Great Expectations

12 Jan

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Great Expectations

I read (suffered through) Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” when I was in junior high school. For those who didn’t go to junior high, but middle school, it was back when grades seven through nine were put together. There was no kindergarten at the time, just grades one through six in elementary school. Back in the dark ages before educational enlightenment illumined America.

Here’s a fun 2-minute (longer if you have to use your finger under each word) abridged overview of the story. http://www.shmoop.com/great-expectations/summary.html

For those who read the story as part of the English junior high curriculum, it helps bring the more tedious Dickens’ version (he got paid by the word is why) back to memory. For those who never read the story, this will do. Otherwise, read the original, then jump to “Moby Dick,” and then, “War and Peace.” Then come back to this article ten years from now when you’ve completed the above.

I didn’t know the story had alternative endings. The original ending is Dickensonian in that it’s pretty grim. The revised ending is the one Disney would inevitably choose to animate, and has a happy (YAY!) ending.

The following is not about the Dickens story. It’s about what I assume each of us has experienced in life: the trauma, the surprise, the joy (listed last for a reason) of great expectations.

I know a person who surfs on the edge of great expectations — great expectations about relationships, jobs, success — only to topple over onto the jagged coral reefs when his wave crashes. For him, it is like clockwork, and inevitable that what he hopes for is going to be vastly underachieved. Relationships will fail because the other person is a disappointment. Jobs end abruptly because those he works with/for are incompetent. Success is fleeting, and the jaws of economic disaster snap hungrily beneath him.

Great expectations are perhaps best classified as unrealistic. At least for the vast majority. As a kid, I and others boldly proclaimed what we would do as adults. Doctor. Lawyer. President. Few of us actually fulfilled those predictions. I knew kids who were “destined” to be a doctor or lawyer. Didn’t know any presidential aspirants. Still don’t — at least on a personal basis.

There’s nothing wrong in having great expectations, as long as you realize life is more like a raindrop on a car windshield, as it skitters about in its downward path, not going from point A to point B in an uninterrupted straight line. Sometimes you do make it to point B, but more likely not. It’s point C or point D, or another totally unexpected destination.

At my age, with the vast majority of my life now in the rearview mirror, I temper my expectations. Notice I didn’t say lower them, although the variance is slight. For the sake of my blood pressure, as well as sanity, I don’t hang everything on finding Oz.

For example: last year, when Cam Newton led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl, I did want them to win. But not so much that my life was in ruins when that expectation was not met. I suppose for Cam and company, it was much tougher to take. Plus, losing to Denver was MUCH more preferable to losing to New England.

Again, last year, when Duke made their improbable march to the NCAA Championship in men’s basketball — well, that wasn’t even an expectation at all! It was a very nice surprise (yeah, I’m a Duke fan). THIS year, however, Coach K’s team was so loaded with talent most sports prognosticators gave Duke the title to lose. Which, as it looks like, they are in the process of doing. Not sure whether it is age or wisdom that gave me the outlook that the Fat Lady hadn’t sung, and that It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over (much to the consternation and dismay of my youngest son, who held Great Expectations for Duke).

And November. Ah! Can anyone ever recover from November? Talk about Great Expectations! But, as my stance with the preseason rankings for Duke, I was more cautious, perhaps because I had NO expectations. Didn’t like either of the two major candidates. I suppose my one expectation was that Gary Johnson would somehow not blunder as he did in his campaign and at least make a decent showing for those of us who believe a third party would strengthen our democracy.

Boom! There it was!

Last night the television comedy “Black-ish” tackled the many faceted components of this presidential election, and did what I thought was a reasonable job. Biased, yes. But thought-provoking in that it reflected the range of reactions so well.

Great expectations. Democrats, crestfallen at the very least, and vehemently angry at worst. Women, dazed that the glass ceiling remains intact. Republicans (staunch), trying to figure out how this could come to by-pass the powers-that-be. Arch conservatives, pleased as punch to have so much power and control in Washington, and literally salivating.

His election wasn’t expected. Except by him and his supporters. He wasn’t supposed to win. She was.

Great expectations. Or, greater under-expectations.

Now the great expectations are building on both sides: a complete change (swamp draining?) in how business is conducted and how the decorum of the office of POTUS is about to swing in another direction. Some expectations are the limitations of things like freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Great in the sense of potentially negatively impactful.

The winners: NOW we’ll make America Great Again! Jobs. Deals. Zero tolerance for terrorism and its proponents. Great things will happen! Great people will be in control!

The losers: Shit! He needs to be curtailed, corralled, silenced, de-Twitterized, to grow up, among others. A great expectation is for failure. It is HOPED for, by some.

Either way, and with regard to either camp, the “great” expectations will inevitably not come to pass. It will be BAU (business as usual), is my expectation, albeit a great deal lowered.

The really great expectation — right now while the iron is hot — is what YOU will do. “Oh, I’m gonna do this and do that!” Some of which might actually be constructive as well as legal. And I’m for that. Involvement. Participation. Becoming an agent for positive change.

Wait! What? That sounds like a resolution (appropriate for this time of year)! So, aren’t resolutions (gonna lose weight, gonna read Moby Dick, War and Peace, and reread Great Expectations) really great expectations? And, this time next year, when reviewing the conclusion of one more annual cycle in your life, will you be like the man I mentioned earlier? The one who is constantly dismayed by unrealized, unrealistic expectations?

I applaud those who set a goal and do it. Perfunctory, they are. I’m a bit less mechanical in setting and making my goals (NOT a type A).

How about you? What are your great expectations?

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One Response to “Great Expectations”

  1. InfiniteZip January 12, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

    I’m hoping Brady breaks a leg, although that is rather mean of me but still…..sigh….

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