Rising to, railing against expectations

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010

I always thought high expectations were a good thing. They kept some people in school and others in a job. They were something your parents, teachers, and other authority figures set and then you lived up to. This was never a choice but an unspoken requirement in my life.

Good grades, participation in extracurricular activities, respect for authority, and all the other expectations fitting the clich image of that "A" student have always been expected of me.

I'm not saying this is bad but recently with all of the different expectations coming from different people, I can't help but question my own motives for even the simplest of actions. In just a few days I will be a senior in high school and with that there comes a ton of new responsibilities and expectations.

I look back on just one day's activities and wonder how I got so over committed. Is this simply an inability to say "No" or do I have some subconscious need to fill every waking moment of my life with obligations? What started as a simple school schedule turned in to a complete overload after I chose to live up to just one of my Fathers expectations.

You see when you fulfill someone's expectation, even one as simple as staying out of trouble at school; you are actually telling them to expect more of you. This makes sense when you look at how busy my days now are.

On the simplest of days I have full school schedule that throws six subjects at me, some kind of sport practice depending on the time of year, homework, and the normal everyday chores that come from living with a sole parent. (Want to eat something that isn't pizza, breakfast, tacos, fish, or fast food? Cook! And don't forget to get groceries on the way home so you don't end up making a meal of frozen chicken and pickles.)

Then add student council and National Honor Society meetings, a few hurried minutes of practice time with my clarinet, and church activities. I end up running from one thing to the next barely completing one obligation before the next one turns up.

It feels like I don't complete any task to the best of my abilities simply because I no longer have the time. I end up completing assignments the hour before they are due, a low I always swore I would never fall to. This may just be inherited Catholic guilt, but it just feels wrong!

I still remember the reason I started running cross-country. My closest childhood friend while I lived in Michigan was fast. I used to race him across the back yard. I always lost.

When I hit middle school it was almost assumed that I would join the running team. I wanted to run but it was an expectation never the less. It was an expectation for me to at least participate, which is easier for me to deal with than when people expect perfection from me.

That's what really gets to me, when people expect me to me perfect. But why do I try to be perfect when I know rationally that it's impossible? Why do I do all of the extra stuff?

Most of it I enjoy but starting out was I the one to make the decisions or was I just living up to someone else's expectations? I don't think why I made those decisions matters anymore. I can't change the past but can only look towards the future.

What my parents expected from me when I was younger, and what my Dad and other authority figures expect from me now, has made me who I am today. If no one ever expected anything from me, I never would have become anything. Does that mean I'm ever going to be perfect? No way!

Am I going to slow things down and quit doing the things I love because I don't have much time? No, I'm still going to try. Not just because it's expected of me, but now because that's what I want to strive for.

It's irrational, a little neurotic, and I might just drive myself crazy, but achieving your own potential is important in becoming your own person.

I may have a little trouble figuring out exactly what I want to do because I have to sift through so many peoples expectations, but as soon as I do that's where I'm headed, full throttle. Even if it means breaking the image of that clich "A" student.

This article is the opinion of Carol Clonan. Clonan is a senior at Skyview High School.

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