The disappointment conundrum

EXPECTATION VS REALITY: Are we doomed for disappointment?
EXPECTATION VS REALITY: Are we doomed for disappointment? (Shutterstock)

Sophie Rapeepat | Head Editor

September 21, 2023

Each year, thousands of eager tourists visit the “City of Love” to experience the magical romance of Paris, France. Everything from the Eiffel Tower to the streets of Montmartre inspires fantasies of beauty and culture that this historic city holds, uniquely offering the ability to captivate people from around the world.

However, each year, thousands of eager tourists often leave feeling underwhelmed that the romanticized city they imagined is not what they had hoped it to be. Enhanced depictions cultivated through generations of books, movies, and art, have led to disillusioned, idealized fantasies of of the city. Tourists have no choice but to feel slightly disappointed with the anticlimactic reality of the city that is so different than what they had pictured.

I didn’t write this article to hate on France, but rather to point out a phenomenon that’s easy to recognize but hard to break free from: expectations can lead to disappointment. 

Just as comparison is the thief of joy, expectations are the architects of disappointment. We construct hopeful fantasies so much so that we eventually start to believe they are real, only to feel betrayed and frustrated when reality steps in. This is not limited to vacationing in Paris – it can be applied to every aspect of life. 

Take relationships, for example. We start off strong with preconceived notions of what happiness will look like. We already know how we want our partners to act and how we want the relationship to go. But it often fails to unfold like the fairytale we wish it to be. Our expectations clash with individual complexity, and life is simply too unpredictable to make it conform to the way we want.

DISAPPOINTMENT = expectations / reality (Janis Ozolinis)
DISAPPOINTMENT = expectations/reality. (Janis Ozolinis)

The same goes for our future goals. As a senior, college applications are constantly on my mind. It’s hard not to imagine the glory of going to an Ivy League and living the prestige that comes with it. And maybe I’m just reflecting, but it’s scary knowing that anything can happen. Maybe you get rejected from your dream school, or maybe you get in but end up hating it. 

Senior Lauren Melcher has a more positive take on surviving the unknown: “It’s definitely really frustrating to get your hopes up about something that might not even come true. But then again, everything good requires some level of risk. You just have to be willing to accept things may not turn out the way you want them to. Embrace the serendipity!”

Expectations are not evil saboteurs of happiness. They motivate us, give us direction, and help us feel somewhat in control. But flexibility is key. At the end of the day, everything is what we make of it.

Paris Syndrome is ultimately a metaphor that describes how our unrealistically high expectations lead to disappointment. It’s easy to notice this pattern, but somehow we all fall for it over and over again in the hopes that the outcome might just be what we imagined. The solution is to enjoy the journey and embrace the unexpected. Everything happens for a reason, and recognizing this will help us all appreciate the beauty of reality as it is, rather than what we wish for it to be. As senior Luke Adams wisely remarked, “We don’t always know how things are going to go, but whatever happens happens. Perfection isn’t real and we just gotta adapt and live life.” 

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