Are you an optimist? Do you have a positive attitude towards life? Well I do, most of the time. In fact I am not only an optimist but an idealist too. I don’t say this with pride. No. An optimistic idealist is a crazy thing to be. I have always been the victim of my own optimism. I like to believe that people are not bad or cruel or evil but circumstances force them to do evil deeds and to behave badly.
From the time we open our eyes in the morning we are disappointed with something or the other. First with the weather, then with the way we slept or couldn’t sleep, with our dreams, with the taste of the coffee in the morning, with the way our hair looks, our face, our eyes, our skin, our body. With our clothes, our shoes, and this in the early hours of the morning before even leaving the house. And once we are outside we are not happy with the bus, or metro or train, and if we are driving it is the traffic we complain about and then our job and the list goes on. There’s always something to pull us down.
I had such a terrible experience the other day. One thing led to another and towards the end it became too much even for me to take. At the end of the day I sat down and thought if I were to count the number of times I was disappointed on that day, from the time I was up till the time I went to sleep, if I were to mark a tally for each instance, I would need more than a few post-its to complete the task.
Years ago when I was teaching in Dubai, whenever a student did something to interrupt the class, like talking or being silly, I used to ask that same student to add a tally mark on a post-it paper so that at the end of each lesson he could see the number of infractions he had. This method turned out to be so successful that eventually the students took over and it sort of became a student affair. Something that they tried to resolve on their own.
But what is disappointment, and why do we experience it so frequently? We always expect things to be different. We go shopping but we can’t find what we’re looking for. We buy things we don’t like. We’re disappointed. We try to return them, and when we get the replacements we wish we had kept the items in the first place. It’s worse when we expect things from our friends and people we care about, our loved ones. We meet with friends, go out to have fun but the evening turns out to be different than what we wanted or expected it to be. But what is it we expect? We expect things to be different always. In the words of Deb Caletti:
“It was one of those times you feel a sense of loss, even though you didn’t have something in the first place. I guess that’s what disappointment is- a sense of loss for something you never had.”
The one thing I have learned though is that the day I let my expectations go I am happier. Maybe it’s because I am getting older or something… I don’t know. I have realized that the less I expect from people the less disappointed I become.
It’s the same with my life. I have already learned not to expect anything from life. If I dare to have dreams I work hard to achieve them without expecting any applause from anyone. (The only plan I have in my head is the book I will write or the article I will post.) And the world does not end every time I am heartbroken. It hasn’t always been like this. I have learned the hard way. Nothing surprises me anymore. I take each day as it comes. I like to think that I have found my path and as Paulo Coelho said:
“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.”