Finally, the results were in. I expected that they were listed in alphabetical order seeing that next to “#1” read "achiever" and under that, next to “#2,” read "competition."
I then read the word “individualization” and after that, “relator” and thought to myself, “those aren't alphabetized..." I quickly understood that before me, listed on the computer screen, were my top five strengths in order of relevance, not alphabetical order.
There it was at the top of the list: "#1 Achiever"
The word itself couldn't even stand to be in second place, burdened with the expectation of always coming in first.
"What a show off" I thought.
One of the biggest battles with expectation is not the expectation we have of ourselves but the expectation we have of others and their role in our lives. We are most concerned with the expectation in which we have no control over. We feel uncomfortable with this lack of control because we have no power over the means by which the expectation can be satisfied; it is entirely up to that other person.
In 2008, burdened with this expectation was my sixth-grade self. I approached the drama and jungle of middle school as a train hauling ass in a summer rain approaches an emergency stop without breaks…hot, heavy and messy.
Perhaps if we were talking about a scene from 50 Shades of Grey, this would sound fitting. However, when used in a sentence about middle school it seems incredibly disconcerting, which is exactly how I felt.
As middle school ran its course, my small mind tried grappling with the experience of what I call “the downfall of middle-school kind.” This is the time where young minds become curious and are tempted. One of the hardest temptations to abstain from is being tempted by others. By projecting the expectations we have of ourselves onto those around us, we eventually find that it's not the middle school jungle that hurts us, it's our expectations of the animals within the jungle.
In my experience, I became tempted by (and fell prey to) the expectations I had of others. We expect that people are good and that we are enough until the veil of elementary school is removed and we are tempted to think otherwise.
At any rate, days passed, and then years, and the train eventually came to a stop. I suppose one could say my personal downfall from my elementary school heyday was a difficult one and I didn’t cope well going from having expectations met, to having expectations tested.
However, just like those Disney Channel stars who transition out of their childhood roles and into adulthood, I crashed, burned and eventually made it out pretty okay.
The days were long but the years went by quickly and I slowly realized the truth behind the saying “your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness.”
As an achiever, something I always have been and always will be, I am one of those twisted people who finds pleasure in working myself into the ground only to prove something to my inner achiever and nobody else. It is my strength, it is my weakness, it is my double-sided quality. "Achieving" is what yields an immense sense of self-sufficiency but on the other side, also yields a yearning to aim for a target only you can see. This issue with this is, if only you can see the target, how can you ever expect someone else to hit it?
Where I once expected others to hit my target, I now understand that it often is the target that needs to be adjusted, not the other players.
Sure, there are times in our life when the cards are dealt and we’re stuck playing our double-sided card to its weaker side, only to fold moments later and walk out of the game feeling simultaneously empty and burdened by our unmet expectations.
Though we may feel this oxymoron, we continue to assume that if someone happens to be folding and rushing out at the same time as us, we'll still want to be the first one at the door…holding it open for them because we expect if that person is in such a hurry to run in front of us, perhaps they’re just trying to get the door for us, rather than get out of the door before us.
So, in summation (and for those not carrying this burden), what does it mean to be burdened with expectation? To put it plainly, it means that someone projects onto others the expectations they are both willing and ready to meet themselves. As a consequence of having these expectations, a burden is born and shouldered upon the sobering realization that their expectations can not be achieved because, just like the unseen target, they cannot even be seen.
And I suppose we now know what the Rolling Stones meant by never wanting to be someone’s “beast of burden”.