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In the Scheme of Things


Nan Russell

Nov 17, 2014

Failed Expectations

Failed Expectations

Tired and emotionally drained after a morning visiting my mother at the skilled nursing facility where she resides, my husband and I stopped back at the hotel to relax before the family event that had brought us to California that weekend -- the celebration of my mom's 93rd birthday.

Multiple buses in the parking lot and a packed elevator were the first hints our hotel was not the quiet oasis anticipated. Greeting us on our floor was a hallway of high school "jocks" in various states of floor-sitting and wall-leaning; some engaged in what looked like homework, others texting, chatting, snacking, or napping.

With the exception of one or two rooms, the floor was transformed. With a dorm-like ambiance, doors were opened to the hallway for easy access, exposing the clothes-dropped-on-floors shared rooms of teenage boys.

I tried to be opened minded -- really, I did. However, my grousing began as soon as we weaved our way to our room and entered. "Guess, we're not going to get much sleep this weekend," I commented to my husband, imaging everything from loud televisions to rowdy antics inhibiting sleep.

I couldn't have been more wrong. On the way to our family gathering, my expectations began to waver. Two young men held the door to the elevator, chatting with us about their upcoming football game. One even offered to share his chocolate cake with my chocolate-loving husband.

That night -- not a sound came from any nearby room. My expectations continued to unravel with each encounter that weekend. The story emerged that the team had traveled from Texas for a practice game with a California high school. Then, they attended class at the rival team's school, toured three colleges, and attended a college game at Stanford. For many, it was their first trip beyond their Texas community.

That weekend wasn't the first time my expectations failed. But when I get it so wrong, it's good to pause and consider why; everything from world headlines to work stress can impact our expectations about others, and, from time to time, we need to reset them.

It helps to consider the expectations we employ without much thought. How quickly do we jump to a negative conclusion or prejudge people by what they do, how they look, or how old or young they are? How quickly do we focus energy worrying about things that will likely never happen? And how quickly do we think we know, for sure, what to expect?

In the scheme of things, our assumptions about each other fog our view. We should be grateful for failed expectations and honest with ourselves when they occur, because without them, we might never discover our own knee-jerk prejudices, or more importantly, the true nature of those we so quickly misjudge

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