How Crushed Dreams Gave Me Profound Mid-Life Freedom

crushed dreams

I’m 53 and discovering that true freedom in life can involve crushed dreams. Allow me to demonstrate.

This morning I was minding my own business, walking home from a personal training appointment. I’m a bit out of shape and trying to remedy that:) Suddenly, it dawned on me that my body isn’t what I ever imagined it to be. It’s soft and – well – average.

Average.

And then my brain decided to take me on a no-holds-barred tour of crushed dreams.

I am not mega-wealthy. No private jets. I am not famous. I am not ultra-connected. My family life is not a picture of harmony. The dog I love is a mutt. I’m an ordinary dude living in a suburb.

~Just me

I am far more successful in life than some, far less than others. I am lost somewhere in the middle of a pack that isn’t even on the world’s radar.

To my surprise, this line of thinking brought a profound sense of relief. Somehow, it is freeing me to just be me. Just do me. Live life for what it is. Forget the fantasy of world domination; the shiny object of my 20-something self.

Why did a mental tour of crushed dreams feel so good in the end?

Because it’s true. All the pressure of accomplishing things I am unlikely to accomplish is….gone. Freedom. Joy of being. Just me here, freed to live the life I have, not the one in my florid imagination.

Little did I realize that I hadn’t updated my expectations in life since my 20’s. In my 50’s, a life of relative obscurity or anonymity is becoming attractive. Of course, I can hear part of me claiming that I am giving up. My attitude is in the toilet! Stop making excuses just because you want to settle for less.

I appreciate that driven, anything-is-possible part of me. It got me here, which is not a bad place to be, given that I was raised in poverty. Hell, compared to my early life, I am indeed living the dream. I rose to the middle! That’s a huge accomplishment.

And I am not done. I follow my passions. I work for myself. I enjoy many of the good things in life, like sailing and tennis and wine. Life isn’t what I once imagined it would be but it’s damn good compared to where I came from.

My crushed dreams scenario seems to align with sociological data.

Given the facts, what I once thought would finally make me happy turned out to be a mirage. Wealth and status and hobnobbery are 100% unnecessary for fulfillment. What is necessary?

Rising to the middle.

You may have heard about the 2010 study that found happiness levels off after achieving an income of around $75,000 annually. A decade later, experts still agree.

But once you hit that middle-class level, there really is no correlation [to happiness] above that,” says Brad Klontz, a financial therapist and psychology professor at Creighton University. This can be challenging to comprehend because most people operate under the assumption that money will solve all of our problems. 

Source: Make It

I would clarify the above – or underscore the most important part of it, which is this: because most people operate under the assumption that money will solve all of our problems. This is the kicker and it has nothing to do with money but with expectations. Expectations can make or break your life.

This is why I am so relieved. I no longer expect the world from myself. I am finding contentment in reality.

Out of this might come a certain philosophy of living that isn’ t new, but emphasizes mindfully living in the present. What else is there?

Crushed dreams? It may be a blessing in disguise.