Sunday, October 15, 2006

Depressing Expectations

I remember when I just got out of college and was in seminary. After the initial rush of being in a new setting with new people and new challenges, I started feeling a little down. I began to realize that one of the things that made me feel down was that my social life was not all that active. I would usually do church work most of the day Sunday, most of the time I would do something social either Friday or Saturday. That would leave me one weekend night either going to a movie alone, or sitting in my dorm room by myself. Or, once in a while watching video travel movies checked out from the public library by the international students.

I began to feel like something was wrong with me. What normal adult social life consists of a night of watching travel movies from Sweden made in 1970 with foriegn exchange students? Doesn't everyone else have all sorts of fun every Friday and every Saturday night? Whats wrong with me?

Soon, I made friends with one of my best friends named Shawn. I respected Shawn. And, I came to realize that many weeks a lot of their social life consisted in me coming over once a week with DVDs and watching them once the kids went to bed. Then I began to get to know the commuter students. And when we would go out for drinks after bible classes they would say that this was about as much of a social life as they had at the present time. I came to understand that my unrealistic expectations about my social life were getting me depressed. I was comparing my life to what I saw on television, or some urban myth instead of real life. And, I learned to enjoy staying at home and reading or sneaking out on some adventure in Kansas City by myself. I discovered I was not really that lonely, I was just taking on external standards of what my life should be like. An my adoption of those ill fitting external standards had made me depressed.

Sometimes I have also come to realize that my internal standards are a little overrealistic too. Although I can come off as a laid back, roll-with-the punches kind of friar, there is an inner perfectionist which drives lots of my self talk. My inner perfectionist has a hard time accepting things the way they are, and compares myself to an internal standard for myself that is higher than any external standard I could place on myself. I want to never fail. I want to always be more successful that the day before. And that can get me down. It is at those moments when looking at other people's internal standards can be helpful. Do most other people I know feel like they are a failure because they have not written the great american novel? Do most other people have this sense that if they have not accomplished great things in their field of passion that their life is a miserable joke? Maybe a few. But most happy people I know live in the joy of the present moment, and feel good about themselves if they make ends meet and have a few good friends.

So what does that all mean? I guess it means that if I want to be happier I need to be living less for what should be, and spending more time trying to make the best of and grow from what is. But that is easier said than done.

6 comments:

Brownsoul said...

Sometimes we can be our worst enemies with expectations. I believe in having goals and going for what you want in life, but I've become somewhat of a realist in the past couple of years when it comes to goals for my life. Also, I stopped comparing the standards I'm setting for me to what appears to be the standards in the lives of others.

For example, I like my time alone and I've come to terms with the fact that an active social life for me does not mean constantly being around my friends. I spend most of my weekends "chillin'" at home. Sometimes I may go to a movie alone or I may dine alone...I love shopping alone. And when I'm with my friends I enjoy that time, but I enjoy my time alone just as much.

Stephen Baker said...

I feel what your saying.......you might say well your married and so you have built in social life. Maybe that's true to an extent but then you want friends who are at the same place. It's difficult to have a social life with 3 children so we end up spending a lot of time at home when many of our friends are out doing fun crazy stuff!! I think I'm coming to the same place you are.........embracing the moment that we have right here and now and hope that the rest falls in to place. But I guess the thing is that I don't think we were really meant to do life alone. History would show that as well as many cultures. America has become very seperate. I'm not so sure that was the way we made. I know that I crave those moments with great friends much more often than it seems to happen.

rubyslipperlady said...

Don't wait. Don't wait for others or the right situation or the right amount of time or money. Just grab it and go.

Seize the joy in the moment and laugh your buns off!

I'm tired of waiting and making moves to make my life happen as I believe God is directing.

Oh, and sometimes a busy social calendar just means that your super tired and can't really give all that you want to any one person or thing. Then you're short-changing everyone, including yourself.

San Nakji said...

You are so right with your last comment. It is difficult a lot of the time to be happy with who you are and it is more often than not that you get depressed because of who you are not. The idea is to strike a happy balance of self expectation and being happy with self. You are a wise man!

ps I haven't seen Iwojima yet as American movies don't get to New Zealand until about three months after release... Odds are it's depressing though!

Oricon Ailin said...

I think we all go through this...feeling like we are failures because of one thing or another.

Many times I have mentioned on my blog how I don't seem to fit in and how I feel like I'm alone in this world.

There really is a "happy medium" to our lives. You know, many people I know who went out partying every Friday night and were social people, aren't very happy.

I think we should each live our lives to the fullest and enjoy the gifts we do have. It doesn't mean that we can't get depressed and feel lonely, it just means we make the best of what we've got.

*HUGS* for you Friar. Sometimes, we just need a hug.

wilsonian said...

It's an interesting struggle, between contentment and desiring to push farther. I think if your platform is contentment, everything else that works out is gravy.

btw... you seem pretty fabulous from over here.