Expectation vs. Reality

There’s a reason why there are so many memes and tropes build around the theme of “Expectation vs. Reality”: it’s because the tension is real.

It’s part of the human condition. No matter where or who you are, there’s a gap between your current reality and what you expect, and it’s natural to want to close the gap. You can either close the gap by changing your reality or changing your expectations.

The thing is, expectations are often a lot more malleable than reality. Reality is a messy, chaotic, Brownian thing, shaped not just by your actions but also the actions of others around you; not just by your wishes but also by the wishes of others related to you; and not just by your history but also the history of others who came before you. How can you fight a typhoon of conflicting, clashing forces, the sum of all fears, the product of all appetites?

So you shift your expectations. You resign yourself to reality, surrender to its ebbs and flows, to its whims and caprices, which seem to be nothing more than random flux, no more predictable than the winds of a hurricane. You change to suit the environment. You become one with the mob. It’s adaptation, you tell yourself. It’s what you have to do to survive.

However, closing the gap by changing your expectations isn’t really the way to be happy. You bend and blow in the wind, and thus avoid getting your spirit broken, but it leaves the spirit flaccid and shapeless, a tree that does not stand.

So, here’s the question for today: should you live your life waiting for others to be okay with what you really want? Or should you live life changing what you want based on what others prefer or expect?

Or should you live your life based on what you expect for and from yourself?

A better question: when does expectation dictate reality, and when does reality dictate expectation?


Affirmations for the Young

To the young ones,

However brief your life so far has been, you have probably experienced enough to decide that the world is a frightening place. You’ve probably realized that day gives way to night, when it is cold and dark, yet you still screw your eyes shut to avoid even a glimpse of the creatures that seem to come alive. You’ve probably learned that there are many things that are much larger than you are, and can hurt you easily if you’re not careful. And you probably know by now that there’s so much you don’t know yet, so many things that you cannot understand.

I won’t tell you that your concerns are unfounded. Sometimes, monsters do lurk in the shadows; there are things larger than you that can harm you; and there’s so much for you to learn.

But I will also remind you of the opportunities that lay before you in your youth. If only you could hear what many “grownups” are thinking: how suffocated they feel, how little time and space they have to themselves! The world is open, ready and waiting for you to stretch yourselves out into it. Today is here for you to spend in pursuit of your dreams, and Tomorrow will come for you to spend in pursuit of any new ones that may occur to you.

There are times when the world, in fits of thoughtlessness, will remind you that you are weak. Don’t worry about that, because most of the world’s burdens should not be yours to bear yet.

There are those who, in their meanness, would openly dismiss the things you say, and would point out how wrong and naive you are. Don’t let yourselves be bullied by those who would measure children by standards to which the not-so-young should be held. As you grow taller, you will see and know more of the world.

You, the young, are given so many freedoms. Enjoy them while you can. Make the most of them. Get lost occasionally (but not too lost), and know that you will be found. Get hurt once in a while (but never on purpose), and know that you will heal.

And when you have grown, and you find that you have less freedom than before, look at the new generation of children (some of whom will hopefully be your own). Then you can remind yourself that the time and space you’ve lost are only given up so that they can have their turn at being free.