Disappointment Island

By: Emma Johnston

The other night at dinner we were playing a game where ‘if we dug through the centre of the earth where would we end up?’ (we’re working on the title) This game started when we realized that if we dug straight through the earth from Ontario we’d end up somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We had the globe out and would pick different places in the world and see where we could dig to. Dig through Alaska, you’d end up in South Africa, dig through the Southern tip of India and you’d end up in Panama. This game was not just an interesting way to learn some geography (of which my knowledge is sadly lacking) but it was fun to guess where we’d end up. The best ‘dig’ we performed however was from the centre of Turkey. Dig straight through from Turkey and you end up in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean on a tiny island called ‘Disappointment Island.’
Disappointment Island is a REAL place! This humorously named Island belongs to New Zealand and is barely more than a mile square, yet this tiny, picturesque and somewhat arid Island is a genuine, full fledged geographical location!
Intrigued by our newly discovered Island, we looked it up. It turns out that this island is in a row of three ‘disappointing’ island about 200 km away from the New Zealand mainland. They were first named the Unfortunate Islands in the 1500’s because none of them possess a fresh water source for weary travellers. Two hundred years later they were re-named Disappointment Island by French explorers who found their discovery of the islands ‘somewhat disappointing…’
I couldn’t help shake the connection however of this dear little ‘Disappointment Island’ with our human experience of disappointment. We’ve all experienced this emotion, this let down of what we thought should or could or would be and how we face the fact that some things never will ‘be’. My life has turned out a million times better than I had ever imagined it could, but I’ve had my fair share of disappointment. I’ve had dreams that didn’t turn out, goals I couldn’t and won’t accomplish, ideas fall flat and hopes snuffed out. I’ve seen bad things happen to wonderful people, faced heartache and fear and you guessed it, disappointment.
I think that disappointment can, and should be like this little island. Thousands of people visit this place every year. They come, take in the scenery, take some pictures, get the t-shirt (yes, they have t-shirts) and then head home again. No one can LIVE there. No one can stay forever on this island because it lacks fresh water. There’s no life source flowing from the beautiful outcrop of rock in the middle of the ocean. You can’t stay there, make it your home, or dwell on its cliffs. It’s a visit, a stop on your journey, that is all.
If anyone decided to live on Disappointment Island they could only stay as long as their water supply continued. After that, they would slowly die of dehydration and exposure.
In life, we experience defeats, let downs and disappointments. We experience trauma and pain and suffering, but we can’t remain ‘stuck’ there. We can absolutely experience them whole heartedly! We can and will spend time with these experiences and emotions, but we can’t remain fixated or stuck on them. We can’t dwell in the depths of our own despair and disappointment. We can’t focus solely on the things that make us unhappy or uncomfortable. If we do, it would be like trying to live on Disappointment Island – for a while, fine, but eventually it would destroy us. We’d shrivel up, waste away, die.
Like any other experience or emotion, disappointment should just be a stop on our journey of life. Just a ‘blip’ or visit, there is no doubt that some of our time will be spent there, but after our stay we need to remember to pack up our gear, get back on the boat and keep on going –
By all means visit Disappointment Island, spend some time there, look around, take a picture, learn something new, but always remember to leave. We need to keep on journeying. Find places that are abundant in fresh water and a source of life. There will be many stops along the way, but our journey’s not done till we hit the grave.

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