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I take issue with the bandying about of the phrase, “meant to be.” When most people hear it, they let it sink into their brain as if it must be an absolute truth. It clearly has ties to religious thinking, and yet, like the concept of “soul mates”, it seems to have gained a new place in peoples' minds. I know people who believe in god but don't believe in “meant to be.” I know people who believe in “meant to be” but not god. I know people who believe in both, and of course, people like myself who believe in neither.

I find it very peculiar that someone who easily dismisses the concept of god or a higher power might still use the phrase, “meant to be.” How did it become its own entity?

I have my theories, one if which is that, like religion, “meant to be” is a very comfortable psychological trap. One of the reasons it irritates me so is that if one were to let it, it would incapacitate one to make important decisions. This is my take on the idea and is not meant to read as having been psychologically verified.

I constantly listen to my friends talk about their romantic relationships. Maybe one of them recently broke up with her boyfriend and is doubting her decision. He tries to tell her that they are “meant to be,” and now she is more confused than ever. Another may have been trying to no avail to schedule a first date with a particular person and has given up, deciding it must not have been “meant to be.”

When we start to enter the realm of “meant to be”, what we are really talking about is our true feelings, whether we are being completely honest with ourselves and others, and whether we think our goals are attainable. When we decide something must not have been “meant to be,” what we are really saying is that we either do not care enough about the goal, or have tried and failed. If my friend is feeling like her relationship was not “meant to be,” she is recognizing her intuitive doubts about the relationship and at the same time shirking the responsibility of having made the decision. If her ex-boyfriend is trying to tell her they were “meant to be” together, he is regretting the outcome of his efforts and his past behavior.

I find this line of thinking sad. If I thought my life was supposed to be anything other than what it was, what would be the point in trying to understand my feelings and making an effort to fulfill my dreams? Wouldn't I just let my life pass me by, hoping that life would just happen? Aren't we all urged by those older and wiser than us to go after what we want? To never settle for less than the best? Aren't we all cautioned by the image of the man stuck in a mid-life crisis because he settled for a job he didn't want, a wife he didn't love, or a mortgage he didn't want to pay? I understand we all have responsibilities, and some of these are unavoidable, but so many attribute these responsibilities to “meant to be,” and never accept that they have the power to change their lives.

There is no cosmic obstacle in my way, secretly taunting me as a I tried in vain to attain my goal. Relying on “meant to be” is an easy way out. It denies control over one's life, and what I find most disappointing, it disallows one to feel pride and a sense of success. If I want something, I work until I get it. If I didn't get it, it's because I either didn't want it enough, didn't work hard enough, or wasn't willing to do what it took (I am in no way suggesting that “doing what it takes” is always the advisable path. Sometimes, certain goals are best left not pursued. I am also not advocating an “ends justify the means” mentality. There are certainly things that we should not do in order to attain certain goals. For example, my friend may decide her goal is to take her ex-boyfriend back and live happily with him. She knows she cannot count on him to change, therefore, she must change. In order to do this and make sure they are happy as a couple, she knows she must move to a different state, leave her family, leave her job, and force herself to live in a situation in which she is personally unhappy. Though she could attain her goal by doing this, the end does not justify the means. Therefore, she must understand that all “meant to be” means in this situation is her instincts telling her to not return to her ex-boyfriend.)

To my mind, this displays the ingenuity and determination of humanity. We made this world happen. We make our lives happen. We don't give up when something stands in our way. This is simultaneously wonderful enough to inspire us to personal and societal greatness, and frightening enough to make us cower in fear of failure. That said, I remind myself as often as I can to make my life what I want it to be, to pursue what I want, and to never accept less than happiness.

Now is one of those times it would be so easy for me to believe in “meant to be.” I may have just made an absolute mess of my life. Alright, that's a bit of an overstatement. I could easily continue on without any appreciable differences. However, that's really not what I want to do. I'd like to write exactly what has happened and what I mean, but I cannot get too detailed, for fear that certain eyes will read this. Normally I would be very honest, but I have been sworn to secrecy. If anyone likes giving out free advice, please e-mail me, but I will try to say as much as I can here.

I have developed feelings for someone. There are serious obstacles in the way of us forming a relationship, but I would like to work past these obstacles. It is possible to do so, but that does not mean others might not get hurt along the way. And no, to make things clear, neither one of us is cheating on anyone else, so that's not one of the roadblocks to which I am referring.

