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A fine young man came to see me recently with a problem that is almost universal. When he was a youth he dreamed of a specific career, but circumstances barred him from the job on which his heart had been set. Now he is disappointed and feels cheated.
He wanted to be a doctor, but he did not have the money necessary for his education, and had to quit school and go to war. Now his chance to be a doctor is gone and he is filled with regret. There are a lot of people who have not been able to do the things their hearts were once set on doing.
Whenever I fly to Washington and pass over Mount Vernon I always think of George Washington. The city below, that he planned, is our nation’s capitol. Millions of people have seen the great Washington monument and given thanks for such a man. But George Washington wanted to be a sailor in the King’s navy; that was the dream and ambition of his early manhood.
His trunks were packed and his ticket bought to sail for England. However, at the last moment his plans were frustrated and he did not go. His disappointment was almost unbearable, but out of his disappointment came a far greater life.
When our government issued a commemorative stamp in honor of mothers the portrait of Whistler’s mother was chosen. Whistler was the greatest portrait painter of his age, though, as a young man, he wanted to be a soldier. He went to West Point and flunked. Then he tried engineering and failed. As a last resort he took up painting and became famous.
When I think of Jean Francois Millet I am grateful that once a man lived who could paint such pictures as “The Angelus,” “The Reapers,” and “Man with the Hoe.” The picture that gave Millet his chance was “Oedipus Unbound.” But the picture he worked hardest on was his “St. Jerome,” and it was rejected by critics.
Millet was so poor that he could not afford to buy more canvas for a new picture, and he was so disappointed that he felt like quitting. But he did not quit. Instead, he took his rejected canvas and over it he painted his first successful picture. His disappointment became the base for his success.
One of the ambitions of my own life was to serve as a Roman Catholic priest. I did for fifteen years and am thankful for the lessons I learned. My life took a different course when I married the love of my life and changed my career to working for non-profit organizations such as hospice. I would not go back and change things now, even if I could.
All of us have our disappointments, some more than others. Our hearts are set on certain goals and we find ourselves unable to carry out those fond dreams and ambitions.
Instead of foolish regrets, we must take advantage of the opportunities that come our way. Instead of whining and feeling sorry for ourselves, we must find something positive to do. We must bloom where we’re planted.
Bob Mueller is the vice president of gift planning at Hosparus. The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.