Great Expectations

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Every family has certain expectations for the next generation. Most of them tend to be overall goals like happiness, stability and family. But often people make these expectations, including small steps towards them, based on their own experiences and morals. Today I would like to show you some of the expectations I grew up with and how they affected - and still affect - my life.

As I mentioned in one previous post I grew up in a house with my father and grandmother (his mother). When I was younger my dad worked a lot, so I spent most of the time with my grandmother. It was she who told me that if I did not wear a sparkly barrette, I would not be as pretty as other girls. When I had friends over, she always asked me why I did not dress like them and that they were much prettier than me. As a small child I simply believed that there was a certain thing that “other girls” had, that somehow I didn’t.

When I got older, the expectations of my grandmother L. grew higher. As a present on my 16th birthday she gave me a cooking pan with the words “So now you can cook your future husband a nice steak.” Firstly, I am a vegetarian. Secondly: Husband?! Uhm no thank you. In this time we fought very often. I started questioning her messages towards me and she thought I was a sassy girl (well, the rest of the world still viewed me as a very quiet and polite girl, but I guess your view is different when your expectations aren’t met). In one particular hard conversation she shouted at me: “I don’t believe that you have any friends. They are only your friends because they pity you because you are disgusting. No one will ever love you.” This sentence still haunts me in some nightmares. So her path for me was clear and my deciding to become a social worker was not part of it. In her eyes, it was a waste of time to try to help others.

Also it collided with her plans for me to be a “good wife” who cares for her husband. And yes, I am not out to my grandmother. This is my decision and I simply think that it would harm more to tell her that. After a fight with her brother she did not talk to him for two years-so I can only imagine what would happen if I come out to her. In my imagination this involves not being able to go back home. So I simply stay quiet and shift to another topic.

But let me give you an example of what this looks like: Last fall my girlfriend, who was introduced as a friend from university, and I visited her in my hometown. It happened that she was ironing some shirts when we entered the room. Her first words were: “I am going to show you two girls how to iron these shirts, so you can do this for your husband later.” Later she also asked my girlfriend (who is Catholic) if she planned to marry a Catholic man. After we made our way back with some excuse, we started laughing so hard. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the absurdity of a situation.

The longer I live away from home (now it is 5 years), the more I learn to see the intention behind all these messages and expectations. Although I do not agree with them, they come from a place of love and concern. People care in different ways that might not fit in with your own plan. But instead of doing what I did for a long time - fighting and arguing - I now try to see those acts as expressions of love and encouragement. Sometimes I slip and simply get frustrated and feel misunderstood, but on other days I try my best. Nowadays when I see the cuckoo clock that she’s already bought for my future kids, I try my best to see the hope behind it instead of the expectations from being a nice perfect mum with a husband that come along with them.

Don´t get me wrong. I fail so often in this and wish I could fit all of her expectations and be perfect and make everyone happy. But as Jane Austen said in Sense and Sensibility, “To wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect”. So all the wishes and hopes that people have for you can result in expectations towards you and sometimes create pressure inside you. But when we are able to recognize where they’re coming from, we are able to see them in a different light. Also, sometimes I am just tired of fighting and discussing. I have every right to be who I am and so does my grandmother. There is enough space for everyone to live in this chaotic but beautiful world.