Lowering Expectations This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 19, 2011
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I believe in lowering expectations.

For as long as I can remember, I have had stories pumped into my mind about how troublesome and challenging I was as a kid. From chasing me around parking lots, to dealing with ear infection after ear infection, to searching for me at recitals and in shopping malls, my mom endured it all. That's why, on one recent day in the car, it didn't surprise me that my mom began to rant about the “atrocities” of my childhood. Fortunately, we were able to reflect on those days with laughter. After all, I was adorable and innocent.

After reminiscing on all the humorous tales of my childhood, my mom switched to her serious tone.

“Collin, I'm going to tell you something about raising children … and this applies to everything in life.” We slowed to a stop at a light, and she turned and made eye contact with me. “Lower your expectations.”

I was taken aback. “What? That's terrible.”

She released the brake and we zoomed forward. “No, no, not like that,” she responded. “What I mean is, teach your children to do their best, but lower your expectations of them. Then, everything good that happens is extra treat. Same thing goes for life in general. Lower your expectations.”

After digesting her unexpected advice, I realized how rarely I apply this philosophy to my life. Like many teenagers, I often feel entitled to greatness. It's as if I believe I deserve happiness just because I was lucky enough to be formed in this chaotic world. But this sense of entitlement backfires when I am humbled by the imperfections of life. This world is relentless and unpredictable; it presents many hurdles, allowing little time to catch our breath. To maintain a steady breathing pattern, I think it is best to lower our expectations.

I believe that this approach to life is healthy and realistic. In school, I am frequently given numerical evaluations of myself. These grades trigger a broken record in my head, playing classic songs like “You Could Have Done Better” by The Judgment Brothers and “Well, That's Not the Grade You Could Have Gotten” by The Red Hot Judgment Peppers.

To silence these songs of perpetual disappointment, I gradually scale back my expectations. With the knowledge that I am doing my best, I am able to view a grade as a simple number, not as a definition of me. These grades present only one shade that, when swirled together with the many other hues of my life, paint my unique portrait. When a great grade comes my way, it is an extra treat; a stunning hue that mixes in with all my other ­colors. This outlook toward school – and life in ­general – allows me to appreciate my existence.

Although I was an incredible challenge as a child, my mom made sure that I understood how much of a “joy” I was and how much a bundle of “spirit” I could be. Despite all the trouble I caused, I could put a smile on anyone's face. I'm incredibly grateful that my mom had low expectations for me, allowing me to become an extra treat in her life and in the lives of others. I have met my mom's expectations, and as long as I continue to live life with all my heart and soul, I will continue to meet my own too.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

LaurenElizabethVicki said...
Jan. 22, 2012 at 10:52 am
I completely understand this. As teenagers, we tend to think with our super-ego, wanting everything to be perfect. When people can understand that we can't have everything perfect all the time, it takes off so much pressure. Most of the pressure on teenagers, or people in general, is self-inflicted.
songofsongs said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm
WOW! so good...i was a little taken back by the first few sentences, but then i got your point and the ending was just amazing! keep writing!
reimer1a This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 10, 2012 at 11:50 am
I am so pleased you shared this! Thank you!
xelawriter97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 7, 2012 at 3:50 pm
This was so true and so beautifully written!! Great job. I can definitely relate.
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