Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall… What Do You Want from Me?


“Sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfilment of one’s hopes or expectations”

This semester has been sufficiently filled with unfulfilled expectations. I know everyone knows what disappointment feels like: when someone doesn’t keep their word; when a friend really hurts you; when the shoes bottom a drop off after jus’ 3 wear; when many application letters and interviews later, none of those prospective employers call you in; when yuh lodge di money a di ATM from Wednesday morning and Friday come and gone and it nuh free up yet and yuh did feel hype an waan buy two big Lasco and maybe one a di bougie Nestlé cereal dem instead a Sunshine Corn Flakes but true because a certain bank feel seh it funny fi a hold up your money weh belong to you, yuh kinda jus haffi skin up yuh face afta di Honey Bunches of Oats and di Cinnamon Toast Crunch and boast seh yuh only buy local products and a di lack a support a mash up Jamaica…



Yeah, it sucks.

Some people, having realized this fact of life, say that their solution is to refrain from placing any hopes in people at all. Some say that even if they have friends and family, it’s only safe to trust in themselves. Well, nice armour you’ve got there. Shiny and people-proof.

From the outside at least.

You see, the kind of disappointment I’ve decided to write about can’t be deterred by that kind of defense. This is the kind of disappointment that, for me, has been the worst kind so far. It’s the kind of disappointment that haunts me, taunts me, and leaves gloom sticking to my tongue and a bitter aftertaste lingering on my mind. I’m speaking of the rain of misery that drenches me when the one who disappoints me is… myself.

Yeah, I’m talking about when I’m my own disappointment. When I don’t meet my own expectations. When I don’t fulfil my own hopes and desires. I’m talking about a dark dissatisfaction that eats away at you slowly. It eats away at you, burps obnoxiously, and then, with a smirk, let’s you know you needed a little more salt.

Let me explain.

The Dark Side of Optimism

It’s safe to say I’m an optimistic person. This doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the possible negative outcomes; it means that I purposefully devote my energy to the possible positive ones. And this isn’t achieved with a dosage of ignorance, nor grasped from an air of bubbly nothing. I’m not the person who’s going to be like “Okay, I can leave my umbrella today. It won’t rain at all” (even though odds are it would, since it had been raining every day for weeks). And I’m not the kind of person who will spend my last $100 to take a taxi to the ATM one evening to draw some money, ignoring the fact that sometimes the machines are out of service. ‘Cause a wah mi a go do if dat happen? Walk home a night? Beg di taxi man fi tek mi what-lef silver dem? No, no. I must plan for those types of… disappointments.

My optimism is usually backed up by some confidence. So what happens is that I believe in myself and my capabilities and convince myself that I’m capable of achieving a feat that… (and this is the tricky part) I can achieve.

But then I don’t.

I don’t.

I don’t get those straight A’s. I don’t finish reading that thing a friend wanted me to read. I don’t curb that bad habit. I don’t save the amount I wanted to save that month. And these are all things I could have done. So what then?

The Thunder

This is getting increasingly difficult for me to talk about. You may be wondering what the big deal is. People think they can do things all the time and it just doesn’t turn out that way. But in order to understand you’d probably have to be like me or… be me. My mind was developed in the type of environment that supported my interests and my abilities. I was fortunate enough to be nurtured into the person who believes that she is really intelligent, really charming, really witty, poetic, understanding, awesome. She is capable.

And yes, in black and white, I am capable. This is not about believing that I can fly, or believing I can spit rainbows from my butt. This is about those “simple” goals that I have achieved before, or that present no real reason for their inaccessibility. So even though I’m capable…

At times I don’t. I can’t. No, not “can’t”. I don’t.


And what happens then?

That’s what eats at me, burps obnoxiously, and then, with a smirk, lets me know I needed a little more salt.

I confessed to my mom once that I’m afraid of failure, and that I don’t want to disappoint her. She said, “Sihle, me? You’re afraid to disappoint yourself.”


“But see here. I love you, my darling. I’m already proud of you.”

You’re afraid to disappoint yourself.

I was taken aback. What? Lol, no way. Everything I do it’s because I can do it and I know someone believes in me. And I want to meet those expectations. But come to think of it… there’s no one wagging a finger at me when I don’t hit the mark I painted for myself. So, who am I really trying to prove something to?

“Are you worthy of all the belief in you?”

“Sihle, are you worthy of all they say?”

“Are you?”

Ladies and gentlemen, the only person asking me this is myself. And I’ll let you know… that it can slowly destroy you. The reality that failure is something inevitable, and that perfection is something unattainable is lowkey something that I had not accepted. And that eats at you.

The Tea

I won’t go into too much detail, but this semester was filled with unfulfilled expectations… with which I weighted my own self down. I think what bothers me most is that I know that the reason I don’t achieve some of my goals has nothing to do with external thunder – those things you can’t control – but everything to do with me. And that’s something that’s unpleasant to chew on. And that’s thunder for another evening, but I do intend to continue to examine it. Because even if I’m shown something disgusting… I can’t clean it up if I ignore that it’s there. And if I don’t kneel and look closer to see if a broom is the solution, or bleach, or fabuloso, or cake soap, or a hard wash-brush, a cloth, water from the caves of the Patagonias of Argentina, or the precious blood of Jesus Christ Himselffff… then there’s no way I’m going to improve.

So, Reader, this is my encouragement to you:

Remember that you have what it takes to take ahold of those dreams you have. The goals that you have written down and are working towards obtaining, they are indeed attainable. But also remember that you are human. And if things don’t work out how you planned, if your mind messes with your mobility, don’t be too hard on yourself. Failure is not bad. What is bad is when you obsess over it and let it consume you. Perfection is completely overrated. You have a destination in mind, yes? Whether it’s refined to the nearest square mile or the nearest square inch. Before the destination, mi amigo, comes the journey. As a matter of fact, your destination is likely just one point on the jagged and loopy line that is your perilous path. And that journey is filled with pot holes, wrong turn-offs, forgetting to fill up with gas, pedestrians walking out into the road like it was paved wid fi dem pop-off bottom shoes in mind, etc…

My point is that you will come across obstacles, and sometimes the obstacle is yourself. When you notice this, don’t look away from the mirror. Don’t scream your hatred at the image. When you are your own thunder, acknowledge this. Look directly into the eyes warily staring back at you and ask, “What’s wrong? And what can be done to steadily make it right?”

Answers may vary. Answers may be delayed. And answers may not be easy to act upon. But this is a journey, remember? And so, when you feel dejected and ashamed because the present you hasn’t reached the goals that the past you has made by the time that past you had expected… remember that gas prices raise by the second, that pot holes mysteriously form by the minute, that sometimes Jamaicans giving directions sounds like they’re explaining astrophysics, and that YOU. ARE. HUMAN.

On this road, you don’t know everything. And that’s okay. If you don’t arrive this time around, at least now you’re equipped with some experience that can guide you when you start again.

Sometimes you’ll disappoint yourself.

And when that eats at you, burps obnoxiously, and then, with a smirk, tells you that you needed a little more salt… Just smile back with the gentle reply: “No, I needed a little more sugar.” Because, my darling, you need to be a little sweeter to you, you need to rub your own back, and yes, you need to forgive yourself.


© 2017 Sihle Atkinson – All Rights Reserved

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