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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, January 10, 2002

Island Voices
Great expectations ... dashed

By Val Iwashita
Headmaster, Iolani School

It was an important day in my life. The Farrington High School baseball team was coming to Iolani School for an ILH game, and we were excited about the challenge this would bring.

It was my senior year, and I had spent each of the previous three years playing at the intermediate, junior varsity and varsity levels. Well, "playing" is a bit of an overstatement. I played sometimes, sat on the beach at other times and was far from being one of the stars on the team. But I had earned a starting position during this, my senior, year, and I was proud of it.

The game against Farrington was particularly important to me because I knew many of their players. I grew up in Moanalua Valley at a time when it was part of the Farrington High School district and played with a few of them on the same Pony League team.

Game day arrived, and I was ready to put forth my best effort. We gathered, as we normally did, to get last-minute instructions and to read the starting line-up. Much to my surprise, I was not named as the second baseman.

I was crushed. I had been relegated to the bench in one of the most important games of the year and in the process been embarrassed in front of my friends from Iolani and Farrington. I had practiced hard, worked my way up the ladder and should have been given the nod on the starting line-up. What prompted this decision? Wasn't I good enough? How could life be so unfair?

I felt like crying. But like many male adolescents, I attempted to hide my hurt by being brash and insolent. I cruised through warm-ups, not paying much attention to the captain's instructions, acting as if I didn't care. My body language must have been noticeable because Coach Hew came over to talk to me about my attitude. What I really wanted was someone to feel sorry for me. No one seemed to care.

I remember playing a few innings toward the end of the game. I don't remember whether we won or lost. I do remember the hurt I felt. It is not a feeling that I enjoy, and yet, in varying degrees, similar feelings have surfaced from time to time throughout my life.

I am not alone. My children have had comparable experiences in school and elsewhere, and I know many of you can relate to my feelings as well. Disappointment and setbacks are a part of life, especially when we have goals and expectations to fulfill.

Whether it be making an athletic team or getting lots of playing time, having a role in a theater production, winning the championship in debate, getting an "A" on an exam or being accepted by a peer group, we risk hurt and failure when we put forth the effort to achieve our aspirations. And in spite of our best intentions, we cannot always determine the outcome.

We grow up thinking that life is fair, and with the necessary effort and sacrifice, success is assured. What we learn over time is that the potential for success increases significantly with hard work and discipline, but the ending we seek is never guaranteed.

We also grow up in loving, caring and supportive home environments, where parents fulfill our needs and do everything they can to keep us happy. Sometimes we may even think that it is other people's responsibility to keep us happy. We feel entitled and thus react badly when our expectations are not met.

Our response to disappointments will make all the difference. It is natural to feel hurt and pain. But if we choose to wallow in our self-pity, dwell on our shortcomings or blame others for our circumstances, we will not gain the full value of our failings.

Benjamin Franklin said, "Those things that hurt, instruct." We become wiser, stronger and better able to live with ourselves when we can rise above our sorrows. We are also better able to handle the next setback. By responding productively to each of them and by accepting the responsibility for improving our lives, we gain the added benefit of increasing our chances for success.

I am not proud of the way I responded that day on the baseball field in the spring of my senior year. I know, however, that the experience and others like it have helped me to grow.