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The Fangs of Idealism

In my mind, I walked around a park that doesn’t exist after riding around on my Dutch bike for 45 minutes. Medium-sized grass was sat on by a group of artsy college students who blew e-cigarette smoke. Green shit produced by geese was easily stepped on and that showed on the hard ground.

There was a forty-something-year-old man wearing sunglasses that seemed to angrily stare at his smartphone. In its entirety, this environment was produced by my daydreaming. All of the elements were pulled together from repetitive imagery and memories from unknown sources. The real present is inside a room that hasn’t changed much for a decade. It’s so easy to experience disappointment because the real world is presented in a very different way.  

Idealism also brings forth the weaknesses that are embedded in our psyche. Many of us desire to accomplish much more. We might see glimpses of who we wish to be. Such visions can motivate us to keep working hard, but they can also cause us to feel helpless. This feeling of becoming overwhelmed by the present, past, and future unfortunately comes because we might not live up to our high standards. At the same time, accepting mediocrity is not an astoundingly difficult task for those who have maintained a competitive edge for so many years. When perfectionism and idealization seem to lead towards a self-destructive path, it is maybe time to make some readjustments.

High expectations bring lots of disappointments. We might wish to be appreciated by a boss, a friend, or even by a stranger that chooses to ignore us when we hold the door for them. People won’t act the way we would ideally want them to. Disappointment can also be caused by our unfiltered reactions. Idealism drives us towards perfectionism. Perhaps there may be a struggle to accept our mistakes and to learn. My favorite stories are those that involve redemption arcs. In Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, one of the most famous and longest French novels of all time, readers are introduced to the main character named Jean Valjean who is a former convict that transforms into a hero ready to sacrifice his life for the greater good. Redemption stories reveal that there is still hope, no matter how much disappointment there is.

Idealization can dangerously alter the perception of past events. In the musical adaptation of “Les Miz,” there are many famous songs. Among them is “I Dreamed a Dream.” In this emotional performance, a dying woman named Fantine shares with the audience an idealized perception of the past. It is revealed that in her youth the men treated her with kindness and life was exciting. Among other hurtful occurrences, the love of her life leaves and her body falls ill. The hope for better days quivers as she looks back at how the youthful version of herself looked forward to the future regardless of life’s setbacks. For Fantine “life has killed the dream” and the audience is left to analyze how relatable the character’s behavior truly is. It is very natural to miss what was once appreciated or what was once loved. Fortunately and unfortunately, the past tends to become idealized. The good moments should be cherished because there is value in the growth that comes from within. When things don’t go our way, the good memories might lead others to the illusion that what is to come will not live up to the past’s beauty.

“Make some plans if you want to make God laugh.” This is what I heard while growing up. Sure, it’s fine to make short-term plans, but planning ahead always leads to disappointment on a planet that is based on absolute chaos. Coming to terms with the inability to take more control of our circumstances seems impossible. Most of the plans will not work out the way we imagine. Some of the visions might become a reality thanks to determination and consistency. However, things will not happen the way we want them to. Many of the idealized imagery will not become a reality because of the many different stages in life. I looked for an inspirational quote to go along with this post (I like good quotes by smart people). Someone said, “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal.” Flexibility is a must. The exact plan will not work, that’s a given. The chaotic timing and the beauty of unpredictability might bring forth some blessings with new choices, fear, and opportunities.

Each of us has our own stories with unique endings. There will be the good, the ugly, the dreadful moments. Those events in the timeline will be far from ideal, but they will be ideal in a world full of chaos.    

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