I want to be safe in the knowledge that the things I do will always count.
I want the work I put in to reflect on the result I take home. I want the people I love to love me back. I want to know that doing the right thing will be enough and I want my shortcomings to remain irrelevant.
Despite everything I want, I have worked hard and still failed. I have loved unconditionally and still lost. I’ve pretended to be someone else and my flaws still rose to the surface. The only thing that life has guaranteed me so far, is that it will continue to surprise me.
That’s what happens when you’re holding the same script even when the stage around you keeps changing.
A guarantee is scripted much like a play. It always starts with the promise that the stage was set for us. That the lines we are reciting will always match our hopes and dreams. That there’s a standing ovation waiting for us at the end as long as we follow the script.
That works well on a stage. In life, however, what you’ll never see coming, is doing everything right and still needing to improvise. Still relying on luck. Still having to hope for the best.
I was one of the best students in Film School but it still took a moment of luck for me to get my first job. I just happened to be in the room when someone else lost their job and I was asked to fill in for them. I know for a fact that any one of my fellow interns would have been given the nod if they happened to stumble into the situation I did. My boss at the time didn’t even know my name, he was willing to try out anyone with a set of eyes and a pair of hands.
Nothing about that crucial moment in my life was rehearsed or even deserved. There was no cosmic conspiracy to award me for my hard work. I was prepared, but I was also lucky. Both can happen at the same time.
Love also has no guarantees. The fact that we were happy together never stopped one of my exes from cheating on me with a close friend. People don’t cheat because they are unhappy, they cheat because they want to. They choose to. The only guarantee about love is that no one is bound to you. You have no control over the choices they make. You only have control over how committed you are to the relationship, the rest is up to them and their actions. Not their promises. Anyone who guarantees everlasting love is betting on a future that none of us has ever been able to see.
Being better than the competition doesn’t guarantee you success either. Despite being more experienced and more committed to my art, a lot of my life’s work will sometimes go unnoticed because the audience will choose something that suits them better. Something they can relate to. Something they, quite frankly, prefer. For as long as my passion will contradict their interests, it will never matter how good I am at what I do. No one can guarantee me a winning formula. That type of success depends on more than I can control. It’s up to me to decide what’s more important between validation and happiness, because there’s a difference.
What I can guarantee is a life that constantly zigzags between hope and fear.
I can guarantee that life will throw curveballs that never miss.
I can guarantee that good days will follow bad ones and bad days can get even worse.
Ten years from now I could be worse off financially . I could be alone. I could be long dead and forgotten. Everything good is possible in the same way that nothing bad is impossible. If it has ever happened to someone else, then it can happen to me as well. There is no guarantee that I am special. If everything that goes wrong isn’t my fault, then the same is true when everything goes right. Sometimes it’s just not about me.
I am not trying to encourage a dark outlook on life. It’s just serves me better to accept a world in which good and bad things happen despite (and not necessarily because of) my best efforts.
That’s the world we live in. The only thing it guarantees is change, but you don’t get to choose which kind. What you get to do is to learn how to build resilience. How to prepare yourself for both realities. How to adapt to the things you can’t control while making the most of the things you can.
Asking yourself what the worst is that could happen isn’t a betrayal to your faith or your self belief. It doesn’t threaten the good things in your life. It’s the first step to seeing things exactly as they are and not as you wish. Not even as you assume. If you can clearly picture the worst case scenario, then you are already better in a better position to deal with it if and when the time comes.
By doing this you also learn that very few things are a life and death matter. Most of the times the worst case scenario doesn’t turn out to be half as bad as you pictured. It’s only through having the courage to picture it that you start to understand just how good our minds are at exaggerating things. Eventually you’ll find that less and less of your decisions will be guided by fear. That you don’t need a life full of guarantees.
What you need, is a life that will always prepare you for all likelihoods. A life that asks you to be flexible in a world that naturally rewards those who adapt.
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