You know the odds. You see and hear the statistics – over and over and over again. You cannot help but know there’s a very good chance that your vision of the future will fall apart, that you will fail.
But you do it anyway. You cling to the hope that your experience will be different. Maybe you tell yourself you have something special or that you’ll work harder or smarter. You’ll do the “right” things, or maybe you’ll just get lucky. You’ll find obstacles in your path, but you’ll find a way around or over or through them. Somehow you will make it work. You have to believe that you will succeed. If you didn’t believe that, would you try? Would you stand a chance?
So you do it. You go all in. There are good days that buoy your confidence. There are bad days that test your resolve, but you find a way through them. Most of the days fall somewhere in between, just doing the day-to-day work to keep it all afloat, often without actively thinking about long game.
Then it happens. That fragile dream falls, hits the ground, and breaks into a thousand million pieces. And you feel like you shattered along with it.
While you’re picking up the shards, trying to figure out what to do with what remains and how to move forward, you inevitably find yourself thinking about how you got here. What did you do wrong? What should you have done differently? Should you have put in more or taken a step back? Were you blinded by pride – or naivete? If you’d been a touch more cynical, maybe you’d have been better prepared. Possibly the crash was inevitable, but if you’d held something back, maybe it wouldn’t have hurt so damn much.
That might be the hardest part about broken dreams: They can make you question everything – who and what you are, all you do and how you do it. It can be especially hard when you try to be self-sufficient, when you compartmentalize your life in an effort to keep one part from bleeding into the other, when you’re accustomed to putting forward an air of calm and control even when you’re a wreck inside. The people around you think you’re OK. You’re the strong one; you’re always OK. You say little, so they say little. When they do say something, it’s what they think you need or want to hear – more visions for the future, assurances that you’ll find something new/different/lasting, promises of the wonderful things that will come in time.
What you really need to hear is that you’ll simply make it through the here and now. That you’ll survive picking up the pieces, even though each one cuts deeply as you grab hold. That you’re not alone. That no matter how broken you feel, you’re still relevant, you’re still worth something to someone. Some days you know all of that, without question. Some days take a little more convincing, and you have to tell yourself that you really can do this, that the pain and doubt won’t last forever.
But some days you need a little help. You need to hear someone else say all those things that you know deep down. The thing is, people – even those who are very close – don’t necessarily think to tell you those things because they should be obvious. So you have to reach out and ask for help, which can be harder than it sounds. It means letting go of the pride or logic or whatever it is that’s holding you back. To keep from losing yourself entirely, you have to let some of the cracks show. You have to bare your weakness. The very thing you fear will crush you is exactly the thing you must do. Finding the strength to do that helps you realize you have the strength and support you need not just to survive but to keep playing against the odds.