At this point, Dream Eater, this is less of a riddle and more of a cruel joke. Although these days, I supposed that’s more your speed anyway.
My brain has been working against me this weekend. In many ways, failing at the first Volume Three Kickstarter was a far less stressful experience than succeeding this time. Mostly because my mind and I have never been the most steadfast of allies. I’ve been fretting all weekend with the feeling that I will let everyone down. That I won’t get the books done fast enough to meet the expectations of others. That by not having everything ready to go right this instant, I’ve already disappointed everyone that worked so hard for us to have the funds to move forward. I know that it is irrational, and I’m working to focus on doing things as well as I can, one step at a time, rather than as fast as I can and all at once. To set expectations for myself that are reasonable, following my own experience and knowledge and requirements. I still feel the weight of that anxiety, though.
When I was a kid, my dad always wanted someone to help him in his workshop on a car or plane or whatever he was working on. I had no interest in any of those things. I wanted to read and draw, but doing either of those activities while he was working infuriated him. He’d never tell me what he wanted me to do. He expected me to observe the engine or part that he was working on, and intuit what it was that he wanted. I could never figure out what that was. If I asked, he’d usually ignore me the first few times, until finally he’d get frustrated and snap out some instruction, annoyed that I hadn’t managed to figure it out on my own. I always felt like a huge disappointment to him.
I realized this weekend that whenever I get anxious like this, it’s the same feeling I had as a little girl, desperately sad and angry that I wasn’t good enough to figure out what he wanted. That I was too stupid to figure it out, and I’d let him down. I never do well when expectations are unspoken, because no matter what I assume that I’ve failed someone, and that they’re angry with me, but won’t tell me why. (Figuring out what I’d failed in was my responsibility too, of course.)
It occurred to me, when I made this connection, that the expectations of another person for me are not nearly as important as my expectations for myself. For one, I cannot meet an expectation if it is unspoken and unexpressed, because I am not a mind reader. And for two, if I am expected to do something that I myself do not desire, then wouldn’t meeting that expectation for another person be unfair to myself? Why follow the path someone else lays out for me, if it means leaving the path I’m trying to build for myself?
If a person is mad at a fish for not flying, where is the true fault? It seems silly to fault the fish for choosing to swim, rather than to throw itself onto the bank in an attempt to reach the sky.
How do you separate your expectations for yourself from the expectations of others?