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Something occurred which rather disappointed me recently and it got me to thinking how many disappointments, both small and large we suffer in our lives. Most disappointments are not earth shattering moments that cause us all kinds of grief. Most of them are small things that generally irritate us or plague us with frustration.
Childhood may be full of wonder, but it is equally full of small disappointments, everything from being too short to reach the gold ring on a merry-go-round and then, when you finally get big enough to grab it, impossible to find a merry-go-round that even has gold rings anymore, or consequential enough, in our limited experience, to seem like the end of the world. In a way, it is how we learn how to prioritize the less than happy experiences we inevitably have. When the world doesn't end because you lost your favorite colored pencil you tend to reevaluate some of your theories on the definition of world-ending events.
Someone once said to me that bad things happen to make you stronger for the worse thing that will inevitably happen to you down the road. At the time I thought this was a sadly negative way to look at things, but there may be some twisted but nevertheless accurate truth to it. Someone else told me once that God doesn't give you anything that you can't handle, which is supposed to be a positive statement but it struck me as more irritating than uplifting. I mean, you may be able to handle it, but do you really want to? Is it absolutely necessary to some giant, secret plan for the universe that you have to handle it? It just doesn't sound very fair to me.
Young people go through a stage of being disappointed in pretty much everything; school, friends, their looks, their abilities, their siblings, their parents. You name it, they're disappointed by it. Not all kids go through this stage entirely negative, but some have a bad hair day that lasts about 5 years or nowadays, even 10. As we live longer adolescence seems to stretching far out into the 20's exponentially. If growing up is hard, growing old is far worse and considerably more disappointing because there isn't the comfort inherent in the possibilities present in an unknown future. Growing from young to mature is a transition with infinite possibilities. Growing from old to older is just a drag. It is the biggest irony of life that young people envy the freedom of grownups and grownups envy the freedom of childhood.
Other people can often be the source of disappointment for young people. I remember being around 10 or 12 and thinking that Thomas Jefferson had to be the most brilliant, fascinating, amazing man that ever lived. Then, when I found out that he had fathered a bunch of children with one of his slaves, never acknowledged them, and didn't even free them on his deathbed, I was mortified and horribly disappointed. I still admired his accomplishments, but I didn't much care for him as a person anymore. Being young, I had managed to be enamored of him despite the fact that he owned other human beings like they were farm animals. As I got older that fact tended to become a great deal more meaningful to me and seriously effected my judgment.
As I got older I stopped having heroes, living or dead. Every time I developed a genuine admiration for someone I would find out something about them that ended in disappointment once again. It just got to be too much of a fool's gambit. I decided that all my heroes would be fictional, thereby sparing myself the possibility of new information suddenly cropping up that would force me to change my opinion about them. I soon discovered that this method was not foolproof. If you choose to admire a fictional character who is current to the age there is always the chance that the next installment of the book, show, or movie about them will contain something that tarnishes their halos in to some degree or another. Best to stick with fictional characters who are fully developed with creators who are long in the grave. My childhood comic book heroes disappointed me more times than I can count since they manage to go on forever with new adventures.
The current election process is full of disappointments. I don't put much stock in politicians in the first place, but I have a healthy respect for a good speech or clever and meaningful turn of phrase. I can't remember the last time I heard a good speech or intelligent discourse from a politician or anyone involved in politics. I may not think much of our leaders, but I would be happier if they didn't make me cringe every time they opened their mouths. When I hear old speeches by President Kennedy I realize how seriously dumbed down our leaders have become. That guy had his faults, but he knew how to give an inspirational speech and not sound like a village idiot. I try not to listen to any of it anymore because it is just too disappointing. It's a sad day when the best, clearest, most concise, intelligent, and relevant speech you hear all year is given by a comedian on Comedy Central. Very disappointing.
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