I was about twelve years old when I went back home in El Paso after visiting my father’s side of the family in Mexico over the Christmas break. When I got back, several of my cousins had brand new radio controlled cars and boats, and they were playing with them at a nearby park. All I could do was watch since I didn’t get anything similar for Christmas. To be honest, it kind of broke my heart that my cousin — the oldest cousin in our generation — got them those toys and kind of forgot about me.
When I told my mom how I felt, she asked me if I really didn’t get anything for Christmas. I did. I always did. That year, I got a brand new bicycle. Dad and I threw the straps he used to hold his motorcycle in the back of truck and drove to the state capital in Chihuahua. We looked around for a nice bicycle for me, and he bought me what I thought then was the best bike ever. (It was a Mongoose fixed gear bike for kids, in case you’re wondering.) Mom would then remind me how much I wanted that bike, how much fun I had on it while on break, and how much longer it would last me after my cousins — who had a tendency to be a bit “rough” with their toys — were done with their gifts.
These many years later, when I went to buy my current bicycle, I looked back fondly on that time I went with my dad to buy the bike. Then I smiled as I took the bike apart and put it back together correctly. (They don’t do a great job at department stores of putting bicycles together.) Dad had done the same with that bike back then, and I had paid attention.
In essence, back then, as it always seems to be the case, I got exactly what I needed. It was just a nice bonus that the bicycle was also something that I wanted.
When I was about 19 years old, in college, I was trying to date a very pretty girl who was in several of my classes with me. She was blonde, blue-eyed, and very pretty… My type. (And, oh, dear God, do I have a type.) Anyway, we were talking on the phone one day at my aunt’s house when I my aunt called me to do something. I left my cellphone on a table and my cousin grabbed it. He hit “redial” on the phone and called the girl back.
I wouldn’t find out about this for a few days, until the next time I saw her.
“That was one weird conversation,” she said.
“With me?” I asked.
“No, with whoever it was that called me from your phone.” I wondered who it was. “He said he was going to go out on a date with me before you did, because he… Get this… He never loses.” She laughed after saying that.
We went to the movies that night, and we talked again about my cousin calling her. She said she had always been amazed at guys who said the phrase “I never lose.” She asked me if I ever lost. “I do,” I said to her. “But it’s more about learning than losing,” I added with a wink. “I learn A LOT.”
We stayed up all night that night.
The relationship didn’t go anywhere, but I learned a valuable lesson from it all. I learned to be humble and not pound my chest too hard in trying to impress someone. When I met The Girl, we went to a bookstore on our first date and then watched Eddie Izzard on DVD the rest of the evening. There were no big displays of how much of a “winner” I was, or how much I had. In fact, she saw a picture of my brother and I in front of our respective Jeeps and worried that I was the kind of dude who treasured their ride more than their lives.
I wasn’t. I showed The Girl how imperfect and fragile I was from the get-go so she wouldn’t put me on a pedestal, and it worked wonderfully. I didn’t want to be her Superman. I just wanted to be her man, and that made me super.
See what I did there?
What I’m getting at is that there will be tons of times in your life when you will not get what you want, but you will somehow end up getting exactly what you need. Trust me, it is in your best interest — and you will be happier — if instead of getting what you want you get what you need. Yes, from time to time, the things that you want are the things that you need. As is often the case with humans, however, the things that you want are often not the things that you need.
I didn’t need an extra electronic toy. I needed a lesson in bicycles and mechanical work. I didn’t need the hot girlfriend. I needed to learn how to behave less like a little peacock and more like a secure man. From those lessons, and many others, I’ve come to accept things that come my way, and I’m even learning to be thankful for them. Perhaps the best thing from those lessons is that I’ve come to be thankful for the people who enter — and even leave — my life as I need them to. That’s been the real blessing from those lessons.
“I never lose…” Oh, geez. Who falls for that anymore?
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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