Expectations

January 25, 2013

When I was a kid I had it all figured out. I was going to become an actor, or a lifeguard…or both. And I was going to marry the most beautiful woman in the world. We would have two kids. A boy and a girl. How novel. Once I turned 25, I was going to sell my baseball card collection, which at that point would be worth a small fortune, and put a down payment on our three story mansion. Once I got tired of being a famous movie star, I was going to take my talents behind the camera and become a movie director. I would spend my last days making movies, occasionally acting, and living in a quiet log cabin in the northern woods with my loving, and still very beautiful wife, by my side.

…Or something along those lines.

It’s funny how things never turn out quite as we expect them to…or want them to. I gave up acting, and picked up a guitar instead. My life changed in an instant. I was offered a job as a lifeguard at the local pool, but our family moved before I ever had a chance to save a life, thus ending my very brief career as a lifeguard. My video camera, along with every minute of footage I ever captured over the course of three years, was stolen out of the back of my car, one hot July evening. I never bought another camera. I got married at the age of 24, and was divorced before my 28th birthday. No kids. No mansion. No golden Oscars glistening in the light from the chandeliers, as they stood proudly on the mantle above the fireplace…

And as for that nest egg also known as my baseball card collection? Surprisingly, it didn’t net me a fortune. Instead, I sold it all to a guy from the trunk of my car a couple summers ago for a whopping seventy-five bucks. And I was lucky to get that.

Our dreams and expectations often have a way of colliding with reality. Sometimes it’s a violent collision, and sometimes it’s a slow, gradual one. Either way, it can be a disheartening realization; that there are many things simply beyond our control. But you know what? That’s ok.

If someone had told my ten-year-old self that in 20 years, I would not be a famous movie star, who also directed movies, had a beautiful wife, and saved people from drowning in my spare time, I bet my response wouldn’t have been…”but will I be happy”? Not a chance. It probably would’ve brought about tears, anger, and confusion. But I had not yet had the benefit of living a life of consequence, of making decisions that would affect the course of my life, and the lives of others. The truth is, despite all of the failures, missteps, and disappointments I’ve endured, I honestly wouldn’t change a single thing. Because the person I am today is exactly the person I hoped I would become. I may not have the accolades and my bank account may tell you differently, but I feel like a rich man. Sure, I’m still a work in progress, and I will be until the day I die. But I can tell you this: The sweet isn’t as sweet without the sour, and the light isn’t quite as bright without the darkness. My mental and emotional scars are not marks of defeat, rather signs of battles fought and won.

To be honest, I’m right where I want to be. I’ve taken a few unexpected detours to get here, but I am in a place of endless possibility. For the first time in my life I see the glass as half full. I may not be rich and famous, but the last time I checked, you can’t buy wisdom with golden statuettes…or baseball cards for that matter. I may have taken the long way to finding a life of contentment, but I never gave up along the way. My journey isn’t over. And there will undoubtedly be many dashed hopes and maybe even some more dreams crushed along the way. But that’s life. The sun will once again trade places with the moon and a new day will begin. And the life that lies ahead of me could be far greater than anything I could’ve imagined as a child. And to tell you the truth…it already is.

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