So after writing my expectations post last week, I had the opportunity to talk to two different young women, both of whom I’ve known since my teaching days. In talking to both of them, I saw shades of my former battles, which directed me to another attack I need to make on expectations. Both of these young women inspire me. They are driven to challenge themselves to always be more, think more, do more, and affect the world in positive ways. Both of them are beautiful, inside and out. Talented. Courageous. Intelligent. Quirky. They are exactly the kinds of people I feel fortunate to know. And both them, these wonderful human beings, are struggling with making their ways under the weights of other people’s expectations. I hate this for them, but certainly remember it for myself.
I was almost incapacitated at their ages by the struggle of living up to everyone’s expectations for me, or worse, my assumptions of other people’s expectations. That dark fiction robs the inner self of its ability to go after what it wants, because that desire might run counter to all the “theys” and what “they” want.
I’ve seen this struggle by young people before. Middle school, which I adored teaching, is the very beginning of self expression, of testing out different friends and looks, wearing a bunch of different hats in order to see which one fits. It also is a very challenging time for parents, which I understand, but since I don’t have kids of my own, I still see the experience more through the eyes of the young people. And I see just how necessary it is for them. People who are denied the chance to find their own right path can end up living lives that will never make them happy, because they are not the lives the young people would have ever chosen.
I’m certainly not saying that young people should be given free rein, because that would be reckless, but I am saying it is important to allow every person the chance to find out who they are, separate from their families, religions, cultures, etc. And I’m sure it is a difficult thing for parents to give: love without demanding the surrender of control. But I do believe it is something that should be considered.
I guess the same may be said for relationships. I’ve been in them and been out of them, sometimes only to discover that the “me” I was in the relationship was a stranger, the amalgamation of my expectation of who I should be and their assumed expectations of who I should be. They never had the chance to know the real me. And that is kind of sad, but makes me grateful that through my writing, I’ve finally met the authentic me... and really like her.
Now as far as expectations go, living up to anyone else’s is a recipe for losing grasp of what is personally important. Losing faith in one’s self because no time has been invested in self, as opposed to the mystery of living up to what everyone else wants. When are young people taught that it is okay to listen to their own voices, follow their own paths, and live their authentic lives? Even when parents try to impart these lessons, we are programmed to fit into our herd and not step too far out of well-worn ground.
The trouble comes, as in my two young friends, when people are simply too amazing to fit within the narrow parameters of well-worn anything. They are daring, and they are doers. And to get to their best lives, they are going to have to find the confidence in themselves, the belief that they are worthy and right just the way they are, and they are going to have to allow themselves to shine, regardless of the forces that attempt to dull their spark.
I don’t have a magic pill for them (nor would I give it if I did) to get them to see their own limitless worths, but I hope I give them the things I do have to share: my complete belief in them and my never-ending support of anything they set out to do.
Ladies, thank you for inspiring me.
Quote for the Day from Anais Nin
“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”