If I was not a rationalist, I could chalk whatever happens up to “meant to be.” If things start to feel too difficult, I could write it off, say it was not “meant to be,” and move on. However, I could also turn a blind eye to the serious issues in the way and forge on, even if the consequences become too great, thinking the consequences must not matter because it is “meant to be.” I know what I want and am willing to do what it takes, but I need an objective eye of clarity which I do not possess for this situation. There is no “meant to be,” there is only what I make of my life. This is an exciting thought, and yet I dread what may be to come. Isn't life grand? Fuck my life.

Feel free to comment or message me directly, if you so please.

Comments are also greatly appreciated for this and other entries on Musings From A Nowhere Girl.

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Tags: advice, be, dating, meant, to


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Comment by ryan cameron on November 15, 2009 at 9:51pm
Great commentary. Cant give you dating advice except focus on your own health, do what is best for you, and what you enjoy doing, and persons of quality will inevitably be attracted to you, then you'll have some options. Until you are well into a relationship, its all about you. Over time it becomes about them, but not until after a few years. I think the first 1-2 years of a relationship are the only times you have a good excuse to be extremely selfish. You'll have to become less so after that, and effectively forget about yourself all together when your kids arrive.

Anyway, about this mean to be stuff. Excellent point. Reminds me of the phrase "gypped". Most people don't realize that is a racist epithet, but it certainly bears pointing out, as you have with this phrase. "Meant to be" is just another bolt holding the general credibility of religion together and keeping it beyond rational scrutiny. Not by itself, mind you, but in chorus with the myriad of other tiny rational indiscretions we make in society. It is the combined power of all these kinds of things that gives religious nonsense its power, and this is why it is so important to vigilantly fight each one, just as it is important to wash ones hands regularly to fight disease.

Thanks for posting! I hope I have been of some use in this instance.

Ryan Cameron
Comment by Jared Lardo on November 15, 2009 at 4:03pm
"Meant to be" and its cousins are used and regurgitated in indivisible units. It's not immediately obvious, but these units are massive verbs: "to be meant to be". There's nothing rationalistic that can be substituted in place of "meant to be", but "are meant to be" could be swapped out for "must be together as it is the only possible turnout of events" or something similar, and the meaning of the sentence could be relatively maintained. Of course, the right-brained, no-you-can't-look-at-my-work, package-deal style is completely lost by having gone into any level of detail in this; however, since the "meant to be" expressions are irrational to begin with, sacrificing the irrational while having a rational discussion about it is only appropriate.

Arguments purely by assertion, as they rely on their being true to prove that they're true, are a particular kind of circular argument. The logic in the processing of "being meant to be" is a form of circular reasoning that borders on pure argument from assertion: We must be together, because we are going to be together in the future. Since we are going to be together in the future, we must join together now. Each piece fits with each neighbor piece, like a jigsaw puzzle, making a nice picture, but there still isn't any bond between anything in this big picture and anything outside of the picture.
Comment by Christy Gonzalez on November 15, 2009 at 1:50pm
Thanks for the response, Bill. My concerns are more generally about externally based obstacles. And you're right, I am most definitely rationalizing. I just can't decide what I'd regret more- going for it and getting hurt or not going for it.
Comment by Bill Flowers on November 15, 2009 at 1:10pm
Hmm... until this post I hadn't thought much about never using the phrase "meant to be." I think that you are right to tie rationalism into a distaste for the phrase. Even when marveling at the improbability of some of the cusps in my life that were instrumental in forming who I am, "meant to be" never once crossed my mind.

When it comes to advice, I think some of the best is from Rex Stout's character Nero Wolfe, "You are to act in the light of experience as guided by intelligence."

In my experience, and your mileage may vary, if the relationship obstacles are tied to something internal to one of the parties (drinking, womanizing, gambling, being an asshole, being married to someone else, frequent lying, lacks the ability to work at a relationship, etc.) then there isn't much point in pursuing the relationship, whether that party is you or the other.

If the obstacles are externally based (disapproval of family, disapproval of current community, concerns with pre-existing children, etc.) then there are sometimes cases where two dedicated people can work together to overcome those obstacles, the "us" against "them" thing is a pretty good motivator for many humans and, let's face it, every single successful relationship overcomes obstacles.

I have to say that you sound like a bright and rational person. I'm a bloody genius, and when I was your age I made more stupid mistakes than I could shake a stick at, all because I only followed the advice above with my friends and not with my romantic entanglements. You sound very much like myself rationalizing instead of being rational, right about the point where my friends would collectively yell, "Run, you idiot!!!" But as I said before, your mileage may vary...

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