Expectations

sunset glowing red and yellow through a grove of trees

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As we channel our way out of the uterus, so the onslaught begins. We’re expected to accomplish things, “be” a certain way almost instantly. Breathe, have ten fingers and ten toes, no irregularities. Walk by one and talk by two else you’re falling behind. Or as the saying goes, “life is full of expectations.”

As we rough and tumble into adulthood, we have the opportunity to exceed the world’s expectations as much as we do disappoint; or completely alter them all together.

I would argue that only that last bit can be defined as true success, since fulfilling someone else’s perceived idea of what you should become is essentially giving up your spot at the table of potential to another player, one who may have had luck with that approach to life or even failed and is looking for validation through a second chance, but either way, they’ve had their shot and are biting into yours as well.

Sure, some expectations are great, and perhaps even others’ ideas for your life coincide with your own. Graduating high school, providing for yourself, living up to your mistakes, these are some general ideas of nearly universal acceptance.

It’s when we start to look at other people and determine their worth by the set of obligations we outline that we start getting into trouble. Christians lead indigenous people to the slaughter if they can’t accept Christ, Muslims blow up towers because they think a society is corrupt, marriages shatter when partners decide the other isn’t living up to their end.

We have the ability to shed expectations, but not as individuals. We can only stop looking at others and judging them based on our criteria for what they ought be doing. We can’t make others do the same, lest we find ourselves adding to the problem. It’s a real humdinger of a Catch 22, but unlike the old “turn the other cheek” proverb, it puts the power of the slapping hand in our own. When we quit setting up our own expectations for others, we can at least try and learn from why they’re in turn doing it to us, and hopefully that will shed enough light on the subject for us to figure out the solution.

I can say from personal experience that a life spent thirsting after your own set of accomplishments, while often more difficult, is vastly more rewarding than trying to fill the glasses of everyone else around you.