Sunday, 4 April 2010

How It Feels the First Time You Experience an Unanticipated Disappointment . . . and why this is good.

You know how it feels when you want something bad, but deep down you know that there is a slim chance? Then you don't get it but it's OK because you knew how unlikely it was. You go on to choose another dream and forget the last. Perhaps a feeling most associated with the thousands who queue up at an X Factor audition each year.

Well. This is different. What I am blogging about today is almost identical to the situation described above. The only alteration? There is not a slim chance. In fact, there is all the chance in the world. You are made for the opportunity and there is nothing to suggest that the perfection with which you and this opportunity are soul-mates can be combated. And then it all goes wrong. Just when you think that you are finally going to get what you deserve it gets torn from your hands, and torn from your heart. You are expected to crawl back into your shell and choose something else to believe in. But the shock, pain and lack of faith in yourself, the opportunity and others will never fade.

This blog is about dealing with that disappointment, growing from it and preventing such a thing from happening again in all ways possible.

So why am I so bitter? What happened to me?

Sierra Leone.

Please, allow me to explain.

Throughout high school I went on a journey, like all teenagers should. I arrived in year seven, fresh, bushy tailed, and excited to get stuck in. By year eight I was every teacher and parents nightmare. My two friends and I organised a homework copying operation, I was spending hours on the internet each night away from my parents and swearing at our Deputy Headmistress. This went on until around the end of year nine and it got so bad that the mother of this weird cult girl from my year actually approached my parents and told them that she was PRAYING for me. They were flattered. Not.

But then I had my epiphany. I don't know what did it, but all of a sudden I just . . . cared about things. I cared about my future, my family, the world, everything. And that's when it began I guess. If any of my teachers needed someone to do them a favour, I volunteered. I was polite to everyone, performing regularly in my schools choirs and orchestras (even playing the tambourine for a whole concert), and doing anything I could for charity. I wanted to be an 'all rounder' and I know that it wasn't going to be easy, but so what? I'm gutsy, I have passion about what I want to do and I'm definitely not afraid to work for it. I wanted to be the ultimate Little Miss Perfect.

The day it was announced in assembly that a group of teachers were going out to Sierra Leone to assess whether or not it would be safe, productive and enjoyable for a group of sixth formers to visit a year later, I got a fire in my belly. I wanted to be on that trip. I want to help people, touch people, change their lives for the better. Luckily, my two best friends felt the same way. Following our vigorous campaigning the year before to keep our school open (a ridiculous governmental scheme suggested physically merging our high achieving school with a lesser school in the area, in order to 'share' our 'success') which involved doing interviews for newspapers, keeping the school in the public eye and most importantly rallying the school to fight, we knew some of the steps which we could take in order to raise funds for the trip!

For two weeks we continuously spent every waking moment presenting assemblies, reminding everyone to bring in at least one old mobile phone and liaising with a company who promised us a lot of money in exchange for them. Handing over a cheque for £1500 felt amazing, I mean, imagine how much that can help people! For weeks and weeks afterwards, all the way up until the interviews for the trip, me and my two friends did virtually everything we could for the cause bake sales, talent shows, own clothes days. You name it, we did it.

Interview week rolled round and the obstacle presented itself. Despite becoming more popular amongst teachers over the past couple of years, there was one which I was never going to win over. The head of Religious Studies, my old best friends aunt had never liked me, by association with my friend. Family politics which I will never truly understand, but these politics resulted in the emotional instability (as I liked to refer to it) which consumed this teacher. She hated me. Seriously. And with no good reason; she had never even taught me. Sure, we had had a run in a couple of months earlier when she insisted during the battle to save the school that we would not give our annual rendition of the school song at our Christmas Carol Service, because she said that Christmas was a time to put aside the campaign. Because she is such a good Catholic. Despite the fact that she cheated on her husband with another teacher at the school. Just saying.

Unsurprisingly, it was organised that her and two other teachers would be conducting my interview, which naturally unnerved me, but didn't concern me. I figured, there is no way that they couldn't send me on the trip . . . I have worked so hard for it . . . it is my passion to alleviate the poverty, the war, the sadness which the people of Sierra Leone endure each day . . . I just have to prove it.

My interview went well. Honestly it did.

We all know that we should never be arrogant, and take anything for granted. We shouldn't expect things but accept them with a smile when they happen. Whilst trying my hardest to remember this, I still felt that there was no way I could be turned down. I thought that they couldn't possibly refuse me, because if they did, they would have to give a bloody good reason for it. A reason which I was convinced (and secretly still am) they didn't have.

