topic: DREAMS medium: TEXT
So, great expectations. I’m not a particularly imaginative person, so in pouring forth my thoughts on these two words for the next five minutes, I’ll take inspiration from a) Paris, b) my love life or lack thereof, and c) my job, which together probably account for 75 percent of my thoughts and time in this, my life, so full of expectations.
One reason I should not be invited to any event that has even the remotest literary connections is due to what I’m about to utter in the next sentence. Yes, in the past year or so, I’ve read quite a few self-help books, including (gasp) Eat, Pray, Love, a novel recently adapted into a Hollywood chick flick starring, (sigh), Julia Roberts. Before reading this, I also sought inspiration and, of course, a cure for all of life’s woes in the philosophy of Eckhart Tolle and in the pages of his high-octane, fast-paced thriller The Power of Now. I even leafed through the pages of You Can Heal Your Life, an absolute classic in the Self-Help Canon, penned by the marvelous Louise Hay. That book was sent to me by an ex-nun and aunt of my cousin who I, for some reason, decided to tell I was gay at a recent family christening – already a stressful event for the poor dear, seeing as the child had been born out of wedlock.
All of these books insist on having great expectations for yourself, identifying your intentions in life, feeling worthy of them, and repeating mantras such as, I love myself, I’m worth it, I approve of myself, or I release all fear, anger, and jealousy! What I can I say? These books are all too often syrupy, incredibly repetitive, and about as interesting to read as the side of a cereal box. But they contain some essential truths repackaged for an increasingly God-less age.
I came to Paris partly because I had greater expectations for myself than the pursuit of a sensible career and a traditional family life in Ireland. Paris, in this sense, has been my promised land, that place where I could go and reconstruct myself in my own image. To me, Cork, Ireland, and the maxim, “To thine own self be true” simply canceled each other out. And it has, to an extent, happened over the past five years. Slowly but surely, the layers upon layers of self-protection, self-denial, and untruths have been peeled away, and I do think this city has provided me with the possibility of incarnating those great expectations I had for myself when I moved here.
I look at the friends that surround me, the apartment I live in, even the job I have – and we’ll come back to that – and think, yes, this does resemble me. For that, I’m grateful to this city and grateful to the many of you here who are a part of the life I’ve built in it.
And love. I suppose this is where most of our great expectations are dashed at some point or another. But Paris has also allowed me to think big in what I want in love. A breakup is a traumatic thing, and I’ve loved and lost in this city and beat myself up over and over again for failing to make a success of my first great love story. It was the realization that I have greater expectations for myself and what is possible in love that allowed me finally to crawl out of that defeatist, dark hole I inhabited for much of the past year.
To quote any of those self-help gurus, I deserve better than that. I deserve something in which you give and receive in equal measure, something that feels relatively effortless, that makes you feel more alive and not constantly filled with dread. If I didn’t have this expectation for my love life, could I really expect to live it at some point in the future? If I were to be content with less than that, wouldn’t I be condemned to a more limited form of what is possible? After all, expectations form the basis for what is possible in this world, whether it be in love, your career, where we live, or who we choose to live with. What we expect is quite simply the scope of what is possible. It forms the very contours of our future. So at the risk of going all Oprah on your asses, “Yes, Goddamnit, my expectations for me are bloody great! They’re huge! They’re as great as this world is big, bad, and full of possibilities.