Great Expectations

I realize it’s probably not prudent to make the first topic I address on here disappointment. I also realize that it’s not the most pleasant of subjects, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t really see the point in suppressing it when I’ve always been a “wear your heart on your sleeve” type of person anyway. Recently I’ve experienced some disappointment in my life and I’m still feeling the impact of those wounds. It’s with that mindset that I’ve come to this blog entry.

Expectations. Disappointment. (Failure). Repeat.

I’m not a melancholy person by nature and I don’t typically dwell on disappointment for too long. Over the years, however, I have realized that I am a person who places a lot of pressure on myself in the form of expectations. Growing up if I didn’t set a personal best time at a swim meet, I would cry. If I lost a flute audition, I would cry. If I didn’t score well on a test, I would be furious at myself (and then most likely cry).

What was driving this reaction? Was it a hyper-competitive streak? Was it a compulsive search for perfection?

Honestly, I don’t know. I could tell you some theories I have about societal pressure, gender roles, and racial stereotypes, but those might have to be topics for another day. All I know is that I have lived my entire life thus far holding myself to certain expectations, planning my life based on those expectations, suffering from disappointment when those expectations were not met. And there it is again.

Expectations. Disappointment. (Failure). Repeat.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that I know I’m not a failure. There have been many accomplishments in my life of which I am proud, but that doesn’t mean I am immune to feelings of failure as a result of disappointment.

Maybe I feel failure because we as humans have been groomed to associated shame with disappointment. There have been many times when I have felt unable to talk about disappointments because I don’t want people to think that I’m whining or because I don’t think that people want to hear a sad story or because I’m scared talking too much will only reveal a hidden inferiority complex. So I’ll tuck those disappointments away and my mind will turn them into failures.

In my most recent encounter with disappointment, I worked for several months perfecting an application for a fellowship, concisely packaging and repackaging a representation of myself to be judged by a nebulous entity. In the end, it turns out I didn’t pass go. I didn’t get to collect two-hundred dollars. The sting of rejection was and still is very real. It’s hard not to take these things personally, but for the first time in my life, I didn’t cry.

And I couldn’t help but wonder why? Is this is a sign of maturity? Am I finally beginning to realize that disappointment does not equate failure? Or is it possible…

Expectations. Disappointment. (—). Repeat.

Am I learning to disassociate feelings of failure from my cycle of expectations and disappointments?

There is a narrative that I’ve noticed humans like to tell. It goes something like this: Go from Point A to Point B to Point C and end up at the finish line. Even if there is a quick visit to Point A.1.ii followed by a lateral jump to Point B.2.iii, people will still tell you it’s best to narrate the story as A, B, C.

Well, I’m here to say that my experiences have taught me that expecting life to be A, B, C is bogus. And why should I attempt to narrate my life as A, B, C, when I might not know where Point A.1.ii will lead? Feeling disappointed that I didn’t go straight from Point A to Point B is fine, but I shouldn’t feel like a failure for landing on Point A.1.ii.

In the end, I love that I expect a lot from myself. I know that disappointment is a part of life that cannot be denied. But feelings of failure? I just have to do my best to not let them get in the way of pursing goals, old and new, big or small.

As such, I propose a new Modus operandi:

Expectations. Disappointment. Revision. Repeat.

Because in case anyone else needs to hear it, I’ll be the first one to say it, life never turns out the way you think it will, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to make it what you want it to be.

One comment

  1. So real though. So. Real. Here’s to growing up, figuring things out, and letting go of the Rory Gilmore brand of perfectionism. 🙂


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