Children don’t understand disappointment. That’s why the “terrible twos” exist — toddlers finally become aware of the fact that sometimes the answer is no. And they hear this irritating “no” word for many reasons. Sometimes they’re simply not allowed to do something (the sweet little that I currently nanny tries every night to drink the bath water in which he pees and sometimes poops so that just doesn’t fly because gross). Sometimes they’re told no because they don’t know how to do something and attempting said activity would result in pain and or suffering (he also for some reason thinks he can climb a 10ft high rock wall at the playground despite the fact that he can’t walk up steps without clinging to my fingers). And honestly sometimes they’re told no because what ever thing they want to do is just annoying (technically there’s no reason my little can’t play drums on pots and pans, except that I hate it). And so, because their little brains are figuring out that “no” is an answer that happens sometimes, they freak out. Freak out.
Teenagers face a lot of disappointment, too. Crushes don’t like you back because you’re weird, prom isn’t actually all that fun, the kids that you go to high school with are mean and will steal your chair (honestly I will never get over this: I always arrived first to my video class because who was I going to socialize with in the hall? My mom wasn’t at school with me so…? So I get there first and I put my bag on one of the few coveted chairs in the class with wheels. I go to to the bathroom. I come back. My things are on the dirty, dusty floor and some lunkhead is sitting in my chair) (high schoolers are the meanest people on the planet) (recently on facebook I saw the guy who stole it tagged in a picture with one of my facebook friends and I still glared at him like this:
I think it’s also a little bit disappointing, but maybe also a teeny bit relieving, to learn that high school is nothing like any high school depicted in any movie or tv show in the history of the world. Freddie Prinze Jr. is not there getting dared by Paul Walker to take you on a date. Honestly I could have been one the gawky girls considered for that dare, so that would have worked out really well for me. Disappointment.
And then adulthood is just like WHOA OKAY HOLD ON A SECOND WITH THE DISAPPOINTMENTS. Because paying for college is hard and hunting for car insurance stinks. When you’re 13 everything about being in your mid 20’s seems amazing. I can specifically remember being driven to the mall with my BFF and imaging how cool being able to drive ourselves to the mall would be. We’d shop and buy cool grown up clothes at Wet Seal (punch me) and probably totally have boyfriends. Because that’s what I thought being older meant. You got to drive yourself to the mall and have a boyfriend. But actually it means you have to buy your own groceries. And do things like google houses for rent for hours and hours because you’re poor and everything is out of your price range. Tomorrow is my birthday and it occurred to me today that if I want a birthday cake, I have to make it myself. Because I don’t live with my parents anymore. When you’re an adult you have to be in charge of your own birthday cake – how tragic is that? Then there’s realizing your dream job isn’t a real thing, or doesn’t actually pay anything. Or realizing that you have no idea what your dream job is. You get to watch everyone on your facebook feed reach all these milestones like getting married and having babies and graduating grad school and buying a new car because they know how to do things like that. And you’re just like, I CAN’T EVEN GET CONTROL OF MY HAIR. HOW ARE YOU ALL HANDLING LIFE. Disappointment.
Like you, I have had my fair share of disappointment. I wasn’t magically awesome at cooking like I figured for some reason I should have been. I had friends move away when I was younger. I liked boys who didn’t know my name. I didn’t get parts in plays or picked first for teams. Plus there was that bull crap with the stolen chair.
But my biggest disappointment came in the second grade.
It was the day I went ice skating for the first time.
You see, I loved watching ice skating. My dad would record competitions for me and I would watch them over and over and over again, dancing around the living room in sparkly leotards imaging I was them and it was me the judges were commending. In my mind I WAS ice skating – my mom says that you could tell I was feeling the wind blow on my face as I “glided” around our living room. When we got white tile throughout the house I was elated – my ice rink was complete. I had pink leotards, white ones, purple ones. My favorite one was given to me on a birthday — it was deep pink with hearts outlined in sparkles around the top. It had a skirt that twirled every time I moved and I loved wearing that leotard more than I liked breathing. I’m not sure when my obsession with ice skating began, but it was a very long love affair.
All those years were spent off the ice, however. I grew up in Florida so ice rinks weren’t really a thing. There was one 30 minutes away, but it wasn’t really what all the barefoot, sun kissed Florida kids did every weekend. But I remember the day my mom said we were going to drive to the rink and get an ice skating lesson. I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach, I had eagles. And on their backs they carried other eagles who were SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED they couldn’t fly on their own. I’m sure I tried wearing my leotard but my mom convinced me to dress more practically.
We get to the rink, I get fitted in my ice skates and am convinced that these are the shoes I will be wearing the rest of my life. The instructor is nice and there are a few other kids my age all anxious to learn how to skate. I’m stoked. The instructor tells us several times that it is absolutely 100% no problem if we fall — we’re low to the ground, it won’t hurt badly, everyone falls when they learn, just get back up and keep trying! But there’s a problem. I had, and still have, an incredible fear of falling. Not like of heights or anything like that, just falling and getting hurt.
We get out on the ice and there, RIGHT THERE, is where I find my world’s largest disappointment: ice is slippery. And ice skating is hard.
I understood why the instructor mentioned falling so many times BECAUSE THIS CRAP IS SLIPPERY AND HOW IN THE WORLD AM I SUPPOSED TO NOT FALL ON IT. I didn’t cling to the wall or anything, I moved around okay but everytime we did an exercise that required, you know, speeding up, or turning, or anything that wasn’t moving at a snails pace, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
I left the rink a defeated second grader. I told my mom I didn’t want to be an ice skater anymore. She explained that of course it was hard since it was my first time, everything is hard your first time. But “No,” I said “ice skating is hard.”
I guess that’s also the day I learned how incredibly passive I am. You know those people who are all like, OVER COME OBSTACLES! WORK HARD! IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT! I am not that person. Maybe I don’t have the right to complain about disappointments if I’m not willing to work past them. But I’m going to anyway. So sue me.