Expectations is the place you must always go to before you get to where you’re going.”
–The Phantom Tollbooth
I recently listened to an episode of Invisibilia about expectations, specifically the expectations our culture has for blind people. To summarize without spoiling the episode, our society expects blind people to be handicapped in everything they do and these expectations impact how blind people behave. In a way, our expectations literally shape who these blind people become in life.
I’m not blind, but past expectations of my parents, family, teachers, and friends all shaped who I would later become. I’m going to venture a guess the same has happened to you. Expectations of others is a powerful yet invisible force shaping our future.
Is this where I want to be or where they want me to be?
I grew up an A+ student. I excelled at Calculus and Physics in high school and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. As a 17 year old kid, I succumbed to the pressures of society’s expectation to become an engineer. I fit the mold.
Towards the end of my junior year of high school I caught the creative bug. I bought a small camcorder after seeing a program about filmmaking and immediately started making silly little short films. I couldn’t shake the creative bug, it possessed me.
Filmmaking was the creative outlet I wasn’t expected to enjoy. Engineers don’t love making movies, they love making bridges.
College came and went and my creative outlet evolved from filmmaking to writing. Writing is a less expensive hobby than filmmaking, especially for a college student. Again I found myself pursuing a hobby I wasn’t expected to love, a hobby I now want to convert to a career.
What can we do about it?
What can you learn from my brief anecdote? Don’t let other’s expectations shape you. I’m happier pursuing a dream that wasn’t expected of me rather than following what I was supposed to do in life.
Many of us follow the invisible compass of other’s expectations and find ourselves lost instead of where we want to be.
However, after talking with a few of my millennial counterparts, I’m noticing a small trend beginning to evolve: Bucking expectations to pursue a life we want and not a life that was expected of us.
Anu and Suyog are a great example, after years of working in good tech jobs they decided to quit and follow their passion to start Driftaway Coffee. My wife is another, she wanted to have a baby during pharmacy school and not after like most people expected of her.
Now it’s your turn, go do something completely unexpected.
This blog post is an adaptation of a chapter in the book I am writing. The working title currently is “This Millennial Life.” If you would like to learn more about this project, please enter your email below!