Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Maybe the Best Hasn't Happened Yet

Let me teach you something:

Life doesn't turn out like you expect it to.

And regardless how many times you learn this lesson, the knowledge never seems to stick. You stroll away and continue to make expectations out of life, to personify your view of an ideal world onto the actions of others. You place a contingency on the fault of mankind.

Inevitably, things fall through.

Here's a story.

In ninth grade the local theatre became home to a budding improv comedy troupe: The Improvables. I was taking acting classes there at the time, and attended the shows as often as a junior high student lenient on her parents' inclination to drive her around at ten o'clock at night could. The group continued to play and I waxed on in age and entered high school.

My junior year going to The Improvables was a rad thing to do; a couple boys from musical were in the troupe, so a gaggle of us would go after football games to support. It became a regular thing for me and my best friend at the time to go see the shows weekly (they only performed Friday nights). Before long audience participation games began to creep up.

I volunteered.

Every time. To the extent that I recall Paco once telling me no, someone else needed to have a turn.

You see, I wanted to be an Improvable. I'd taken acting classes at the theatre for five years, and each "semester," if you will, started with a few weeks of improv games. It was invigorating and excellent and I loved it.

The Improvables did beginner workshops, but they were on Saturday mornings, and I was barely nine months into a job at a bakery that had said flat out from the beginning "You have to work every Saturday. You can't take them off for dances or things. Saturdays are a must."

So I could never workshop. So I could never be an Improvable.

The closest I would get was audience participation.

Sad story, right? Another dismissed dream and abandoned ambition. Another letdown, another aspect of my ideal life to lack.

You're right. It's horribly sad. To 16 year-old Erica. It's sad in the moment.

Because, as a junior in high school not cognitive enough to ask her super kind coworker/boss if she could come in a few hour late on Saturdays for a month, did I know management at the store would change? Did I know our numbers would dwindle and I would be the most experienced closer left? Did I know the separation between morning shift and closing shift on a Saturday would become more separate and distinct?

As a junior in high school did I know I'd be friends with Paco on facebook and get an invite to Improvables auditions? Did I know, though not making it in the troupe after auditions, that I'd become well acquainted with one of them who would invite me to linger with the Improvables after at Dee's? Did I know there'd be a beginner's workshop I was capable of attending for the first time?

Did I know in four years time I'd be accepted into the troupe? Did I know in four years I'd finally be an Improvable?

No. No I didn't.

And that's my point, reader. That's my point.

We see what's around us, we see where we're at immediately. I don't know where I'll be next year, I sure as heck don't know where I'll be in four years. I'd forgotten the Improvable dream. I'd been letdown, been upset, and moved on. I'd applied for colleges and wound up at the one I least wanted to go to and would most fully love with all my heart. I'd focused on performing well so I could get a bit of the spotlight senior year. I started decorating cakes at work.

The Improvables crossed back into my perceptions when I was ready for them. But I didn't know.

Life doesn't turn out like you expect it to. I expected to be an Improvable in high school. I expected to go to college in Virginia. I expected to be in the publishing process by my 20th birthday. Those things didn't happen. My life is awful.

To 16 year-old Erica.

My great expectations have fallen through. I've been shattered again for assuming too much of a person, and it's the same lesson I learned before. The same lesson I planned to pen in the novel I was going to have in print by now. I'm not in control here. I'm not the all-seeing eye. I don't have a magic coin that makes my wishes come true or a Brechtian ability to break the fourth-wall. I am subject to my story. And no, it's not going how I expected at all. It's not taking the turns I mapped out over the years. I'm not where I wanted to be.

I'm where I need to be.

You can live your life in bitterness, thinking of all the "if's" and "maybe's." You can focus on the failure to win his affections or your inability to get cast in a show outside of an educational setting. You can self-depreciate over your writer's block and lack of time management and hate every obstacle the wind has blown your way.

Or you can look at the musical you're directing, that 100% fell in your lap. You can look at the good fortune of having a college with proficiency in your major so close to home. You can smile that you met Jason Mraz and Daphne Willis performed a mini concert for you and... you're an Improvable.

It was four years more than you expected, but you're an Improvable.

What's coming next? Where am I going? How can I dare be discontent over the cracks my hopes are falling in when there is such a blessing coming down the turnpike? How can I muddle and murmur when tomorrow is an open slate, and the most skilled hand is waiting to fill it?

Live in the moment, that's the trick to happiness. The past is passed. What made me happy then won't make me happy to dwell upon now; I'm not there anymore. The view from here will never be the view from thirty feet back. A painting is different facing you than from 180 degrees. The future is as unwritten as my next breath; safety lies in patience. Happiness comes from the wait. When I idealize and fantasize tomorrow is when the pain builds up. Life doesn't turn out like you expect it to.

Stop expecting it to.

I may have said this here before but I feel it should be said again: Stop praying for what you expect. Pray to find what He expects for you.

He's writing the story. He knows your course. He knows you're 16 and can only see this moment, this hour of broken expectations and hopes, this instant of failed ideals. He knows what you'll be in four years, what you'll miss, what you'll crave, what you'll actually have. He knows what you'll need and He's planned when to give it to you.

I didn't know then. I could have never known then all of the blessings and miracles that would shatter through my stain glass sunlight and illuminate my life. So many things have happened in the last few months, so many dreams/hopes/wishes have been brought into reality in ways I never expected. And all I have expected has crumbled in contrition, dampening the levity of life.

Hope in Him. Pip, take these great expectations and set them aside. See the world for what it really is, see the beauty of your life in His eyes, in His plan.

So your blueprint wasn't fulfilled. That's not what He was hired to do. He's not working for you.

He's working with you, and giving in the moment. The moment won't be now. The moment might be in four years, but it's coming.

"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." -Matt 6:34-

Four years from now I'll look back at these failed expectations and they'll either be humorously pathetic or surprisingly fulfilled.

Who knows, maybe the best hasn't happened yet.

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