How fun does this look? Don't you wish you were as quirky and carefree as these two?
Well, the other day when Daniel and I were planning a trip to IKEA, this is pretty much exactly how I imagined everything going. We would run around the store without any consideration for other customers (in fact, in our minds we would pity their lack of freedom), we would pretend that all of the model rooms were our home, and Daniel would say something clever like, "Darling, I don't know how to tell you this, but there is a Chinese family in our bathroom," and we would laugh and laugh. It all seemed so doable.
Believe it or not, that is not how our trip went. How could it? I'm not Zooey Deschanel, and we were not there for a date. We were there to make serious decisions about serious pieces of furniture for our very serious apartment. Now, I've had different experiences at IKEA, and I'll admit that it can be fun as long as you are just browsing. However, when you're there to get business done, it is like walking through each circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno. Each section is a new decision which brings along a new level of stress, and at certain points, you begin to wonder if there is even a way out.
|A Map of Dante's Hell|
|Map of IKEA. It's a different layout, but you can't deny the similarities.|
What broke me was when we were deciding on curtains. We've just moved into a new apartment, and the view from our windows is of barbed wire and about fifty other apartments. I want to get our windows covered, like, yesterday. When we got to the window section, we had already made about 1,000 different trivial decisions and there were crying babies and messy beds everywhere and all I could think about was that $1 cinnamon roll at the end of the store that seemed so far away. By the time Daniel told me that he hadn't measured the windows (to be fair, neither had I. I would never have thought of that), I had completely forgotten how to think. All of the bright patterns and umlauts had finally broken my brain, and I let out a strange grunting noise and let my body collapse onto a FÖRHÖJA.
What made this trip even more difficult was that I had this romanticized idea of what a visit to IKEA should look like. Obviously, I didn't think it would be exactly like 500 Days of Summer, but I at least had a strong misconception that it would be some romantic experience. While the whole notion that life is not like the movies is absolutely a cliche at this point, I am the type of person who constantly forgets that. I do this a lot, more often than you would think, and I am always disappointed.
Here is a short list of experiences from movies that set me up for disappointment:
1. Painting our apartment (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Reality: We paint in a room with no air-conditioning and I sweat like a faucet.
2. Riding the subway (Rent)
Reality: There are rats everywhere and it can take you an hour to travel seven miles and sometimes it is so crowded that you have to basically lay your entire body on total strangers.
3. Watching Fireworks (The Sandlot)
Reality: There are some dim lights in the distance that are vaguely colorful and I have to pee.
4. New York Weather (You've Got Mail)*
Reality: Sometimes it is so hot and muggy that my face feels like soup. Also, I don't own a bookstore.
*To be fair, this movie is mostly set in the fall and winter. For some reason, I just assumed that New York weather was always perfect.
People are pretty negative towards having too many expectations, and I think they are generally right. Someone wise has probably said this to you at one point in your life:
Expectations are premeditated resentments (or disappointments).
If no one has said that to you, just pretend I made it up. But here is another quote that I think I really did make up:
Disappointments are like baby carrots; They will almost never kill you.
|I made this image so you could pin it on Pinterest. The sunset and butterfly indicate its high level of inspiration.|
I would argue that if expectations lead to disappointments, maybe that isn't the worst thing that could ever happen to you. Just like baby carrots, disappointments are gross. You feel kind of cheated out of something great, and you've got a terrible taste in your mouth. Baby carrots, however, will almost never kill you (unless you have an allergy which I assume is rare, or God forbid, you choke on one) and the same is true of our disappointments. At the end of the day, baby carrots aren't the end of the world, and some people will actually tell you that they are good for you.
I look back on our IKEA experience and I kind of love it. It is true, I probably should not have expected it to be a romantic comedy, but that's part of why it's so great. I remember that day and I think about how distraught I felt and how awesome Daniel was at taking care of me. At the time, we didn't laugh and laugh and laugh, but when we think about IKEA now, we pretty much can't stop laughing.
The same is true of all of my other "disappointments". No, the weather in New York isn't the perfect chill I had always dreamed of, and yes, sometimes someone sits next to you on the subway and decides to clip their fingernails, but it's almost better this way. From the ashes of expectations comes a sense of humor about things. Sometimes I need my idealistic world to be rocked to find a realistic sense of appreciation.
Some people can skip these steps altogether and just enjoy things immediately. These people are better than me, but I kind of like my system.
Also, sometimes your expectations actually come to fruition, and that can be pretty great too.
|Despite the sweat, we actually did end up painting love notes on our apartments walls|