Expectation is always different from reality, as my circumstances have relentlessly reminded me.
As I sit jobless and friendless in a Dubai apartment, all I can think of is that beautiful scene in “(500) Days of Summer” where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s expectation of a situation is juxtaposed against the harsh and rather depressing reality of what is. And now, there are no cartoon bluebirds landing on my shoulder, just the harsh reality of what is, and what will be unless I make a change.
As a kid, I always dreamt of becoming a lawyer. Looking in the mirror then, I saw my future self: clad in a well-tailored coat, carrying a leather brief case, and splendidly delivering well-crafted arguments that flowed effortlessly from my brilliant legal mind.
Years passed, and I was well on my way. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy—the best preparation, I thought. I went to a good law school straight out of college. I breezed through my first year, I aced everything I touched. My promising law career was only a short distance away.
Now, here I am, eight years down the road, tapping on a broken laptop and enduring a tepid cup of instant coffee. I am a law school dropout and waiting for an e-mail response to my job application as a hotel receptionist.
Yesterday, my acerbic aunt, who happens to be a regional trial court judge, left a comment on my Facebook wall after hearing the news that I had quit law school: “I am so disappointed in you. You should have taken your studies seriously. You have wasted a decade of your life. Look at where you are now!”
I was infinitely embarrassed. Not because everyone had read it, but because it was true. It is true, on so many levels.
That truth sent me careening into a hole so dark Alice herself would have been jealous to explore it. For a moment, I didn’t see a way out. Had I wasted several years of my life? Was this all for nothing? I’m glad there wasn’t a mirror in that hole, because if I got a look at myself, I’d see that dream of a well-dressed lawyer replaced by a family-disappointing failure of wasted potential. I had so much promise, and now all that promise was broken.
Like most in a lifeless, mindless depression, I turned to Facebook. Lying in bed, with my phone illuminating my crushed countenance, I checked my profile. I rummaged through my photos, my activities, my check-ins, my statuses. Years of memories.
I sifted through hundreds of photos of me elsewhere, outside the confines of a classroom. I stood at the monuments of many explored countries, raised a glass with great friends, danced at music festivals, and hugged those I love.
I looked at the man in those photos and I realized I look happy. In fact, I was happy. In that moment, gratitude, happiness, and memory swirled together and crushed the sadness and self-pity that weighed me down.
I didn’t finish law school, but I’ve led a life the way I have always wanted to.
When you release the expectations of others, the biggest defense against the tantalizing thought of self-doubt and regret is living a life that’s full of life and color. And that renders everything worthwhile.
In the meantime, I wait for an email for a job I have just applied for. Wish me luck and see you in my travels.
Marquin Mabazza, 28, is living in Dubai where he thinks he can write his first novel.
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