I can’t remember where I heard or read it but disappointment is the difference between your expectations and reality. It’s the same old story, isn’t it? We thought we’d be someone, we thought we’d be more than what we are. Hell, I was going to be a full-time, published novelist. I was going to be asked to give interviews and public readings. My stories and characters would be part of the world’s canon; well, if not the world’s, most certainly America’s.
By some weird quirk of happenstance, I’ve been reconnecting with old friends from long ago. We write about what we’re currently doing and how markedly different it is from the people we thought we were going to be 20 years ago. Some of the old dreams are there but it seems the possibilities and joys of a great unknown have been replaced by the daily grind and adult responsibilities. We talk about what we should have done or where we should be. Surprisingly, there isn’t much in the way of regret or remorse. Sure, we’d like more but, overall, we seem happy.
Whenever I think about these topics, about the difference between who we knew we were going to be and who we actually turned into, I think of Springsteen’s Glory Days:
We just sit around talking about the old times,
She says when she feels like crying
She starts laughing thinking about
I’ve never been much to look back to the past. The past holds no glory for me. The past was worn and tattered and angry and fumbling. But I do look back on the dreams I had. I know that who I am now is not exactly who I expected. I’ve had to redefine my expectations to encompass my reality. Lamenting about the past, about the disparity, is a futile exercise. Why whine about what never was? Look forward. Move onward. Fix whatever it is you don’t like here and now and stop pining for a dream that didn’t come true.
I often wonder: are the successful, remarkable people in this world those that do not redefine their lives to match reality but rather mold reality to fit their expectations? I don’t know. But I think those that only wish, that only look back and bemoan, are the ones stuck in the stanzas of Glory Days.
For me, I worry that my ability to easily redefine my life into what it currently is will stop me from dreaming. I’ll lose the ability to throw caution to the wind, quit my job, and jump into an adventure that I don’t have an end to. Redefining one’s life doesn’t mean that dreams and desires must be wiped out. I don’t want my life to be a trail of pink eraser bits and smudged graphite.
While redefinition of our lives allows us to grow, it shouldn’t be all we do. We have to keep our dreams. We have to keep moving toward them. They may not be that grandiose because our reality isn’t as boundless as it once was. Life has tempered us. I don’t suppose that’s a bad thing; to see things as they really are.
I’ve been lucky and unlucky (it depends on the day you ask me) that I haven’t started a family. I don’t know if I ever will. I haven’t bought a house. I have no real roots in a place or time. At times, I still feel like that boundless kid with dreams and hopes. I get to redefine my life as I see fit. There are days when that boundlessness, that responsibility, scares the hell out of me. But, most days, the chance to redefine my life, again and again, is amazing.
We get but one shot at this thing so, if it’s not where you want to be, change it.