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Dealing With Disappointment When it Could Always Be Worse

Over the course of the pandemic and in the past year, we as a global community have faced not only massive loss, but also huge amounts of disappointment. So many of us have had to cancel plans or lost opportunities that we had before, and because so much has happened many of us have not allowed ourselves the chance to grieve our personal losses. It begs the question, how do you handle disappointment when things could be much worse?

Everyone has lost some plans or opportunities. For me, the pandemic has meant the loss of two full-ride scholarships to study abroad for a summer in Taiwan. As a Chinese major who has been studying the language for eight years, this was a hard hit. I’ve never had a chance to go to China or Taiwan and immerse myself in the language, and after all the time I’ve put in here the loss has been a hard one to cope with. But how can I feel disappointed when my luck could be so much worse? People aren’t just losing opportunities but also jobs and loved ones. At the time, it felt like impossible feelings to tackle.

But ultimately, we can’t live our lives not allowing ourselves to be sad about the things that have been difficult for us, even if they might not be as troubling as the things that are difficult for others. Particularly since the age of social media, we spend so much time comparing ourselves to others, not only in the good parts of our lives but also the bad. We sometimes see pictures of others and think their lives are perfect, but we are equally exposed to tragic stories that make us feel guilty for not feeling lucky all the time. It is possible to acknowledge both your privilege and your disappointment over your circumstances.

We have all lost something in this pandemic, and we all need to be allowed to be upset about it, if we don’t those feelings will hit us unexpectedly. Last summer, although the summer programs in Taiwan were ultimately canceled, there was a point where it looked like I wouldn’t be able to go for different reasons. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to get a passport in time. At first, I pretended to be okay with it. Fate had spoken. But eventually I realized that I was not okay, and that I was angry, and eventually I broke down in a meeting with my advisor. I felt like all the hard work and waiting I had done was being wasted over something stupid that wasn’t my fault, but I think had I processed my disappointment earlier it might never have hit me so hard.

The point is, disappointment can be hard to manage, especially when you know you’re one of the lucky ones. But we all need to allow ourselves to feel sad ― be sad, so that we can move on and look to the new opportunities of the future. I still have plans to go to Asia, and one day the experience will be all the sweeter for the waiting.

My name is Lauren, I'm currently a senior at the University of Hawaii at Manoa double majoring in Chinese and communications, I'm also a very passionate Planned Parenthood volunteer/intern. In my free time I like to dance salsa and read books on the beach.
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