When did it become unacceptable in society to admit the fact that ones dreams and reality don’t always match up. When did it become the thing to tell people to “never give up on their dreams”. It seems to me like though most of human history the majority of people have known that life isn’t fair and that hard work doesn’t always mean success. Your average serf or peasant had to accept the lack of control over their own destinies and cling to whatever little joys life afforded them. I’m not saying they were happier necessarily (wars, famine, plagues) but I think the skill of accepting things is quickly becoming a lost art. The Buddha who spent his life trying to understand the nature of suffering decided that unfulfilled desires are at the core of suffering.
The other thing that really bugs me is how society perceives the act of giving up. It is seen as a weakness, not a strength to accept that some things just aren’t meant to be and look for happiness in other ways. Giving up always has negative connotations. We tell dying people who are torturing themselves with chemotherapy in order to buy a few more months to “Stay strong and don’t give up.” Even people deep in the trenches of the suffering tell themselves and others to not give up. Somehow the idea of discussing the fact that a person might be better off accepting reality has become taboo (with cancer, infertility, or even career dreams). I’m not devaluing hard work. Its important to work hard in every aspect of your life and a lot of times if you work hard enough at something you will achieve your dream. But a lot of people who devote the majority of their energy towards one single goal will often achieve their dream and then “wake up” to the rest of their life realizing their single minded pursuit of one goal left a lot of collateral damage in its wake. Then there are sometimes when no matter how hard you work you can’t achieve your dream. You can sacrifice so much in pursuit of that dream, refusing to give up, that when you finally realize that its not going to happen for you there is nothing else left.
In the end, no one should be telling anyone else how to live their lives. Nobody should say “don’t give up” because they have no idea what “not giving up” may cost. On the other hand telling someone its time to give up on their dreams is never helpful and never well received. Instead of telling people what to do we should be wishing others the strength to handle life’s challenges and the ability to find happiness no matter how things turn out.The decision on when and if to walk away from a dream has to come from within and you have to learn to shut out all the negative messages that society will hurl at you.
I gave up on my dream of having a child. I didn’t give up because I was weak or I didn’t want it badly enough or even because the work was too hard. I have found immeasurable strength in my new found ability to accept that things don’t always work out how you hoped and in the knowledge that you can be happy anyway.