The death of what you thought

October 17, 2023


Been around the block a time or two, and I think you have, too. And yet, we do have our illusions.

Our hopes and dreams.

And what we thought.

Someone in one of my social media literary communities used the phrase, “the death of what we thought” and mentioned that it can be disorienting. I absolutely love the concept. It’s brilliant and it speaks to so much of what goes on when you are, well, human.

I can think of so many ways it applies. Bet you can, too.

What have you done for me lately?

I had a job I really loved. I mean, LOVED it. Recruiters would call offering major money, major responsibilities, big titles but I loved my job so I wasn’t interested. I wouldn’t even talk. I loved the autonomy. I loved the people I worked with. I loved the clients. And the work.

And then, my illusions were shattered. What I thought was not the way it was. At least not after those many years.

I couldn’t get out of there faster. I mean, land-speed records were broken.

When the dust settled I wondered how I’d gotten it so wrong and for so long. In the end I realized that I hadn’t really gotten it wrong. I just didn’t see that it wasn’t ME who mattered at all. It was what I could do for the company. And when the market changed, so did the way things were. It really wasn’t me at all. It was them and their opportunism. And how could I fault them for being focused on the company? They were in business!

I did, though, expect them to have some attachment to me. But they didn’t. The attachment was to what I could do for them.

The death of what I thought. It was eye-opening.

What can you do for me?

I’ve had a couple of long-term friends who were quick to take offense and, for lack of a better word, opportunistic. It didn’t really affect me, or so I thought, as I watched them cozy up to people who could do things for them. And they had a gift for that: the ability to ingratiate themselves in situations that benefited them. After a while, I realized that they didn’t really look at others as people. Just as means to ends.

And so, one friendship ended strangely and another one just petered out as I realized I wasn’t getting enough back. Because of the enduring nature of these relationships, I thought long and hard about releasing them. But when I asked myself “how is this friendship satisfying to you?” I had to admit it wasn’t.

It wasn’t so much the death of what I thought as it was the death of what I hadn’t thought about.


Mean people suck

There was a period of time when it looked like all the mean people in the world were crawling out from under their rocks. Or at least showing their true colors. Sometimes it was the death of what I thought, because, well, I thought they were nice people. Good friends.

But not so much.

Sometimes it was more the death of what I hoped, because, well, in some ways I remain a bit of an innocent, hoping for the best and that people really are nice.

Well, they aren’t, not always. Some had always been mean, just not toward me. They were the kind of person who constantly boasted of how much their direct reports loved them at work, when I knew damn well they had to see what I saw and probably couldn’t stand them.

And then, they came out from under the rock. The death of what I thought. Again, land speed records were broken because, well, when I’m done? I ‘m done.

In another case, they have always been mean to me but in their self-righteousness, would never recognize it.  I had my reasons for sticking. Then, I didn’t.

Well, so long! Glad you’re gone.

Age is no protection

It’s crazy to admit I still have some illusions. There’s still that part of me that’s a little girl just hoping for the best. Life hasn’t knocked it out of me, which is kind of surprising.

But even though I’d believed I’d been discerning in who I let into my life, apparently I was not discerning enough. So, what now?

Tasting it all

The truth is, I have no regrets. I’ve always lived life full out. I’ve given people the chance to be their best selves. I’ve given grace. I’ve been my best and my worst self and learned from it. I have tasted it all. Yes, at this age I am setting new boundaries. But I’m not looking back with regret.

Someone I follow on social media posted this wonderfully inspirational Louise Erdrich quote.


And so, as you read this, probably months from when I wrote it, know that I’m sitting joyfully by a virtual apple tree, having tasted as many apples as I could and sated with the sweetness of life.

18 comments on “The death of what you thought
  1. Susan Cooper says:

    This really resonated with me. I have come to terms that letting go and moving on with the understanding that some aren’t meant to be in my life.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    So very true. We all have illusions that get shattered. I also knew people who treated others like commodities and I never understood that. I was always glad I let those people go… or often, they let me go when I was no longer useful.

  3. Much of what we see and feel is either perception, or open to change. One thing that doesn’t change (but grows) is the mean people.

  4. This definitely resonated with me. Over the last few years I’ve had those friends who seemed so close and then they “moved on” without fanfare. They used up what I had to give. I have relatives that I love but cannot have them in my life. That said, I do enjoy having people in my life who are good, kind people but they differ religiously and politically from me. You don’t learn by being in a room with a bunch of people who agree with you.

  5. Diane Tolley says:

    It makes me so sad to know that people have hurt you. I simply do not understand how one can go through the world intent on one’s own comfort and completely ignoring those around them and their needs. It just isn’t me. And it just isn’t you! You have the right idea…step back from those who would simply use you and stick with us who love you!

  6. Alana says:

    Like all of us, I’ve had illusions shattered. By employers. By people I thought I knew. The past three years were especially good for that. I saw people I had known all my life (or nearly all my life) turn into unbelievably mean humans. Or maybe I just had not seen the pre-COVID mask that hid their true selves. On the other hand, over the years, I’ve learned the joy simple things can bring. And, that it is OK to discard relationships and activities that no longer work.

  7. Been taking a lot of these knocks lately, and you’re so right… Age doesn’t help.

  8. Lauren says:

    Wow! Well said. I remember my mom telling me as I was crying about a friend being mean to me as a teen “honey, you will deal with this the rest of your life, even as an adult.” What? She was right. I had hoped it had stopped with age, but it doesn’t. Neither do the occational pimple I get, only new it’s next to wrinkles.

  9. Rita says:

    Great article. You have to be emotionally healthy and see that people and situations aren’t good for you. Then, you speak up or change things so things work better for you.

  10. I’ve experienced that career type of death. You get older, get replaced but I have always reinvented myself, so it doesn’t bother me so much.

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