reflecting on expecting.

23Nov09

For the tl;dr crowd (read: everyone):  I have two weeks of rad school classes left, ever.  What follows are my lengthy ruminations of reaching this point, otherwise known as my last ditch effort to procrastinate while I still can.  I’ll be back in roughly a fortnight.


Toward the end of October, I opened up my grad school binder, which I maintained for almost two full semesters before realizing that no one uses paper anymore.  Anyway, I opened up dusted off my grad school binder to thoroughly examine my program checklist, making sure all my little librarian ducks are in a row before registering for my last semester of classes ever.

As it turns out, I have no more classes.  I have two practicum sessions, which I’ll be doing in January and March.  Don’t get me wrong- I am completely aware that these are going to take some serious work from me.  When it comes to discussion boards and readings and papers and all the other digital classroom activities, though, I really can see the light at the end of the tunnel, because it’s only about two weeks away.  Reaching that conclusion was like walking downstairs in the morning to discover that you had completely forgotten about your birthday, but your parents hadn’t and they bought you a pony (January 14, in case anyone sees a cardboard box full of free ponies on the side of the road).  That also gives my attitude a huge boost to seriously rock out these last couple of weeks.  No matter how busy/crazy/hectic things are right now, the end is very much in sight.  Wouldn’t it be great to know that I ended my grad school classes with all the vigor of that last corner, when you mysteriously summon the courage to sprint out the last 200 meters?

For the record, I have never participated in a race that lasted more then 200 meters.

High school track team metaphors aside, this got me thinking about how that one small realization has impacted my expectations of myself since then.  It wasn’t that long ago that I felt like I was just barely scraping by, and that survival was the best I could expect from myself.  Now that I can quantify the rest of my grad school classwork with exact certainty, it suddenly seems like a much smaller mountain to scale.

For the record, I have scaled a mountain.  This one, in fact.

Grossly inflated accomplishments aside, the point of all this is that expectations part.  In the past few years, I’ve slowly shifted my mental paradigm to much more simplified expectations.  It’s not because I don’t care or because I’m lazy, despite the fact that that’s quite easily what it looks like.  I learned that setting these ridiculously high expectations for yourself and the people around you causes unnecessary stress, which I’m working hard on eradicating from my existence altogether.

At work, I can’t control the customers’ expectations of me.  I can do my best, hope that they see how genuinely awesome I am, and smile politely when they fail to recognize genuine awesomeness when they see it. I also can’t control when they think I’m much cooler than I really am, but I can just smile in awe that these brief interactions can reflect so positively back onto me (I greatly prefer this type of smile to the former example).

I can’t control how my co-workers make drinks, mop the lobby, count the drawers, or interact with customers (and each other, for that matter).  This one has been, by far, the toughest point to get through my thick skull.  I’ve learned just how draining it can be for a small group of people who want to make drastic positive change, when everyone else is categorized as part of the problem or completely apathetic to it.  I’ve altered my expectations of my co-workers to include the reality that we all do things differently, and I have to appreciate that.  This just means that I’m stockpiling my high expectations and positive attitude for a library program in trouble, or a patron in dire straits.  I most certainly haven’t given up my optimism that I can do anything I want to, I’ve just altered what it is that I want to accomplish.

(Dear customers: I also can’t control parking, weather, drink prices, when we decorate the store for the holidays, the taste of our decaf espresso roast, what coffees we brew, the temperature of the store, music selection, available milk choices, how often the menu board changes, the fact that we no longer offer almond/valencia/cinnamon syrup, or the nutritional content of the pastries, no matter how strongly you feel about any of these things.  Just saying.)

In my personal life, I’ve tried to abolish expectations from the wonderful people who I am lucky enough to have in my life.  My hope is that they understand how much I appreciate having them in my life, even if I don’t have the time to express it all the time, or vise-versa.  I am fortunate that many of them do understand this, because higher expectations of me would surely disappoint.  I also hope that they understand that I am always available to a friend in need, which I might not do such a hot job of making known.

It’s true, though: my top priority will always be the people in my life, because I probably don’t say that enough.

In class, my expectations are geared entirely toward what I can get out of my education.  I have no control over what the professor thinks of my work.  This was especially obvious in one of the classes I’m taking this semester, one of the tougher classes I’ve taken in the program.  Due to a huge mistake on my part, I was terrified that I was going to fail the assignment, and subsequently the class.  Now, I’ve gone through my fair share of difficult life stuff, but this was pretty intense.  My expectations of myself had been so high that I completely panicked and went through a seriously rough couple of days.  I still don’t know whether or not I overreacted (I probably did), and I ended up doing just fine on the assignment.  But I got that moment of mortality: I’m not impervious to failure, but I have what it takes to succeed.  Since the wound from this life lesson is still pretty fresh, I probably haven’t reached maximum appreciation potential of it.  I’m sure it was something important for me to experience, though.

As I roll up my sleeves and crank out the last of my days as an official student, I hope that I’ve reached a good balance on the expectations spectrum.  I’ll do my best at the things I have control over.  I’ll let go of the things I don’t have control over.  And I’ll keep in mind that my best is a whole lot better than survival.

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