Expectation

Expectation weighs me down, freezes me, stops me in my tracks.

I am terrified of people expecting things of me.

I am terrified I will let them down. I am terrified I will disappoint them. I’m terrified I won’t do it ‘right,’ whatever ‘it’ is.

I’m smart. I know I’m smart. But I am afraid to try for any further schooling, because I am afraid of what that means. If I do that…then I have expectations to do things with that education. And that expectation is legitimate–because there’s expense and logistics and time and energy involved in all of that, and it’s not all mine. It’s mostly not mine except for the time and energy. But I am so afraid that I will…say it wrong, write it wrong, get it wrong.

I want so badly to make the people who got me to where I am, to where I would be, happy and proud.

That gets in the way of what I want, sometimes, because I don’t know if that always meshes. I don’t know if it always matches up.

Like, what I have to say isn’t always the same as what the people who gave me the money have to say. Or what I have to say ends up not being liberatory after all, and I fucked it up. Or what I have to say opens up some darkness, some painfulness, some scary things that people in my life don’t really want me talking about.

And that last–I keep trying to remember that I’ve lived it, I’ve earned the right to tell my story, but it’s hard.

And what if I start to do some things, and I’m feeling okay, and I do a few things, and then I wind up back in bed again? I don’t want to be inconsistent. I don’t want to be flaky. I worked in volunteer management, and while I loved every volunteer who showed up, I definitely would call my more reliable volunteers more frequently, because I knew I could count on them. I don’t want to be unreliable. I don’t want to be someone’s pain in the ass, someone’s ‘have to replace at last minute,’ because frequently my body and/or brain betray me day of, and I don’t know it’s coming until then.

And that’s just for volunteering–that’s not even getting into paid work, or academic life, or art. Even here, I’ve been so inconsistent. And I’m glad this space is here, and it’s mine, and I can do whatever I want with it–but I know I set some expectations for myself at the beginning, and I haven’t really met them, not with any consistency.

And all of that is tied to ability–mental and physical health, and I know that. And I know that all of this ‘expectation’ talk is tied to this idea that I have to somehow be ‘productive’ to be valuable, which is baloney. I know that. Intellectually, I know that.

But also, this fear of expectation–I think it’s tied to how I was abused as a child. I was ‘expected’to get straight A’s, and if I didn’t–punishment. I was ‘expected’ to volunteer, do church activities, be a straight arrow, etc. And if I didn’t–punishment. Even if my parents thought I didn’t, punishment. It didn’t matter if I actually followed the rules, because I was punished anyway. I was always punished for not meeting expectations, and rarely rewarded for meeting them or exceeding them.

My grandparents monetarily rewarded me, so there’s that–I would get something like 50 cents for an A and 25 cents for a B, and since I always got all A’s, that was nice. It all went into my college savings fund. So there’s that. But that came out of my grandparents, and not my parents.

I lived two separate realities, even though for me they were the same lived reality.

And I got punished for my grandparents loving me, too. I was mocked and torn down and humiliated for how my grandparents loved me. So that reward system became a punishment, too. That wasn’t my grandparents’ fault. That was my parents’ fault.

I think this system of tearing me down and so rarely praising me around expectations has made me scared to do, scared to try.

I’ve been thinking about art, and I’ve had some inclinations to try art classes again, to brush up on art skills. I did decently in art in 7th and 8th grade and for a little while after, and then I let my skills get rusty. I let them go in favor of the things that got the accolades I needed to get me out of the scary, awful, terrible place with some immediacy. Granted, that means I did theology and languages–which maybe wasn’t terribly practical, but it’s what I did. Anyway.

When I did art, no one thought I could do it. No one thought I had any talent, and I did it all on my own, all by myself. That was all me. And no one ever set any expectations on me about it. Kind of the opposite, really–Mom kept trashing my art. That was a little devaluing, but she never had any expectations that I’d be the next Great Artist or anything.

So I think that’s why I’ve been thinking about it. It’s a thing that no one else has ever given my any expectations around.

Of course, I have my own expectations now–things about race and gender and sexuality ability that go into all of this. But yeah.

Expectation scares me so bad.

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