Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Expectations Just Can’t Catch a Break

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.”


Indigo said...

One of my favorite Anais Nin quotes.

I know that weight well. My mother expected me to fit in (public school) despite my hearing disability, which grew worse by the year. What that entailed was me missing several hours of classes (lot of homework)2-3 times a week for speech therapy.

True I speak eloquent despite my deafness now, but at the time it already made me more of an outcast than I already had been with a disability.

To say I learned to live up to my own expectations and not that of everyone else at an early age, is putting it lightly. I refused to exist in the box, everyone else seem determined to put me in. I don't let my deafness define me, so why should everyone else.

It's slightly different than the normal boundaries of expectations you've talked about here. None the less it was life changing for me.

I hope these young women are able to keep those unique parts of themselves, under the weight of everyone's expectations. (Hugs)Indigo

Debra L. Schubert said...

Reminds me of a song we wrote 10 years ago. Here are some of the lyrics:

As you dance through time
To the tune of another’s seasons
You may come to find
There’s no truth, there are no reasons

Listen closely to your soul
Even though you don’t always want to know
You say it’s too much trouble
And it takes too much time
To live just by your own design

As you ring their chimes
There’s no sense of pleasure
Nothing sweet or fine
That is yours to measure

So, listen closely to your soul
Even though you don’t always want to know
You say it’s too much trouble
And it takes too much time
To live by your own design
You’re right, it’s too much trouble
And it takes all your time
To live by your own design
But, the only place worth living
The only peace you’ll find
Is when you live by your own design
When you live by your own design

Lola Sharp said...

What a powerful, thoughtful post.

I am a mother to a 14 (almost 15) year old daughter...and it IS hard not to put some expectations on them. There are responsibilities, expectations we have as human beings: to be kind, help those less fortunate, to be grateful when others help us (which I find lacking in this world...so many people clearly feel entitled), to live up to our word and promises as best we can, to do well in school (in the case children), to be joyful, to live to our potential.

I swear, if I had that magic pill, I WOULD give it to everyone...even though I totally get why you wouldn't, and think you're the better person for your likely wiser choice.

I love this post.

And, I have used that Nin quote many times. It's one of my favorites. :) *swoon*


Julie said...


Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with expectations, and your comment was just another on a stack of reasons I admire you.

Hugs right back.

Julie said...


Have I mentioned how cool it is to have a BFF who is a rock star? It makes me about 70% cooler, just by association. :)

You are very talented, and I love your lyrics. And I love how talking to the young women has shown me that so many things I went through are completely normal stages of growing up.

I feel very humbled by their friendships... and yours as well.

Love ya!

Julie said...


What a thoughtful response. Thanks!

When I was teaching, it was so hard not to give the answer when kids would come talk to me about their problems. But solving things, even though it is in my nature, never worked as well as giving perspective and options and letting them find their own ways.

Even though I taught social studies, I never shared with my students my political leanings, because I never wanted to influence them, just to help them to see all the different beliefs out there that they had the choice to believe.

And I do get that it's tough on parents, especially since the line between guiding, controlling, and freeing is murky at best.

But that is what makes life interesting. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Love that quote!

As a teacher and mom I've watched so many kids struggle with expectations. It's difficult to find yourself soemtimes under what everyone else wants and expects for you.

One of the questions I ask kids during conversations and getting-to-know-you interviews in Sept is "what makes you a special person?" It's heartbreaking to see the blank looks and the panic. They don't see it. They think there's a correct answer. Hopefully I can help them find out there's always a lot that's special and unique.

Elana Johnson said...

What a great quote. I think I've been examining myself as of late, trying to figure out some things. I totally feel like I'm in middle school again and if I'm "cool enough." You know?

Julie said...


I'm so glad you are still in the classroom. I miss it, but ran out of energy for teaching the way I wanted. But the fact that people like you are there to help guide the kids makes me glad. And I know just what you mean about the students not seeing just how special they are. I believe if they connect with the right people, they will have the tools to find their ways. :)

Julie said...


I certainly know and understand the feelings you are going through. I'm working on this new thing: acceptance. Acceptance of the struggles. Acceptance of all the positives in life. But most of all acceptance of myself and my place in the grand scheme of things. I'm finding it to be centering in a way I haven't experienced before.

So, I'd say to your "cool enough" issues... not to worry too much about it and just be. That's the coolest thing we can ever do. :)