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July 17, 2022

The Sacrifice of Childhood Dreams

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

When you are a child, you cannot wait to grow up. Everything inside of you is literally screaming, pulling, kicking and forcing you to prove your worthiness and capabilities of doing adult things. My entire childhood, I was told that I’m too young, too short, a girl, not fast enough, not smart enough, not “enough” to do whatever. As you can surely relate, this was beyond frustrating. Therefore, my go-to response for most things were “I can do it myself.” It did not always work in my favor, of course, but when it did, it was exhilarating and yes, I was THAT 5-year old gloating and strutting “my stuff” with a look on my face that screamed “told you so.”

As a child, I really thought I had life figured out. In my mind, everything I could imagine and envision was absolutely and undoubtedly possible. Because I didn’t believe the impossible existed. There was only one way: forward. In my mind, I built a tiny house out of my dad’s duck shed, I created an entire floor plan of my house by pushing down crops on the corn filed, I built tree houses like never see before, and most importantly, I could fly and visit every corner of the world at any given time; THAT was my favorite by the way. Well, that and hanging out with my most favorite celebrities like we were best friends, of course. However, I was very selective in my choices. My 5-year-old self was about as confident as any super hero going into battle. All that was missing, was the costume. I exuded confidence; so much so that pretty much everyone who doubted me or my ideas was unquestionably wrong and always had a “plan” to show them how and why.

And guess what happened next? Yup, I grew up. Exactly what I was asking for, minus my “everything is possible” attitude. Yes, I did push myself a little bit on purpose by leaving home straight after High School and moving to another country (by myself!), but then all of a sudden, I started carrying extra weight; I piled on more and more of societal expectations that I soon adopted as my own and in the process, I lost sight of myself! No longer do I have the naïve confidence of my 5-year-old self. On the contrary, I doubt myself more than any other person. I actually believe that I cannot do “all the things”, because I am missing all the fancy acronyms behind my names, the shiny certificates on the wall, and the “must-haves by age whatever.” My kids are almost adults, ready to go off and start their lives – And I am sad, of course, because THEY were my life all this time. My time is/was dedicated to them, their fulfillment, their happiness, their needs, and their fun, their goals, their dreams, their aspirations, their whatever. I was actualizing parts of myself by experiencing life by rubbing elbows with them and their everyday encounters.

I have given up so much (happily) for them and would not wish to have missed any moment with them, but in the process, I have lost parts of myself, because I made my life about my kids, always. To this day, all decisions are made in consideration of my kids. In the years of my early adulthood, I took care of them without being able to find out who I was going to be or what I wanted, because I put their needs before my own. Now, I feel a bit ‘lost’ and actually re-discovering myself is nonsense, because I am not the same person I was at 19 years old. As my kids grew up, I did as well, but without guidance from others around me. Can you relate? I just figured things out as I went along. My parents and high school friends live on another continent and the people I currently know are limited to persons I work(ed) with.

You might call it a ‘mid-life’ crisis, but I believe it is more or less a realization of passed years where I put myself on-hold and now experience whiplash to my younger self, only to realize that I hardly recognize that person. And I have nothing to show off to to my 5-year old self regarding the dreams and aspirations I once held so strongly, but have not put into fruition. I’m actually annoyed by all of this; angry and disappointed.  It feels a bit like failure. Having given up on myself, and therefore, completely dismissed my own true self. There frankly is nothing more depressing than that!

I still remember the dreams, though. I still have this urge and longing of wanting to just pick of my things, get on the plane and go wherever my heart pulls me at any given time. And then? Guilt. I obviously cannot just abandon my kids! I can’t exactly leave my responsibilities behind for selfish reasons, can I? The tug-of-war inside feels like a battle field at times and finding a “healthy” balance is a real challenge. How can I encourage and support my kids’ goals and desires, but deny myself the same curtesy?

Long story short: I’m not planning on drowning myself in self-pity, but rather use this “new-found” revelation as a driving force to go back those dreams and then move forward by realizing them.

Main takeaway – life is short. It truly is. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Your life matters. You are only here once. Make the most of it. Be unapologetic about the things that matter to you. It’s okay to be selfish at times. Your dreams don’t have to make sense to anyone else.

Most importantly, if you can relate AT ALL to anything I just wrote about, then you KNOW, you are not alone. There are more people like us than we realize. Together, let’s stop wearing the weight of other peoples’ opinion and boldly embrace the courage that permits us to explore everything we want.

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