31 December 2010


We all have expectations for ourselves, no matter how mundane they might be. Whether it's showering every morning, making it to work on time, getting dressed, finishing a college degree, or deciding on a career, we all have expectations. Some have higher expectations than others. Some, like me, have unbelievably high expectations.

Not to say that these expectations, which could also double as "goals" if looked at in a different light, are all negative. Indeed, some of them are actually positive. The expectation to wake up and get out of bed in the morning is positive. The expectation to finish school is positive. However, the expectations to be a professional at multiple things, or to grasp everything that comes your way, or to never offend anyone, or to understand everything, are not reasonable. Reading a book by the end of the day is reasonable. Reading 2 books in one hour is stretching it, unless you're Spencer Reid off Criminal Minds. 20 books an hour is unrealistic as an expectation.

With a new year, most people make at least one resolution. Some are carried out, but the majority aren't. A lot of people make the resolution to drop weight, and stop their diet by the end of January. Such events are common. When it comes to me, I don't make resolutions, but there are expectations I have for myself- goals, per se, but not exactly.

For example, I expect that I will pass my spring and summer classes. I expect that my internship will turn out well, and I expect that I will prove myself worthy of a job. I expect that I'll have a job sometime this year. I expect that I'll graduate in August. I expect I'll soon be able to move out. I expect that I'll be able to begin paying my parents back and paying off my loans. But, I also expect As from my classes. I expect to do everything correct at my internship. I know that these expectations are quite lofty, but it's something that I can't seem to get out of the habit of doing.

All my life, everything has been about expectations. Expectations to make the grade, expectations to do certain things to maintain friendships, expectations about behavior from my parents and from the schools (of course) are some of them I have experienced. I was always a straight-A student and graduated second in my class, but I was disappointed because I expected more of myself. Perfect attendance? How can I expect more? I don't know, but I did. Good behavior? I was the star student. Every teacher wished they had a class full of Ashleys instead of some of the other students.

My only detentions were in 2nd grade, when I cried about spilling chocolate milk on my favorite blue skirt (I was 6! It was devastating! Yes, I cried over spilt milk!!), and the time that the sadistic choir teacher expected us to have only our choir materials at our seat and quiet (no wandering eyes either) by the time the tardy bell rang. I looked at a friend and got caught and got detention. This happened more than once. She just wasn't very effective as a teacher. Oh, and there was the time in the 4th grade that another girl pushed me into the flower garden because I was a white girl (white was minority at the time where I lived).

Otherwise, I was the star student. Every year I got to go to the luncheon for the star students from each class. Teachers would add extra points to my assignments for creativity or hard work. I never had a mark against me. Of course, my parents didn't see me as a star child, but my brother caused a lot of trouble that somehow ended up involving me. Shooting toys at my face, or the dog, writing "wash me" on the back of the van (and blaming it on me), shoving me into the tub or into doors, etc. typical little brother things. So in their eyes, I never felt good enough. I expected more of myself. I would read until my eyes couldn't take it. I would do homework, and try to prove I was a good kid.

The more effort I put in, the less response I would get, and soon they just came to expect me to always have the best behavior at school, and behave better with my brother. It wasn't a goal anymore, it was expected. As  were expected; Bs were sub-par (for me). No longer was an A a "good job"; it became a "well why wasn't it 98 instead of 96?". Expectations grew higher as time went on, as I kept trying to prove myself, they'd raise the bar so I never met anyone's expectations.

I think the point of this post is to point out that while we can have resolutions and goals, we should never expect anything more out of ourselves than we know is feasible. We can make reachable, feasible goals, and set resolutions, but we can't expect ourselves to be perfect. Allow a little comfort room so that when you achieve something, it's not something that was expected, and gives you reason to celebrate. Appreciate the choice to just have goals and not expectations.

Do, of course, expect some things. Expect that another day will come. Expect that with each day come new challenges and tasks that may be difficult, or there will be other days that will fly by without difficulty. Expect to learn new things, and to set goals. Expect only as much as you can do, nothing more. Don't expect to become president of the US. Do expect to study sometimes, don't expect a college degree, but make it a goal. Expect to work hard to reach that goal.

The difference lies in the distinction. Goals are something that we wish to see happen in the future. Once we reach goals, we can reward ourselves, and set new goals (realistic ones, at least). Goals are something you can write down, and make steps toward achieving. Resolutions are decisions that we make to change some behavior or aspect of our lives. We might resolve to get a new job, or to apologize to someone. When you resolve to do something, there is usually a plan involved, and you are already taking part in the road toward that resolution. You're 'resolving' a situation.

Expectations are different. You can't make steps toward an expectation. An expectation is something that one feels they must meet, or they have failed. Expectations are often lofty and unrealistic, although some covert expectations (the sun will rise, the summer in Texas will be hot) do exist. These are concrete things based on experience and proven facts. Expectations such as perfection are not based on facts, and not logical. Expectations aren't easy to change, and often come with bitter disappointment when not achieved within a certain time frame, while goals usually have a less distinct time frame.

I wish everyone the best for 2011, I don't expect you to do anything except try to have a good year; my goal is to get a comment (500 reads and 0 comments? C'mon guys, the comment button is right at the bottom). My expectation is that I'll graduate in August. One goal is that I'll try to focus more on the important things, and not stress so much over the small stuff. My resolution is to have more of a social life. Another goal is to do well (with no definition of well, just a general idea) in my classes. I also hope to hone in on my writing skills, and become more entertaining, but I don't expect for certain that it'll happen, it's just a goal. It may be achieved next week, next month, 2 years from now, who knows.

Happy New Year, or, in Hawaiian, Haouli Makahiki Hou!!

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