We consider it very good to have expectations. They offer direction, purpose, and enthusiasm. The problem comes when they are unrealistic and inappropriate for us. Again; an often repeated theme of this book is regarding people who don’t know who they are. This is the basic condition of all immature people. Wrong expectations result from not knowing who we are. Many years ago, a young man said to me that he was going to be an Olympic skater and marry my oldest daughter. Neither event happened. Now, he has a grown daughter of his own and he flounders because he still doesn’t know who he is. (Maybe I will give him a copy of this book. It could open a very interesting conversation between us.)
The problem of inappropriate or unrealistic expectations also arises from parents and others who don’t know who the subject ‘is’ in the context of this writing, or they are trying to make the subject into something that they want him to be, as in a family tradition where the family members are ‘always’ teachers, farmers, etc. I know people who suffered this pressure. Please read the end of the chapter on ‘surviving your personality’ as it describes one aspect of the difference in ‘who you are’ to you as compared to who other people are to you. This also includes close family members and others as it relates to your particular combination of temperament characteristics.
Often little girls want to be a nurse or a teacher and little boys may want to be an astronaut or railroad engineer. We tend to outgrow these notions, but we are still not prepared to make life decisions until we have a good understanding of who we are. This understanding is not entirely based on enlightened preferences, but also on our strengths and weaknesses. Please read the chapter on ‘surviving dyslexia’ as I tell of my life-long struggle to discover who I really am. I lived for more than 80 years and suffered great distress along the way until I finally discovered who I really am.
Immature people often/usually have inaccurate perceptions of who they are so they develop wrong ambitions. This is especially true regarding the necessity of a college degree in order to be ‘successful’. Another big trap is the notion that you should be a rock star or a basketball hero. Statistically, the odds are greatly against that ever happening.
I am a veteran of WW2. When I returned from overseas, I went to college. My story is in the chapter on ‘Surviving Dyslexia’. I was about 10 years older than the students just out of high school. The college teaching staff really appreciated the maturity of returning veterans and the quality that that added to the classes. This difference is typified by the following account. One college required freshmen to wear a ‘beanie’ which is a little cap in school colors. One veteran student was approached by an upperclassman and told, “You are a freshman so you have to wear this beanie”. The veteran would have none of it so he said: “If someone has to wear this cap, YOU wear it!” as he thrust the cap on the upperclassman’s head.”
This story says a lot about college as a place for learning versus a place for social expression, doesn’t it? There is more on this topic in the chapter entitled, ‘Surviving College’.
One really troubling expectation that I often see is the presumption that a college degree is a guarantee of status. My wife worked for a newspaper for 44 years and she retired at 86 years of age. She told me about things happening at ‘the paper’. One such story was about a new employee who expected a special parking place because “I have a DEGREE.” She soon learned that printers are highly skilled people without a ‘degree’ and that respect had to be earned by performance.
When we are young, ‘hope’ and ‘expectations’ are have the same meaning. As we mature, we see a much bigger picture and we realize the elements of realities in our particular lives. We realize that we have limitations to our abilities and desires. We finally settle for our ‘comfort level’ which is a place between our desires and our ability to succeed.
Note: It is especially important for young people to avoid involvements that can seriously jeopardize our potential for success. Alcohol and recreational drugs use and other risky behaviors always damage those who use them. It is extremely foolish for people to abuse and jeopardize their ability and potential before they even know where they are headed in their life. “Everybody does it” is a very lame excuse as you compare yourself to other failures.