And yet they got away with it. Despite the promise that they would take a larger group than they eventually chose, they still didn't choose me. Talk about a kick in the teeth. 'We did have more places, but we just didn't think you are good enough' is basically what they were saying to me. They took my two friends. But they eventually got a taste of my disappointment later on the same year, when one was not selected as a senior prefect and the other, who was an unquestionable shoo in for Head Boy was overlooked. That's the really sad thing. Parents send their children into schools which promise to nurture their children's talent, provide a 'family' or a 'god-like' love for all students and ensure their well-being, and yet the pathetic politics which go on each day crush the souls of those gullible enough to believe that anything can be so perfect.
I cried like my heart was breaking. How could this be happening? I did everything right. It was all so unfair.

I actually left school that day and spent the rest of the day at home. I felt like nobody could understand how I felt. I couldn't share it with my friends because they were both so happy. How bad is that? I was so gutted, that I couldn't even be happy for them. That is me being honest.

Completely and utterly.

However. It wasn't all doom and gloom.

From this disappointment, I learnt one of the best lessons which will stick with me for life. It's true what they say; the best friends are those who are with you in both your highs AND your lows.

My true friends all came through that week; my parents nursed me, my boyfriend brought me flowers and chocolates and let my cry until my tear ducts had dried up. The best thing was that when I went to school the next day, each of my teachers could not seem to find the words to express their sadness in my sadness, and their shock. They were there for me and made it a thousand times easier for me to wander the corridors which I had once danced down in excitement at the prospect of making a positive change in the world.

I felt betrayed by the headmistress. I think I always will really, because she virtually promised me and my friends the trip. I guess that only breaking one out of three promises was fine in her mind.

Numerous excuses were made as to why I hadn't got on the trip. Each of which was an insult to my intelligence. 'You are too passionate and we felt that you wouldn't follow instructions regarding your safety' was just one of many. Ah yes, because it is much better for them to have sent at least four people who had previously shown virtually no interest.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that to actually experience something like that trip is life-changing and each of the lucky people who got the opportunity came back to England as better people than they were when they left. They put smiles on the faces of numerous people, sharing hope and love with them, letting them know that there are people halfway across the world who care.

I just wish that I'd had that opportunity.

Selfish right? I mean, the job got done, I just didn't get to do it. If I was so interested in the cause, it wouldn't have mattered whether it was me or my friend or someone undeserving who got to provide the comfort which the people of Sierra Leone so need. So maybe I'm a bad person.

But let's save that for another blog.

The point of this little 'care-and-share' session right here is for me to let everybody know that there will be disappointments in life. It is full of them. You will work had one day and a reward will seem like a sure thing. And then you wont get it.

But we shouldn't let this knowledge impair our enjoyment of completing the favours which we used to complete, or wearing our hearts on our sleeves, or even going for our passions. Before the trip, I went about everything all wrong. I did some things, some favours because I wanted to. Because I enjoyed doing them. But I did others because I wanted people to give me what I so deserved; basically, because I had a motive.

I want to share the little insight that I got from this disappointment with my readers; you should have enough faith in your value to not need to go completely out of your way, brown-nosing.
Following this big mess I got into a new routine. I called it the 'Do what YOU want to do' routine. It involved me helping the teachers that I loved, and sacking off the teachers which I didn't. I saw my new goals and I went for them. Each of these goals relied on myself, and only myself. From A Levels to solo performances, I had the power to choose whether or not it would work for me.

I chose that it WOULD work for me.

And so it has ever since. I have my causes which I support, I check in with my old teachers, I work hard. And I do it all because I want to.

So what do you want? Whatever it is, go after it, and be in control. The disappointments will be less frequent and when they do occur, they will feel more justified if they were self-inflicted rather than disasters enforced by petty hypocrites who just adore throwing their weight around.

Take control. And let me know how it goes.

Love as always



  1. Dear Gabriella,
    reading this was so insightful. I'm the kind of person who goes through day to day life being pushed around, essentially a doormat, trying to please OTHER PEOPLE and not the person who truly matters - MYSELF. Your blog is more than JUST a fashion blog, it is my new self help guide. You made me realize i need to live life for me and I could not thank you enough. I have since quit my job and left my fiance, and although i no longer have any prospects, this is fine, because i am LIVING for MYSELF.

    How can i ever thank you?

  2. Haha, thanks anonymous! No need to thank me, I just like to hear that people are like you say, living for themselves. This summer I left another job overseas for a similar reason, and I've recently ended a relationship because it was just too demanding when I place such high importance on completing my degree to be able to give my full attention to both whilst keeping my sanity! I'm really happy for you and don't worry about having no 'prospects'. You've got much better things going for you in life right now than some of the zombie out there who live each day for someone else. Thank you for reading, and I hope that you keep doing things for you!