Recognizing the Ideal
While watching the conclusion of Anne of Avonlea this recently, I realized that Anne and I are more similar than I’d like to admit. Yes, we share the enchanting creativity, positive outlook and get lost in the heart of imaginary worlds. On the flip side, we share the worst parts of ourselves. We can get irritated easily and we often misconstrue what people tell us. We get lost in our imaginations and don’t watch our tongues. We have spice, we have temper and sometimes, we have too much to think about to be bothered with the world. We tune out or overreact, and it breaks us time and time again.
More than anything, I see Anne in myself through one huge vein of commonality – getting lost looking for our ideal. We know the man we want, the career we want, the life we want and the people we want to be, but is that really what is best? I know that I’ve gone searching for my ideal and it got me a harmful dating relationship, depression, a lack of motivation and in emotional crisis. I’ve unintentionally hurt people that I care deeply about because I insisted myself that my ideal was waiting for me elsewhere. Too often, we seek security in that which we’ve always imagined was best. One song that fits this topic and has become my personal mantra of sorts is “When You Were Young” by the Killers. I don’t want to be unoriginal by linking my life pathway thus far to musical lyrics, but I don’t think I’ve heard a mainstream group state it better.
You sit there in your heartache,
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways,
You play forgiveness, watch it now,
Here he comes:
He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus,
but he talks like a gentleman, like
You imagined when you were young…
You guys who may read my entries from time to time know this feeling too. You’ve searched and searched for the ideal friends, girls, angle to your life. You’ve known the struggle of trying to be happy. This might mean finding satisfaction in a good group of friends and trying to dive completely into your classes. Most times, however, you’ve found that you’ve dived headfirst into an empty, dry pool and watch the cracking concrete hurtling towards your face. You can’t force yourself into happiness. Instead, that kind of approach makes you realize your own misery in sharper clarity and makes your struggle for idealism transparent to the people who surround you, whether they care about you or not. What you may think is your ideal may just be a rash filler for the real importance in your life. Life will move on whether you’re catching on or not. More than likely, the things you thought least important or least relevant to your aims or interests might be your perfect, true ideal. The question lies in whether or not you’ve given that outlier a chance to prove its worth.
Suppose you had the chance to have buy some fantastic, nonexchangeable item that would cost you everything. If you buy one of the first items that you come to, you risk throwing everything you have into something that may be worthless or petty compared to what you could have had if you had just waited a little longer and kept your options open. Now, apply this idea to your life. How far are you willing to walk through your life before being willing to admit that perhaps your imagined ideal was not the best investment of your time and energy?
I tried to convince myself that I had found my ideal companion last year. What I imagined was my ideal and what that person ended up being did not match up. My ideal picture in mind ended up clouding the true face of the person who had the appearance of what I had always wanted, but did not satisfy the fantasy. I’m not saying to ignore what you’ve always wanted in order to get something that’s better or worse. I’m warning you to make certain that you know yourself well enough to realize your ideal. You may get to the point where you passed some opportunity up in order to find something better that you’ve always wanted. Instead, when you finally arrive at the anticipated goal, you discover that what you had in the past was what you really wanted all along. You just didn’t know yourself well enough to accept that realism.
Don’t give in too early and don’t give up too late. If you don’t know yourself, you won’t even know what you want from anything – a mate, a job, your environment. Keep an open mind and never close out potential ideals. Most importantly, you shouldn’t have to change who you are to fit your ideal, no matter what it is. It’s important to keep open eyes to catch places where you should improve in your life (especially relationally). But at your core, you should never have to revolutionize who you are to fit an ideal in any area of your life. Your ideal will be your perfect match, and many times there will be times when you must participate in things that aren’t your cup of tea. Those are times of growth that you must look out for, otherwise you risk missing them. You can learn from any experience in your life, especially if you are willing to recognize your faults and how you can correct your mistakes.
Like puzzle pieces or bricks in a foundation, the ideal match will be found when the time is right. I’m saying this as much to myself as to you. I’ve been victim to poor decisions in my past because I was afraid. I was afraid of not knowing what to do with my life and I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid of the future and what it might or might not bring. I felt lost, rejected and frustrated that so much of what I longed for belonged to other people. Still, I need to remind myself daily to keep pressing forward and discover who I truly am. I need to be totally content in God and content in who I am and learn to be more willing to change and seek to improve in areas that I am weak. I know that this time in New York City will help.
The recent weeks have been a rush of ideas and a flurry of work. I may still fear and worry a lot, but I have security in the fact that what comes along at any time could be my ideal. I just can’t reject the notion or refuse to acknowledge that perhaps I was intended for so much more than what I think I want. Fulfilling wants is not always a bad thing, since that is who we are and that is how we live. We need to practice fulfilling those wants in healthy and broadening ways. We can stretch and we can constantly learn something new about ourselves and about our world. As Anne reminds us cheerfully in Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it.” Tomorrow will become today, and today is always brand new and teeming with new and unexpected opportunities and joys. Can you embrace it or are you too restricted by fear?
Fear is born of uncertainty and joy can be born of acceptance of that uncertainty. Optimism can be blind, but we can’t ever regret that blindness if we learn something valuable in the end. More on that at another time, perhaps.
Anne Shirley, you and I are kindred spirits indeed.
Until tomorrow, my dear readers. Tomorrow is a new day!