(Not) Exceeding Expectations
“It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.” - Professor Dumbledore The Harry Potter novels are full of wisdom and life lessons, usually found in the words of Albus Dumbledore. There is meaning in most everything in the novels, and many people, myself included, have examined these meanings and written about the themes present throughout the series. All my best learning seems to come from Harry Potter.
Perhaps that is why my favorite podcast has become Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Although this podcast has been around for over a year, I have just started listening, and I started from the bottom (Book 1, Chapter 1). But one session in particular made an impact on me: “Expectations: The Journey from Platform 9 3/4.”
The quote the session began with is what hit me hard and got me thinking (and crying) in my car: “Expectations are resentments under construction” - Anne Lamott
And it really got me thinking about the expectations I have had in my (short) life.
I was told that I sometimes make people feel like they’re just part of some plan I have in life. That hurt to hear, but then I realized that maybe there is truth in that.
I romanticize just about everything. (Not necessarily intentionally, and not necessarily consciously either.) In my Creative Writing course in college, my instructor told me he loved my story concept, and that I should keep writing it, but that I may have to end it in a way I hadn’t anticipated: with an unhappy ending. I gave up the story immediately because I love happy endings. I couldn’t put my character through the struggle I knew I would have to write because I wouldn’t want to go through it. I had an expectation going into writing that could not be met as I developed the character and the story. So I got upset and never wrote another word on it. Because I knew there was no way the ending could turn out any other way.
Choices show what we are, so what does this choice say about me? That I wasn’t ready to face the expectations I knew couldn’t be met.
I create these expectations of situations and people around me that no one can ever live up to. When those expectations aren’t met, I can become frustrated and angry, which only hurts the other person, me, and whatever relationship was there. It creates resentment because I just think “how could this expectation not have been met? was it that difficult?” And, of course, all that does is grow into a tumor of resentment in the back of my head.
I always thought growing up meant making all these plans and packing up ideas in a box with a neat little bow on top and presenting it, saying, “here’s the solution!” That’s what I expected from everything in life: school, marriage, a career. And that tumor would just continue to grow. But I’ve recently realized that isn’t the case.
If I learned just one thing in the seven years I was participating in higher education (and the one year I’ve been out), it is this: college is not reality. Do not base your expectations for life on what you experienced in college. Because in school, everything is packaged neatly: you have specific classes you need to take (with a few of your own choices scattered here and there), you have deadlines for assignments and exams, there are office hours with professors, you have a plan to lead you to graduation… That is all well and good, but life does not mirror that one bit.
I thought having these types of expectations for a person showed I cared, but, in reality, they breed resentment (remember the aforementioned tumor?).
Because no one can live up to romanticized expectations that sound like they’re out of a storybook, and life isn’t “once upon a time…”
When someone doesn’t meet those expectations and I become upset, it makes it seem as if I am trying to change that person or fixing something to be the way I want it to be, even if that was not my intention. It makes them feel as if they are just a cog in my machine of a plan of life and not the player or partner in it they should be.
My mom has often give me this little nugget of advice: don’t expect someone to do something (or act in the same way) you would because they are not you. Even if they began as good-natured expectations, those types of expectations will always breed resentment. Because you are expecting someone to act in a way that may not be in their nature. It leads to implications that their nature, who they are, is an inconvenience to you.
I have heard that a few times: that because I had the expectation of a plan, I was making the other person feel like an inconvenience. So these expectations can not only make us resent others, but they can also make others resent us.
Since hearing this perspective-altering quote, I have decided to adjust my perspective, to change my expectations. Sometimes, it's best not to have any.
If choices show what we truly are, what does this choice say about me? I hope it says I am willing to recognize my faults and weaknesses and make things right when needed.
Who knows. Maybe I’ll go back to writing that story…