We live in a culture where putting yourself first is viewed as selfish. Putting your life on hold for others is often applauded – or, perhaps that is just what we have led ourselves to believe. Do your children really want you to put your dreams on hold? Do you love your spouse so much that you are willing to martyr yourself for them? What about your boss? Your friends? Who is keeping you from reaching your goals? You are.
When I was twenty one I lived with a couple of the coolest guys on the planet. We went to college together and afterward we all got good jobs. We made good money. We went out to eat together and played Ultimate Frisbee. For me, I was living the dream. I had grown up in a home where hard work was just a way of life. Mowing the lawn, doing chores, following the rules, and now I didn’t have any of that. I just had disposable income and some best buds. Life was amazing – until my best buds decided to move on with their lives. One of my friends went into the airforce and became a very successful pilot, the other one went overseas and started a very large nonprofit. You see, I told you they were awesome.
So there I am making great money and suddenly without my bros. I stayed in Denton for as long as I could but over time everyone was moving away and moving on with their lives. This became a pattern in my life. I didn’t have a lot of career goals because at the young age of 24 I was making 54,000 a year and when you grow up in a single wide trailer, 54,000 a year seems like a fortune. Since all my friends were moving away I decided to move to Plano, TX where I began to work for Texas Instruments. It was 2003 and by this time I was 28 years old. Still young. Still had most of my hair. I had survived the recession of 911 and now I was climbing my way up the corporate ladder. Well, that ladder had slippery rungs and in 2009 I got laid off from Texas Instruments. I was making 72,000 a year at the time, decent money for sure, especially with full benefits and 4 weeks paid vacation. It was a great job. An amazing company with diversity fairs and ice cream socials. But still it seemed that my life wasn’t progressing at the same rate as my friends. The problem was a plethora of things, but they were all built on fear. But we will save that story for another post and fast forward to now and the inspiration for this post.
I have a close friend who has a house and a married couple rents a room from him. The couple wants to buy the house, but they are trying to save the money to make that happen and it might be a while. However, with Covid-19 and all that is going on with the economy, the couple can’t afford to buy the house and so my friend is literally putting his life on hold so that the couple can maybe one day purchase his home and fulfill their dreams. But waiting on them is making him depressed and miserable.
He asked me, “What should I do?” And my response, which probably sounds cold, was this, “You cannot put your dreams on hold for someone else’s.” Life is just too effin short! Seriously. I am 44 and I have spent so many years and so many thousands of dollars helping others to reach their dreams and all the while I have put myself second, third, or even fourth. I have said “Yes” to eating meals that I didn’t want to eat. Spent money that I didn’t have to spend, all in the name of pleasing others and helping them reach their dreams – but in reality, I was scared that if I didn’t do all of those things that those people wouldn’t be my friends or that I would be letting them down. But, the sad thing is, many of those friends, when it came time for them to move on with their lives, they moved on. They didn’t wait for me to get my shit together. They didn’t ask my permission before they moved away. They just lived their lives. And good on them! That is what you are supposed to do. You need to live your life. Fight for your dreams. Create the world that you want to live in. Stop making excuses and start making changes!
I sound like a motivational speaker now, but I’m serious, I have spent way too much time caring what other people think. I have not been authentic and it has cost me so much. I have spent so much time getting people to love a fake version of myself, and because I knew it was being fake, I felt like I had to pay to keep them around. Gifts, food, services, money – I literally became the Giving Tree sacrificing myself and in the end most of those people didn’t stick around.
And this is all on me, not on them. I’m not playing the victim, I’m being honest with you and myself.
When I started to be real, when I came out as a gay man, when I stopped cooking meals, when I stopped buying gifts, did some of them leave? Yes. But I had led them to believe I was someone who I wasn’t, so why would they stick around?
So now I’m moving forward and I’m being the most authentic and loving person I can be. And I’m no longer putting my dreams on hold so that others can achieve their’s. I’m out here grinding day in and day out. I’m hungry to own my life and to build a life that is what I want, not a version I believe that will make others happy or that requires other’s approval.