Managing our expectations

I’ve been thinking a lot about managing my expectations lately, and not just in relation to my writing but in many aspects of life.

I find that if I hope for something too hard, it can drive me beyond distraction, making it impossible to focus on anything else…and, if my hopes go unmet, it can be utterly crushing.   On the other hand, when I temper my expectations with too big a dose of pragmatism, I fear ending up with enervated dreams lying limp and lifeless on the floor.

What’s a girl to do, then?  How do we find that middle ground?  Where is the space between weeping inconsolably every time we receive bad news and shrugging with a practiced indifference that feels a bit more genuine every time we reach for it?

Coming from academia, I’ve literally been trained in the art of expecting rejection.  In fact, I know very few people who’ve escaped graduate school without a nigh-on ingrained expectation of constant criticism, failure, and stymied hopes.  Oddly, though, most of these people are also some of the least likely to give up.  It’s as if feeling constantly “not good enough” liberates us from the fear of failure and thus the fear of continuing to try.

This is a good thing, but it comes with some bad potential side effects, such as resignation.  We keep putting ourselves out there while holding on to conflicting and equally powerful beliefs:  that we’ll get where we’re headed someday, if only we work hard enough, and that we are most likely to always be told “no” to everything we strive for.

It’s numbing, honestly.  And while numbness is good when it comes to dealing with rejection, it’s terrible for cultivating hope.

Maybe there’s no good way to deal with rejection and dashed hopes, no satisfying means of managing our expectations.  Maybe it’s just all part of the ride: hope, fear, anticipation, dejection, panic, self-hatred, and, finally, the return of a rising sweep of hope.

Contemplating these things always makes me think of that wonderful scene from the original Parenthood film, in which Steve Martin, in the midst of a terrible panic attack, suddenly feels the clattering wheels of a roller coaster dragging him inexorably towards the precipice and, just as he imagines his car tipping down into oblivion, his gagging fear gives way to the elated thrill of speeding downward, hurtling towards the next, unknowable turn on the track.

Life is like that sometimes.

4 thoughts on “Managing our expectations

  1. Cath

    Another post I want to talk about. Rejection is hard. We pause in our belief in our selves, and wonder why we invest the time. Perhaps this is why we need others, to assure us that we’re harder on ourselves than we need to be. And perhaps this is why we need ourselves, to reassure us that we have a story to tell.

    Some day someone will want to publish what you write. Now, there are still those of us who want to read what you write, even though the publishing world hasn’t clued in to that yet.

  2. EF Kelley

    My gaming background helps with this kind of thing, strangely. Can’t get past the bad guy? Reload, try again. Over and over until it finally clicks. It works for writing, job hunting, and skirt chasing. Wait, did I say that last one out loud?

    Anyway, good post. I kind of needed it today. 🙂

  3. Wrecker Zawadzki

    Miranda, have you looked at publishing directly through Amazon? I’ve heard of people doing fairly well in their Kindle store without the backing of a publishing house.

  4. mirandasuri

    You know, for me, it’s not even really about the rejection, per se. It’s more about the occasional frustration of feeling like your goals/dreams/hopes are unattainable. But, Eric is right: reload, try again 🙂

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