The Peter Van Houtens of the World

I am no stranger to disappointment.

We have all felt it in one way or another. What I consider my greatest disappointment is probably the Christmas Eve after my great grandmother died. On every Christmas Eve when I was growing up, we opened presents, Granny cooked dinner, my grandfather read the story of Jesus’ birth, and we all spent a large portion of the night trying to find a seat amongst 35 other people and the leftovers boxes and wrapping paper.

After Granny passed away, this tradition dissolved. Sure, we tried to recreate it—but no one’s cookies tasted quite like Granny’s cookies and her empty spot on the couch only echoed our sadness. I’ve found myself disappointed every Christmas Eve after—it would never feel the same, and I could never again experience this tradition of my childhood.

This kind of disappointment is one that I accepted over time. However, there’s another kind of disappointment and I almost think that this kind is worse. This second kind of disappointment happens when a person, place, or overall scenario turns out to be not at all like the image you had in your mind of it. This kind of disappointment leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and makes you wonder why you didn’t see the reality of the thing to begin with.

If you’ve read John Green’s best-selling novel, The Fault in Our Stars, you will know what I mean when I say that everyone will eventually have a Peter Van Houten in their life. In case you haven’t read this heart-wrenching book, I will explain (spoiler alert).

In TFIOS, the main character is a teenage cancer patient who falls in love with another teenage cancer patient. Hazel (the main character) reads and re-reads a book entitled An Imperial Affliction (which is also a book about a teenage cancer patient). Hazel feels that the book’s author, Peter Van Houten, is the only other person in the world that understands the reality of cancer. Through a series of fortunate events, Hazel travels to Amsterdam and is able to meet Mr. Van Houten. What Hazel finds in Amsterdam is a bitter, drunken disappointment.

Peter Van Houten turns out to be the exact opposite of the image that Hazel had created of him in her mind. And although this may seem like a horrible thing, Mr. Van Houten teaches Hazel a lesson in the end. People like Van Houten will probably never change—they will certainly never be the person you thought they were or had envisioned them as. But even though this disappointment may leave a bitter taste in your mouth at first, you shouldn’t let it linger.

The actions of others, their wrongdoings to us…we should not let those things have an effect on us. Pick yourself up, let it roll off your back, and don’t allow someone else’s negativity to change the positivity in your own life. Don’t let disappointment haunt you, or drag you down—in the end, you’re only hurting yourself. There will always be Peter Van Houtens in this world, but we don’t have to let them win. 78



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