“Our unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations.” -Edward de Bono
I’m adopted. This is something most people don’t expect to hear from me. I don’t share my adoption story often; mostly, because I hate explaining the entire account (it’s beyond confusing and most people can’t wrap their head around the details) and I look so much like my adoptive mother that people don’t believe me anyway. The whole process was an in-family affair- I was adopted by my would-be aunt and uncle (hence the resemblance) when my biological mother couldn’t take of me. I’m not sure of all the gritty details of my adoption story but of the things I do know, I use the knowledge to push my life in a certain direction. It’s that certain expectation I have for myself I use to keep my actions in check. Sometimes, I imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t adopted. I think about the worse things possible happening; me dropping out of high school, getting knocked up at a young age, getting seriously involved with hard drugs, actually going forth with committing suicide. Sure, my life hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows but I am thankful for the both the things that I’ve learned on my own and the things that my folks have taught me. I look at the other adults in my life (like some family members) with the turmoil they have been through and I’m grateful to be dorky Andrea.
It’s those expectations, though, that keep me awake some nights. Last week, I wrote about not growing up. Unfortunately, I will have to do so at some point. The world expects me to work until I’m 65, pop out babies in my early 30s and pay my taxes on time. I look at the adults in my life and see that they’re following suite. These are smart individuals- how did they fall into this haphazard pattern? This falling-into has been happening for decades. Everyone is secretly handed this life rule book (which apparently, I never received) and if you don’t play the game, you’re screwed. Society’s expectations force the twenty-something to find love (and get hitched), obtain the lifelong career and create the so-called American dream. Screw that. Why are we pushed into this cattycorner of expectations most of us will never live up to? And why should we live up to them? Granted that society usually knows what’s best for us, in terms of wealth and financial stability- but should we care about making the benjamins? Whatever happened to making our own paths?
While drinking Jack-and-Gingers (this is probably the only stereotypical thing about me- I only chug ‘girly’ drinks) with a girlfriend last weekend, we chatted about how we felt average and how we could change that awful feeling. We both got average grades in school, took average jobs afterward, live average lives. I defended my heart with replying that I never wanted to live an average life but as I walked home that night, I thought about the way I was living and how it didn’t live up to the expectations I always gave myself. And not just my current self, either. I thought about the 15-year-old version of me, the 23 version, even my eight-year-old self. They three would look at the life I’m living now, hunt my current self down and kick my ass ‘til I was face down in a bloody gutter somewhere in Queens. So why am I not kicking my ass now? I have the expectations that my life can be better than this. Why did I fall into this hole? Am I that stereotypical? This friend of mine I went drinking with knows my heart well; she knows that when I have a little extra cash, I splurge on friends rather than myself. I rather see and make others happy rather than myself (which gets me into A LOT of trouble). I try desperately to put other people’s feelings first before thinking how that action will affect my own. I expect others to act selfish (as I have witnessed a lot in my life) so I expect myself to act oppositely. What is wrong with that? Why should we only have average expectations for ourselves? We have this one life to live- so why not demand the best for ourselves?
I don’t want to end up like certain family members (sorry, Mom. I still love you!) or like some of my friends. I need to start believing that I can create this dreamscape life I have for myself and push through with it, living up my great expectations. I may not believe in the stereotypical American dream but the potential I see in myself is strong and courageous. I just need to start zeroing in on those core values while kicking down all of those white picket fences standing in my way.