Thursday, July 29, 2010

Expect Nothing. Experience Everything.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I received from an RA during my undergraduate career was: don't have any expectations.

Well that's kind of morbid and depressing don't you think? Well, yes and no.

Expectations allow us to dream about what is to come. If you never expect anything then you really don't have anything to hope for or strive for- do you? It is in our expectations that we envision what lies ahead, both for good and for bad. So if you never expect anything, can you ever achieve anything? Or does living without expectations simply make what you achieve/ what happens to you more serendipitous or does living without expectations require more or less work to reach your goals?

After all, goals are expectations- aren't they? If you didn't expect to reach your goals, there would be no point to making them in the first place. To expect something is to set a standard for which to strive. So if the fateful advice my friend gave to me was to not have any expectations, he must have been one un-motivational RA (he wasn't the best, but I digress).

Yet, I remember that advice from my freshman year and even more, I followed it. (and I didn't turn out that much worse for the wear, right?... right?!?!!?) It's not that you shouldn't have expectations, it's that you have to be realistic and, sometimes, you just need to realize that no matter what you expect, you can't (nor should you try) to predict what exactly lies ahead.

I'll never be able to have no expectations and to try to eliminate them from my consciousness would be unhealthy. What I can do is keep my expectations from inhibiting my actions. Expect the best but don't push it; be honest enough to experience everything that comes your way; and allow the experience dictate your expectations, not vice versa.

So I bring that piece of advice, which came to me before my first spring break service trip, with me as I get closer to Philly. I'm trying not to have too many expectations and not having a ton of information about my job, our orientation, or my community mates is making that a lot easier. In a way, it is forcing me to detach from any presumptions I could I have and, in so doing, I'm realizing that those expectations and assumptions I do have about the program, where it will lead me, and what the year may hold are ungrounded and unjustified. (I still have them but now they come with a grain of salt.) For good or for bad, expectations won't get me anywhere- being true to this experience, the emotions it raises in me, and the new thoughts, prayers, and, ultimately, expectations it plants in me will take me to places I never could have imagined.


  1. Amen! Way to go, Colleen! It wasn't until half way through my year of service that I realized this brilliant point. Expecting that it will all work out is a pretty big expectation!

    You are a wise, talented woman. We are all so lucky!

  2. can't wait to hear about your experiences ;)

  3. I go with you in spirit and prayer....