I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations lately. Personal, professional, emotional, and so on. For years I always felt that I’d had high expectations put on my shoulders, but it’s only in the last decade or so that I’ve realized that most of them have been of my own doing.
When I sent out my first submissions — the short story in 1995 and The Phoenix Effect in 2000 — I wasn’t so much sending them out thinking I was hot shit and The Next Great SF Novelist (though I’ll admit that I let myself half-jokingly hope I had a chance), but thinking ‘OK…you’ve gotten this far in your writing career. That’s a pretty damn good goal to hit, considering.’ My expectations weren’t high, but they weren’t in the gutter either. As long as I did a decent job or at least learned from my mistakes, all was well.
The same thing goes for my Day Job: I certainly don’t expect to ever rise up to CEO level in any job I’ve held, as that’s not a position I want. I like being part of the team rather than its leader. That way my expectations are more realistic: I expect (and hope) that my teammates and I know what we’re doing and that we’re doing it the best we can under a normal deadline. I work so much better behind-the-scenes than I do as a performer, so to speak. The main reason being that it gives me the space to observe the processes, understand them, and maybe even upgrade them if need be.
But what about my own life? That’s a good question. Sometimes I expect too much of myself — that I need to be perfect every single moment, and become frustrated when I fail to hit that bar. Why do I set it so high? Who knows…it has to do with observing others’ actions, whatever they may be, and hoping to reach those same heights. Yes, I know, that way lies madness.
And pretty rich, coming from someone who spent most of his teenage years shouting that nonconformity was the way to go. Heh.
In the last year or so, I’ve been rethinking my expectations. Readjusting them when and where necessary. Part of this came out of my foray into self-publishing: I knew my novels weren’t going to be brilliant and popular and wildly successful, so I let my guard down a bit. I still tried to write the best book I could, I just stopped trying to reach Stephen King or Ray Bradbury heights of quantity and/or quality. The same goes with my personal life: I accepted that I’d fuck up every now and again. I let myself take some blind chances instead of building up Detailed Best Laid Plans.
And instead of trying to be Everything to Everyone, I realized, maybe it’s time for me to be happy on my own terms again. Sure, that sounds like I’ve hit my Midlife Crisis stage, but I really haven’t. This is the least stressed out I’ve ever felt in decades. I’m more proactive than reactive now. I feel no need to recapture my youth (my music collection does that for me). All in all, this is the most content I’ve been in a long time.
All I’m doing now is making needed changes, many of them overdue, to make things even better for myself.