“All disappointment comes from unmet expectations.”
I first heard this quote while serving a mission for the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Seoul, South Korea. It was an interesting time for me, and is far more interesting now as I look back being who I am now, identifying more with Taoist philosophy than any other form of religious practice. I remember hating what I was doing with a passion, but yet rising to meet my task of being a missionary with an almost equal passion, for I was trying to prove something to myself.
I was trying to prove that everything I had been taught to believe was something that I could believe in. I wanted to be able to live the easy life of falling in line with everyone else, to be able to fit in with those around me as they went about their religious devotions. Unfortunately, that was all it really ended up being for me. All it ever was, was fitting in, and what was worse was that I was expecting more, and I was profoundly disappointed.
It is a shame that at that time I didn’t learn to stop expecting things out of life. I am not talking about losing hope mind you, but rather learning that life is going to do things whether you want it to or not, and it has a way of throwing your plans out the window and replacing them with its own. When I came back from Korea, I had a lot I still had to learn in order to break free of the expectations around me. I was hit with expectations from all sides. People expected me to get a job, go to school, get married(laughable if you know me at all, which most likely, you don’t) and act in a manner becoming of a returned missionary. For awhile I went along with many of these, of course getting a job is important if you want to survive in modern society, and I willingly have one, but I just didn’t fit the mold of the rest of them.
Yet I tried to live according to the expectations being fed to me, and I began to expect the same things of myself, and eventually I dug deeper and deeper into disappointment over my own life. Eventually It got so bad that I was literally sick over the depression that I was in, and I know that the mental state I had then was at least a partial contributor to the recurring illness I still suffer from. My job leads fell short, my social life fell apart, my relationships with my family worsened, and I was only getting worse. I finally decided to become a truck driver, but then I found out after getting $3,000 in debt that I get anxiety behind the wheel of a semi, and that the company I was going to work for has hired me under false pretenses. I was stuck again, in a hotel in Pheonix, Arizona when the answer was given to me by my roommate, a man named Jim from Nevada. He told me that I should stop worrying what everyone else wanted and do what I felt I needed to do. In essence, the heart of the philosophy that the quote above embodies.
I would learn this again not too long after when I finally went in for counseling. By the second session my psychologist had analyzed a fairly large portion of my problem. He stopped me and said, “I’ve noticed that you keep on using the same word over and over again. You keep on saying should. ‘I should be in a better position right now’, ‘I should be further along in school’, all these statements have the same thing in common. I want you to try erasing the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary, and replace it with could. Examine the possibilities that are available, and stop worrying about expectations.”
That was by no means a direct quote, but it was the gist of what he said. I went home, and I applied it. I did everything I could to make sure I was seeing things from a perspective filled of possibilities, instead of seeing it as one single road I was forced to take to get to my destination.
The moral of my story, I believe, is that there are as many different destinations as there are roads to get to them, and even when we think we are on one road, life may come up and change our path at it’s whim. If we are dead set that things can only go one way, we will find ourselves often stuck in ruts in the middle of those roads, wondering how we got there.
But just like there are many different paths and destinations, there are also many different ways to understand the world. There are many different perspectives to look from, which is why I pose my next question to you. How do you think the quote, “All disappointment comes from unmet expectations” could be applied? What do you think we can learn from it?