If you are a living and breathing citizen of the world, you know how incredibly fucked up you can get when you have too many expectations. This morning I was expecting to take a nice, warm shower until I realized my water heater was broken. I found myself trying to wash one body part at a time because the thought of immersing my entire self into the aching cold water was unbearable. I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed because I thought my day was going to have a pleasant start, but instead, I nearly froze my nipples off at 9:00 am. This whole situation reminded me of a conversation I had with a close friend of mine not too long ago. We were discussing how we should all stop expecting things to happen, how we shouldn’t expect things of people because that way we avoid letdowns and pain. I know, this all sounds way too deep for a couple of twenty-year-olds who haven’t lived long enough to know anything about anything, but still, I was left pondering. I know I am the type of person who lives her life wanting things to happen, wanting people to treat me a certain way, and now I wonder, is this all necessary?
It’s impossible to try and answer this question without referring to personal experience. I know once I entered college and was caught in this process of self-discovery, I struggled a great deal with this whole expectations issue. I thought I was going to have an awesome group of friends my freshman year, similar to the one I had back in high school, but as it turned out then, I found myself walking in and out of class alone. That semester I wanted to be studying something that put me on the path towards medical greatness, but instead, I was stuck in a small dorm room, slamming my biology book against the wall asking myself why the fuck I wanted to be a doctor so badly. A couple of months later, me and my boyfriend at the time, the one I had been with for three years, the one I thought I was going to marry after college, the one I claimed was so wonderful and perfect, broke up in 2.5 seconds for reasons that had to do with “we are both different” or something like that. I put every item I had of his in a big trash bag, a trash bag I gave him in an effort to move on. Once I did that, I sat in a corner of my bed and cried until I had long strings of bugger coming out of my nose. Just like that, in a small lapse of time, every expectation I had about the events of my life evaporated, disappeared in one big blur. It’s incredibly difficult to still have great expectations about yourself and about other people once you suffer disappointment. It’s hard to see that stupid “ray of light at the end of the tunnel” everybody speaks about. I know of people who go through the most horrid situations, situations that are completely insufferable in comparison to this teenaged drama I’m describing, and I’m still scratching my head thinking about how they move on and hold bigger hopes for themselves. I don’t know how they do it. I’m sure that if I asked some of them how they can be so optimistic in the face of constant crap, they probably wouldn’t be able to answer that either. All I know is that they have to. We all need to keep crawling forward and have a little trust because the alternative is just too scary to even think about.
I think the defeat we feel as a result of our failed expectations has a huge effect on the way we relate to other people, particularly people who are close to us. I know that when I was going through that period of uncertainty, that phase where I wasn’t sure what I was going to do anymore about my career or otherwise, I was ashamed because I thought I had everything perfectly sorted. I had to walk in front of others, others who were far more successful than me and think about the exceptional mess I was swimming in. Even my parents became skeptical about my plans and ideas because, after all, I had yet to prove that I had something going right for me. This is when I withdrew from that dreaded “what are you doing with your life” conversation every parent has with their child. I didn’t want to talk to them about my affairs because there is a huge distinction between saying you are going to do something and actually putting your words into concrete action. Yes, in many ways it hurts to have my parents doubt my journey. It sucks to have many of the people you look up to question your unique trajectory. But, all in all, it’s fair to expect these doubts. Also, even though I still get slightly upset when my parents bombard me with their concerns about my choices and suggestions on how they would do things, I don’t get mad at them anymore. I finally realized that their actions come from a place of care, of them wanting me to do well in everything I set my mind to, which I suppose should be any parents ultimate ambition.
The fact of the matter is that people are going to talk anyway. People will spread their opinions regardless of whether you are doing good or bad things. This is like a rule, a law, a norm set in all kinds of stones. However, we always have a choice when it comes to how we deal with other people doubting us. We can transform that energy and use it as motivation to be better and work harder in whatever it is that we enjoy doing. I’m not suggesting that we don’t need a support system composed of individuals who are actively present in our daily lives, ready to scoop us up when we are about to crumble or celebrate our moments of triumph. There is real value in having people there and real strength in learning who to trust in times of need, no matter how many times other people have screwed us over. People are flawed. People will disappoint us and there is nothing we can do to change that, but disappointment is not a reason to avoid others, but rather a lesson in how you decide who’s voices to hear and whose presence truly matters to you.
Relationships are the most common venues where expectations get shattered. Most people are driven by the idea of a perfect partner, a partner that is spotless in the face of current social standards. Some women long to be with a man who is handsome, successful, and romantic in a way that is Instagram worthy while a lot of men would give anything to have a trophy woman by their side, one with a sexy appearance and a soft character. I’d say that judging by these norms, there is an obvious reason as to why people become disappointed when they can’t find relationships that fit their criteria. The problem with having criteria is that it has an ineffective quality when you want to find a person to be with, and that’s why I say that, in this context, it’s important to toss criteria out the window. Let yourself be surprised. I know I used to be one who said that I wouldn’t date a man who is thin because I would much rather bask in the glow of a curvy man, but then things changed. Now I am keeping a good eye on a tall slender gentleman I recently met, and although he doesn’t have the pudgy rolls I used to like, he has a beautiful disposition. He has many traits that I probably wouldn’t have found had I not given him a chance. I was looking for love handles, but instead I got the smart, confident, hilarious, humble, open doors, kiss my hand, never-ending conversation, make sure I got home okay, respectful, treat me like a lady side of man, and this is more than anything I could have asked for!
All in all, I no longer have an interest in wracking my brain for expectations I don’t need. Setting great expectations for ourselves only dims the possibility for spontaneity, and when we allow things to take place naturally, we often find everything we never knew we wanted. The facts state that bad things are bound to happen and people will often fail us and there’s no way around it, but this does not mean we get to stop trying. Perhaps one career didn’t make the cut, but eventually, in due time, we may work in something far more exciting. I’m sure a few more bad boyfriends will come and go until somehow, someway, I find one that sticks for good. Tomorrow morning my water heater will still be broken and I will take a cold shower, but there will come a day when my water heater will be fixed and my nipples will no longer succumb to the freezing pain!
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