The Things We Are (Not) Owed

| Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Today's Tune: Book of Love

There's a reason humanity loves stories. Stories have purpose, theme, meaning, plot. There's a point to everything. In the majority of cases, things work out in a way that makes sense and feels at least somewhat satisfying. People who are good succeed, people who are bad fail. Hard work pays off. True love conquers all. This isn't the case for every story, naturally, but it's the case for enough of them.

And we cling to that, because life is nothing like stories. Life is messy, and chaotic, and boring, and nonsensical. We don't usually marry our superhot-and-perfect high school sweetheart, because they don't usually exist. We don't usually get the high-profile job right out of college, because the odds aren't usually in our favor and/or our reality disagrees that we're ready to run a successful company at 22. Most of us don't become movie stars, or royalty, or millionaires, or heroes. Sure, there may be a rare standout who can claim an experience worthy of a storybook, but for most of us, life is just... life.

It can be really difficult to come from a world of stories and media that show us glimpses into these amazing existences and not absorb some of it into ourselves. Many stories tell us the same thing -- if you are good, good things will happen to you. If you wait for a long time, you will be rewarded with your dreams. If you are brave and strong and work hard, you will win. If you suffer, it will be worth it in the end. If you're kind and loyal and patient enough, that person you're in love with will realize how awesome you are and fall in love with you back.

If you write for a long time and get beat up by critiquers and query for years and bleed onto the page, you will get the publishing deal.

For most of us, this is a secret hope. But for some, it becomes an obsession, which turns into misdirected anger. Haven't we worked long enough? Haven't we gone through the paces? Haven't we followed every rule, done everything they asked? Surely all of this wasn't for nothing. Surely by now they should come around.

Surely they realize they OWE us.

And there's the rub: no one owes us anything. Approaching anything with the idea that in the end someone else is going to give you something because that's just the way it's supposed to work? Usually a bad idea. First: it makes you lose sight of the now because you're always focused on the insubstantial future. Second: it encourages a sense of entitlement that eventually leads to bitterness. Because let's face it: if you fall into the mindset of all the things the Universe owes you, you will never be satisfied.

It's hard. It's very difficult to accept that we might do things and then... nothing happens. No one cares. It fades into the background. That's awful! It hurts! Even so, it's usually a better idea to channel that disappointment into the next thing, even if it sucks at the time. It's a far better alternative to becoming embittered and hating the Universe and everyone who gets what you want.

Blah blah blah, thanks for the lecture, Steph. I hope you guys know what I mean. We should all hope and dream. We just should also try to avoid letting those dreams consume and control us. I wish life worked the way it works in stories (unless that story is written by Joss Whedon, because he will destroy everything I love), but it doesn't. There are no happy endings or perfect resolutions.

There's only us and what we make with what we have.

/end cheesy inspirational nonsense



{ JeffO } at: May 30, 2012 at 5:49 AM said...

Great post, Stephanie. It never hurts to be reminded that we are not entitled to anything.

{ E.J. Wesley } at: May 30, 2012 at 6:39 AM said...

"It's hard. It's very difficult to accept that we might do things and then... nothing happens. No one cares."

This ^ is why you do things for YOU. (Dr. Phil, suck it) Fame, adoration and the litany of other reasons to do things aren't real, because there's very little way of controlling it. You can control what you do. That's it. So do. (Yoda, suck it). ;)

{ Miss Cole } at: May 30, 2012 at 6:48 AM said...


We're never owed anything. You just have to keep on going.

{ Old Kitty } at: May 30, 2012 at 7:23 AM said...

It's nice to dream but it's also sensible perhaps to ground such dreams in reality! Take care

{ TL Conway } at: May 30, 2012 at 8:17 AM said...

"If you're kind and loyal and patient enough, that person you're in love with will realize how awesome you are and fall in love with you back."

My inner romantic HATES how right you are.

FAR too often, I've found myself thinking that "I'm serving my time now. Good things will come." Nope, that's not how it works. I might go through life just being a good person and on my deathbed realize that Karma doesn't really work/count/happen and all my goodness racked up goodie points that get me jack crap when I'm dead.

Now, that's not any reason to go be mean. But it is absolutely a reason for me to stop keeping score with the Universe.

{ Stephanie Sinkhorn } at: May 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM said...

Wonderful comments, all, thank you <3

{ Andrew Leon } at: May 30, 2012 at 10:49 AM said...

Well, we really live in an entitlement society. We've been raising our kids to believe this stuff for decades. The whole "you -deserve- a break" nonsense. And so many people that are undeserving get the spotlight, and that just makes it worse for the people that people they deserve. And, after all, don't we all believe that?

But, yeah, that's not how life works. But here in the USA we don't live in the same reality as "life," and most of us are just waiting for life to join us over here and shower down blessings on us because we believe it will happen.

You should take a look at the book Bright-sided. It talks a lot about this magical thinking we have.

{ Genissa } at: May 30, 2012 at 2:45 PM said...

Great post! True success is earned, not handed over. At least most success. But the dreams of hitting it big after a little perseverance is always a fun one to have, just not an accurate one.

{ Emy Shin } at: May 30, 2012 at 3:36 PM said...

This this this.

That sense of entitlement is something many of us are raised with; we're always hearing: "Hard work is rewarded." But it isn't.

You might toil and sweat and bleed and get absolutely nothing in return. Is it unfair? Maybe. But life isn't fair. It isn't primary school where every student gets a 'good job' sticker, where everybody is a winner. It's depressing, but I think by truly accepting that, you can prevent yourself from becoming bitter.

{ Dracula } at: May 31, 2012 at 2:18 AM said...

We don't usually get the high-profile job right out of college, because the odds aren't usually in our favor

That's okay. Katniss will always be there to step in for us.

{ Mrs. Silverstein } at: May 31, 2012 at 3:06 PM said...

YES. Also, in my experience, giving in to that bitterness and sense of entitlement will only impede any progress you might be making. In real life, people make decisions based on millions of variables. Some of those have to do with hard work and perseverance, but lots more are intangibles that we lump together under the heading "personality". And a person who comes in with an air of entitlement? In most situations, that will cost a lot of points on the personality index (or the "Do I really want to work with this person every single day?" test).

Also, yes, Joss. Sigh.

{ Stephanie Sinkhorn } at: May 31, 2012 at 6:58 PM said...

@ Dracula: Haaaaaaaaaaaa.

@ Mrs. Silverstein: Oh man, yes. No one wants to work with the entitled guy. He is not a fun guy.

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