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You Can't Always Get What You Want

Updated: Feb 19, 2023

By Bob Deakin

In life or in stories it often happens that, in the words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want, whether it's the whole book or one small chapter.

I recently watched an episode of The Office TV show and this theme played out beautifully. You don’t have to know the show, but in this episode “Business School” the protagonist, Pam, the office receptionist, has been dreaming of making it as an artist and finally has her first art showing at a local venue.

She wants it to be a triumph and have her co-workers show up and see her eye-opening talent outside the office. It might even lead to art school in New York, and success beyond.

As it turns out, hardly any of them show, and those that do are either ignorant or insulting. She’s crushed even though she puts on a brave face. The art show is a metaphor for her love life and other storylines following her in the show.

The writer of the episode, Brent Forrester, explained in an interview that his script originally had a more promising ending but that the director and producer opted for a toned-down, slightly awkward conclusion.

Such is the case in countless stories, shows, films, songs; you name it. The subject of the piece wants it all, or at least something they feel will complete their dream, but falls somewhere short. It might not be what they want, but it might be what they need. Whether that satisfies them or not is another story, but what they need is often the happiest ending they could ever wish for.

Many of us have experienced this conundrum at one time or another and it can turn out to be disappointing or profound or both. It can cause stress and rethinking of one’s life or priorities, but it can often result in what is best for you, whether you like it or not.

The Office episode concludes when Pam’s boss, Michael, shows up at the end of her art show as she’s about to pack up. With no pretension, he’s immediately impressed with what he sees, particularly with one painting, and offers to buy it, honestly expressing how much it means to him.

Pam is taken aback, not having expected to sell anything, and is touched to the soul by his genuine sentiments and gives him a loving hug as she wells up with tears as all the emotions of her hopes, dreams and storylines in the show hit her simultaneously.

It’s an unusually moving scene for the show and it concludes an episode filled with cringing hilarity.

It is acceptable to no one to realize you can’t get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.



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