Keep Your Expectations Low, and Be Pleasantly Surprised

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*Will go take this down eventually*

It goes without saying that life has real beginnings and real endings. There are morticians out there arguing for more “artisanal” funerals, as much as there are acorns in the ground that will one day be giant oak trees. There are the real beginnings and real endings in life, but there are false ones, too. Because sometimes, we create endings for ourselves that aren’t really there. Sometimes we march towards an end that we think is the end because we want a resolution. A happily ever after. But when get to the end, when we arrive there expecting a downpour of confetti – a winner’s circle welcome – we realize: the ending is not there. And actually, the ending is shifting. Moving ever away from us like water ebbing back into the sea.

Expectations come in a lot of different colors. Start first with one person, and every expectation she has ever had in life. Then move from her to her upstairs neighbor, and from there, to their neighbor across the stoop. Move from the hundreds of different reds to greens to yellows. Home in the Hamptons. Divorce papers on mahogany table. The baby that will never be. Look at all of these people’s expectations – side by side – and you’ll see a million oranges, canary yellows, ceruleans…

It’s like putting all of your eggs into one basket, and then, guess what? Life broke all of your eggs. We call ahead to some future version of ourselves, and say, “Hey, how’s it going up there? Can you make sure so-and-so likes me back and that we start dating, because I can’t be truly happy until that happens, and also, I can’t be happy until I make 75K a year, and… what’s that? No, I don’t want any added stress, I just want the extra money…” Meanwhile, our future selves are cringing. Their fingers crushing the bridges of their noses. It’s like they’re watching us from behind the plastic partitions, and we’re walking out onto the ice in ill-fitting rollerblades wasted.

At 28, I see more and more that Life is a wild horse, and not a tame one. I have this wide open feeling now. Like that nothing is guaranteed anymore. Nothing in guaranteed in the white gabardine gowns on Facebook. Nothing is guaranteed in the walls around me. Life could take away card here, add a card here, and I should be grateful for my house of cards and what it looks like now. 

Similarly, I have a pair of guy friends I always surf with, and last night, I met up with one of the two. As we surfed, we talked about expectations. He told me, and this was his best advice to me, someone I know he cares about, to try and keep my expectations in dating low. It turns out his dating problems aren’t all that different from mine, and that made me feel immeasurably better, as sometimes there seems to be this wall between women and men and the things we feel. But he turned to me at one point, and pointed to the pinks and reds and oranges melting into the sky and told me: “Can we take a moment and just appreciate how f*$&%^* beautiful that is?” And I think that’s about right.

As I move into 2016, there are a few small things I want to do. I want to read Gloria Steinem’s autobiography. Slowly acquire one-of-a-kind pieces for my apartment that will inspire me and make it truly my home. But all of my other resolutions – if you could call them that – are ways I want to act.

When I wake up, I want to think: how can I be the best version of myself today. How can I love life more today. How beautiful can I make today. And in terms of trying to cut and measure life like I am a seamstress that’s solar systems wide, I don’t want to do that. I want to be thankful for gas in my tank, and food in my fridge. For waves that are a mile from my apartment, and a family who loves me fiercely. Back to basics, and as hakuna matata-style as possible.

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