How many times have you been disappointed in life? I have. More than I can count. I had a 4.0 GPA, a perfect score in my SATS, and glowing recommendations. I also had nine rejections from various colleges, ranging from Princeton to Carelton (Ever heard of it? Not surprised!). I was the last child in a family of five, born to be the littlest, best loved creature of them all. I have never had a birthday party, or a going away party, or a welcome back party, or basically any celebration of me and for me. I had a first from Cambridge, and graduated with two PhD offers and a job offer. I have been sitting on my bed, twiddling my thumbs for the last year, as none of those prospects materialized through no fault of my own. But I fear I am being ungrateful…. at least I have my health.
I am sure everyone reading this, if there is anyone, has their own catalogue titled ‘Shit the Universe did.’ Mine is managed by an little, balding man called Steve, who lives deep in my soul, somewhere in the murky land between logic and despair. His memory never fails. Sadly, neither do his suspenders, so there is no hope of humour from Steve, inadvertent or otherwise. Instead, he sits like the most dedicated of librarians, jotting down every injustice, whispering in my ear late into the night of how people and life have done me wrong. Its like having a disappointed, slightly drunk father who lives with you, reminding you constantly of everything you could have been and never will be. Steve’s frightfully inconvenient. But here’s the thing: so is life.
Let me ask you another question. How many times have you disappointed people? Have you been short with your mother when she called, never realizing that in taking all her time and attention, you left her no other best friend? Have you spent as much time talking to your father as he spent working to finance your life? While celebrating your acceptances and appointments, did you ever think of all those who had been rejected, who had essentially been told they were not good enough for the life they had wanted? We all face disappointments, that’s a fact. Here’s another, less known fact: in so many little ways, we disappoint others. Not in a concrete way, feelings and relationships are anything but set in stone, but definitely nonetheless. We disappoint as often as we are disappointed, and all Steve is good for is a late night chat now and then. If we all start listening to the voices in our head, as well dressed as they may be, we would end up in a pretty murky place ourselves.
Expectations, I find, often get in the way of life rather than charting a way to live. Life is not a series of accomplishments, a checklist you have to get through before you’re ‘done.’ Its an obstacle course, and every time you think you’re almost there, you’re almost who you were supposed to be, a new roadblock springs up. You can choose to bang your head against the wall, and I’m sure you will get through eventually, but with bruised knuckles and a nosebleed. Or, you could be like Steve, and sit down with a journal, making life a little more miserable for yourself and everyone who passes your way, documenting all the ways life went wrong. Or, of course, you could swerve ever so slightly, changing your path in the hopes of eventually getting to the same destination. I take issue with everyone who looks down on the path of least resistance; there’s no such thing as a straight road in life, and at the very least there are naysayers and doubters perched on the sidewalk. Anyone who has a dream, a real, audacious, laughable, impossible plan for the future, knows that even the path of least resistance leaves you bruised and battered.
So I don’t expect anything from the Universe : obstacles will appear in a clear road, foolproof plans will fall through, people may not love you like they should. All I know for certain is that I have dreams, and passions, and priorities. I do not expect to be anyone’s dream, or passion, or even their priority. I have me. And I have dreams I can live for. That is more than enough. Its more than most people have in a lifetime. When you stop expecting the Universe will function according to your plans, you start appreciating it every time that it does. And when you stop expecting people to put you first, you find its very easy to love those who do, if only for a minute.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.