choose to look at it from a soul perspective rather than an ego perspective, I think i’ve actually come a long way. Do I wish I had learned faster? Of course. But, what if it’s not too late? What if there is still a chance to succeed in the things that do really matter?

I’ve also been wondering: what happens to those who get every single thing they want, or at least all of the ego-driven desires? Are they truly happier? If I’d gotten everything I ever wanted and looked exactly how I wanted, would I be humble and thankful or self-righteous and haughty? I am sure it could go either way, and I’d like to think I’d just be happy, giving and joyous – but who knows? Maybe our hurts and unfulfilled desires are exactly what we need to serve our unique purpose in the world.

I love this verse:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

It took me a lot of failure and pain to learn that self-hatred is not the way to self-actualization, and that a “please fix me” attitude does not allow for clear self-expression and flow. And now, after grieving bygone moments and missed opportunities, I realize there is still time. There is still time to incorporate the lessons life’s taught me. There is time to express in a different medium. There is time to love my family and friends, and time to help others.

For a while, I was stuck with questions of “why?” Why didn’t I know better? Why wasn’t I more confident? Why did I make such naive mistakes? I’ve been working on accepting that I just didn’t know better in certain areas, and, as Maya Angelou says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Letting go of what wasn’t meant to be and accepting that not everyone is able or fortunate to achieve exactly what they hope for has been enormously helpful to me. We cannot completely create our own reality. God often has different plans for us than we have for ourselves, and we are working within the constructs we’ve been given.

Have you grieved the way that the dreams of your youth didn’t work out as you expected? How can you succeed, now, in the things that truly matter to you?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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