Saturday, October 25, 2008

Expectations aren’t always what you would expect

“Our expectations were too high”. “It was better than we expected.” “It’s not everything I expected it to be”. “It went beyond my expectations”. Then there is Expectation’s brother “counting on”. “I counted on you being there”. “Don’t count on me”, or the opposite “count me in”.

During this summer when I was driving back and forth to Boston for radiation, I had much time to discuss things, much things to discuss, and somehow the conversations always seemed to touch upon expectations.

Why are our expectations so high? It may start young. When we are little and our parents drop us off at a play date; they promise to pick us up at a certain time…and they do. We come to expect that if someone says that they will be there for us, they will be. Many of our parents come from the depression era, where getting a college education seemed to be the key to success (many of them didn’t have this advantage). If you could get a college education, and you weren’t plagued with a mental or physical disability…you would automatically get a good job, and make a good living…and you would be better off than your parents and likewise, your children receiving the same benefit of an education, would be better off than you. We’ve grown up watching TV where bad guys are caught and prosecuted; where liars are realized. On TV we also saw how people worked hard, made money and bought really, really big houses, and lots of things. Our government allowed us to expect that we could borrow from the future while living decadently in the present…and that it would work out.

What do we expect? We expect that we will grow old. We expect that our kids will outlive us. We expect that we will have a roof over our head. We expect that our spouses should/will understand us…know us…but they don’t always. We expect that our government will take care of us…but they don’t. We expect that if we eat at an excellent restaurant that we will have an excellent meal, and service; but we know enough to know that this may not always happen. We expect that our family and friends will be there for us in a time of crisis…that doesn’t always happen. We expect that when we read a good movie review, that the movie will actually be good. We expect that when the traffic light is green, it’s safe to go. We expect that if we get a college education, we will get a good job…or we used to expect this. We expect that our business partners will not rip us off. We expect that if we work hard, we will make a good living. We expect that our doctor’s know what they are talking about, and if they don’t they will refer us to someone who does…but they don’t necessarily do this. We expect that when the label says “99% fat free”, or “doesn’t contain nuts”, that it has only 1% fat, and no nuts. We expect lots and lots of things.

I find/found along with all the people I discussed expectations with…that not having them be met can be heartbreaking, angering, confusing, and disappointing. I’m guessing that many more with whom I’ve not yet had the occasion to discuss expectations…feel the same way.

My conclusion. Expectations aren’t always what you expect them to be, and that perhaps the best defense is a good offense. Expect less and you will always be pleasantly surprised, grateful, even thrilled at times.


Thinking about expectations, makes me also think about what is real? Who is real? Who is being real with you? How are we supposed to be able to figure that out? Everything lately seems to be all upside down. Knowing what is real has become such a challenge.

I find myself wishing that like the bunny in Velveteen Rabbit, that the more loved you are, the more real you would become; that the older, less attractive, more threadbare you became from being loved, the more real you would become. This seems like a simple, very detectable measurement by which to judge things. What do you think?

1 comment:

PJ said...

I have written long passages as a comment on two occasions only to have my browser crash and watch the words evaporate into the electronic ether.

I looked up the English proverb I tend to base things around, ‘Expect the best, and plan for the worst.’

You‘ve been down a road few people travel and it’s a journey through a lonely place. While you’re on the voyage, it tends to give you a sense of clarity about the world and people around you, you would not ordinarily have. Our value of things increases the closer we come to losing them.

Also, you have a truer sense of how easy it is for life to come off the tracks, how fragile the world we build up around ourselves really is.

Our expectations today are wildly askew; they are based upon images force-fed to us and ones that portray a world of empty promises.

It doesn’t mean the world is a bad place, it just is a reminder maybe of how our value scale needs to be altered so we put a higher emphasis on aspects we would otherwise take for granted.

It reminds us there are actions we can take that cost us little but have a lasting effect on the world around us. Little gestures of civility, courtesy and humanity, which go quite a way in making the world, a better place.