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The Myth of Disappointment

If you regularly do anything in life that involves setting out to achieve a goal and asking for what you want, chances are you’re familiar with being disappointed. People say no. People say yes but don’t really mean it and don’t follow through, which is even worse. People don’t respond at all. People reach out to YOU, and then quit talking when you suggest that your skills are worth having a budget for. Perhaps worst of all, people respond by saying some implied or explicit version of, “I’d love to give you what you want...if you give ME what *I* want. Wink, wink.” SO FUCKING GROSS.

When I started out in music, I believed something that, for me, turned out to be a myth. I believed that the more disappointment I experienced, the easier it would get. I thought over time I would develop a “thick skin”, and my belief in myself would get stronger and stronger, and the disappointments would just start to roll off my shoulders like water off a raincoat.

What I have learned is that it doesn’t get easier to be disappointed. Each one stings just as much as the first, and each one causes a new wave of self-doubt and questions about whether I have chosen the right path for my life. It is NOT EASY to go after what you want. And it is NOT OFTEN CLEAR if what you are doing is “worth it”, or if it will BE worth it in the end.

What’s the bright side of this? Well, where I might say that disappointment has caused bitterness, others see strength. They see that the disappointments I’ve faced have made me into someone determined and resilient and uncompromising who can find a way to the other side of just about any problem. (Sometimes they tell me this, and thank god for them, because I’m not always sure I’d see it myself). And while each disappointment may still hurt and cause me to question on its own, the collection of them has ensured that I will not give up easily, that it will take more than a few closed doors to keep this goddamn trail from being blazed.

So I keep trying. I keep reaching out, and asking for what I want. I keep hoping for the best and thinking I am prepared for the worst. I continue to be fragile and devastated with each new disappointment. But I attempt to convince myself that the more disappointments I experience, the more it means I was taking risks and going after my dreams and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. And so I should see my disappointments as a sign of a life well-lived. I should be congratulating myself for each one, celebrating every rejection, because maybe I want to define my success simply by being able to say that I risked putting myself in a situation in which I could be rejected.

If I were to live perfectly by my own advice, I wouldn’t worry about the outcome. The outcome isn’t what’s important. The risk and the vulnerability are what’s important. The resilience and the determination to keep trying a new approach. Even the disappointments themselves. I’d cheer every time I was dealt a new one, if I followed my own advice, and they WOULD begin to roll off my shoulders just like water off a raincoat.

Instead, the next time I am disappointed, I will probably feel deeply hurt. I will probably spend an entire day, or even three, feeling mopey and completely unmotivated. I will probably question my existence on this planet and wonder, for the millionth time, if I have chosen wrong. If I should have gone to school for engineering or car mechanics and placed a higher value on stability. And then I will probably write a song about the devastation I am feeling and fall in love with songwriting all over again and remember why it was that I chose this path and choose it one more time, with renewed passion.

AND THAT IS OK. It is ok to go through cycles of certainty and doubt. It is ok to be human and fragile and to momentarily forget what we thought we learned the last time around. It is ok to feel disappointed. It is even ok to wallow for a minute. But then we have to remember that this is a reason to celebrate, that this disappointment actually means we are doing a good job taking risks, and that maybe we should take ourselves out for a drink or a dessert and a moment of self-affirmation before we reach forward and take another risk and boldly dare, again, to fail.


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