This writing is based on two of my favorite movies: Paper Towns and 500 Days of Summer. A few days back, I re-watched them and found something similar from the main characters and plot. But before we break down the pattern, let me give you a plot summary as the context.
Paper Towns is a teen romance-comedy movie adapted from John Green’s novel by the same title, and was released in 2015. Two long-lost childhood friends, Quentin and Margo, were reunited by an adventurous event in order to take revenge on Margo’s ex-boyfriend and her back-stabber friends. After the revenge night, Margo was ‘missing’, and later Quentin learned that she had gone to ‘Paper Town’. Quentin, with an abundance of feelings for Margo, decided to go looking for her using the clues she left. Quentin believed that the clues were intentionally left for him to find Margo. But, in the end, he couldn’t find Margo in Paper Town. In desperation, he finally encountered Margo at the bus stop. There, she told him that actually she never intentionally left the clues for him to follow.
Long before Paper Towns, released in 2009, 500 Days of Summer was the romance-comedy movie that people talked a lot about since it made the audiences’ emotions go up to an excitement. The story focused on Tom, an average corporate employee, and his 500 days with a girl named Summer. Tom was in love with Summer at first sight, yetSummer didn’t believe in love. However, they still went out in a casual relationship. They went through some arguments about their relationship commitment and consistency. Unfortunately, Summer ‘broke him up’ because she felt like she hurt Tom. In the 400-ish days, Tom learned that Summer was married, which was surprising to him as Summer didn’t believe in love. Nevertheless, Summer told him that she was convinced with her marriage, which she didn’t feel matched with Tom.
So, I learned that the similarity between those two movies is: a man with broken promises and expectations. Both Quentin and Tom were projecting their expectations onto girls who failed to fulfill those expectations, they can’t accept the truth that the girls they dreamed of don’t return the same feelings. Even among the 500 Days of Summer audience, there is some discussion whether it’s Summer’s fault or Tom’s at the end of the movie. It shows that by portraying and dramatizing one’s failed expectations, someone can point out the other as villains.
Our expectation is our own responsibility. The expectation exists because we create it and fantasize about it. But most of the time, rather than accepting the reality, we choose to blame the ones who break our expectations. Sometimes we overlook the signs before us and proceed to believe what we want to believe while everything that comes and goes in our life actually isn’t there just to satisfy our expectations and feelings. Tom, for example, should have known that Summer wasn’t into serious relationships. So the best thing he should have done is to resist his feelings and avoid a further relationship, but instead, he drowns in the ecstasy of living with his dream girl.
In our daily life, we put so many expectations on so many things, whether it’s a person, a job, an examination, or even ourselves. We put so much effort to pursue our expectations, yet are unaware of the possibility of failure. Some things aren’t meant to happen in the exact time, form, and situations we want them to happen. I know this might sound lame but ‘results never betray the process’ is true, it is true if we perceive the results as something that truly paid our effort off. Sometimes the result is not better than you’ve expected, but it is absolutely the best you’ve done. Reflecting on 500 Days of Summer, Tom had been working on trying to change Summer’s view on love and get her feelings, and the result he got was Summer’s affections, not her commitment. It’s not better than what he had expected but it’s probably the best result for his effort.
We can’t just blame other people for ‘breaking’ our expectations, we should start to control our reaction to the failure. Not all the people you put your expectations on are aware of it, probably they also do the best they can to you. They are not villains in your story, they are just clueless. Let’s start to appreciate them nevertheless, living our best and avoid putting our expectations too high. By doing that, we will gain more confidence in ourselves and effort as we know that what we do and the results are the best for us.
And last, maybe Summer and Margo are not the villains, maybe Quentin and Tom’s expectations are not the villains, maybe it’s just not the right person and time.