Expectations and The Downfall of Joy

Water Turbulence iPhone Photograph by Johnny Kerr
“Turbulence” San Diego, October 2015. Made with iPhone.

Every now and then I am surprised to find myself learning a lesson that I thought I had previously learned. As a teacher I often find it necessary to review previously-taught material with my students that may have been taken for granted, or even forgotten as they focused on learning new lessons. I suppose it would be silly to assume that life is any different. I’ve had a turbulent month, emotionally speaking, because I needed to re-learn a valuable lesson.

This month’s remediation revolved around the destructive nature of expectation. I have allowed myself to become disappointed, let down, even questioning my self-worth as a result of my own self-imposed expectations. On one hand, I’m a romantic. I believe in the extraordinary, that amazing things can happen. I believe that there is something indescribably special about human beings interacting in an authentic way. I assume the best about people when I first meet them and I give them the benefit-of-the-doubt. I stand by these and hope that I never become so jaded or cynical that I operate differently.

However, I recognize that I need to find a better balance in my life. There is a subtle but critical difference between believing amazing things can happen, and expecting amazing things will happen. There is a significant difference between being open to a genuine connection with new people you meet, and expecting a genuine connection between every new person you meet. In both examples the former keeps you receptive and positive while the latter breeds major potential for disappointment when things don’t work out according to said expectations.

This month I allowed expectations to become too big a part of my perception. As a result, the fullness of joy I could have been experiencing was largely eclipsed by disappointment. The last four weeks have brought some amazing opportunities and experiences my way and I have enjoyed them but I recognize that I also had some very emotionally turbulent moments due to my expectations. The resulting emotional rollercoaster was, in hindsight, rather unnecessary if I had not allowed expectation to trump my perception.

Lesson re-learned. Here’s to lifelong learning and continually seeking a more harmonious balance.

Riptide iPhone San Diego Ocean photograph by Johnny Kerr
“Riptide” San Diego, October 2015. Made with iPhone