My boyfriend is one of these annoying people that is stupidly good at everything that he does. Singing, dancing, cycling, swimming, writing, running, you name it, he can do it, and he can do it well. And although I spend a lot of time being wildly jealous of him I spend even more time being immensely proud of him.
But one of the things that I have noticed about his affliction (oh the woes of the incredibly talented), is that with great determination and ambition, there often comes great disappointment.
I was never particularly good at anything, I was a classically average student, my sporting abilities are non-existent and despite learning the piano for 12 years I am still one of the most musically challenged people that I know. And although this sounds like a sad sad situation, it's actually something that I've found myself really rather grateful for lately, as it has helped me manage my expectations and really appreciate what I've got.
Being an average student meant that no teachers ever put a lot of pressure on me to do well (in fact a lot of them expected me to do pretty bloody badly... GCSE English teacher you know who you are). Having very little in the way of sporting abilities meant that there were never any expectations on me to score a surprise goal or indeed even catch a ball and my lack of musical talents mean that no one calls on me for a solo at a party. As a result, when good things happen to me or when I do something even slightly well I am always pleasantly surprised.
But for Alex? You can't make the TV work? He's expected to fix it. He's signed up for a triathlon? He's expected to win it. And OH MY GOD there's a piano at this party? he's expected to play it, and play it well. The poor guy never greats a break, and as a result he strives to be the best, after all, that's what people have come to expect of him... the pressure is massive.
And he's not the only one under vast amounts of pressure. We all want the best: A better body, a better wage, a better job, better skin, a better car, a better house, better health. Everything needs to be better, or so we're told. The pressure from everywhere, on everyone, is massive and as a result, we can't help but to be disappointed.
"I was an A* student at school, surely there's more to my life than sitting behind a desk working for someone that I hate?" "God I used to look so fabulous, what happened? When did I put on all of this weight?" "County hockey and county netball and now I can't run a mile without a stitch? When did this happen???"
See, if we're not comparing ourselves to other people, we're comparing ourselves to ourselves, and we're falling short every time.
When we are younger, we have so many plans for our futures, we have bucket lists, dreams and aspirations. And then something happens and life gets in the way. Plans are changed, dreams get put on hold, time goes too quickly and before you know it our lives are full of the shoulda/woulda/couldas. They're full of regret. Regret for the things that we didn't do, the opportunities we let pass us by, the paths that we chose.
And we find ourselves so entangled in our web of regret that we lose sight of everything good. What's the point of having a job that you love if it doesn't pay the bills? So what if you're in a good relationship, it doesn't mean shit if you haven't had the opportunity to travel the world together. Lovely house.... It could be lovelier. It creeps into the smaller stuff too, it becomes a toxic way of being, always punishing yourself for not having it all right now.
It doesn't seem fair really, that we're effectively being punished for wanting to be the best, but I suppose that's where expectations come in.
I've got friends that always let me down. For years I would sit and patiently wait for them to put me first and would always be disappointed when they cancelled plans to see me 20 minutes before we were due to meet, but after time I came to realise that if I expected nothing from them, then I would never be disappointed. Which pissed me off at first, why should I waste my time on people that don't care for me? But now? Now I see them for what they are and can always count it a blessing when they do come through for me.
With my work, although I hope against hope that it will all work out, I don't assume for a minute that it will, that would be too good to be true, so when little mile stones do occur, I am always incredibly shocked and grateful.
And when plans don't go quite as I hoped that they would? I have established ways of seeing the great things that come out of disasters. I would never have picked up Matterhorn (the book not the mountain) if my flight hadn't been delayed and that book changed my life.
I suppose what ought to be remembered is that there is a difference between managing your expectations and settling for second best. It's more about seeing the good in what is happening right now rather than constantly waiting for something better to come along, after all, if you're too busy shooting for the moon, think of all the starts that you'll be missing on the way up.
It's about being the best that you can be with what you've got and remembering to enjoy the journey, to love what you've been given, to appreciate what's around you. At the end of the day, as with most things, it's all about being happy.