a note on expectation

Ask me when I’m most content. I’d tell you:

November, when the California weather is crisp but not frigid or wintry; a light jacket is enough to alleviate my goosebumps while still allowing the freshness of the Autumn air to clear my mind. I’m driving south from the valley, exiting the 405 freeway onto Pacific Coast Highway and blasting something like Honeywater’s “Old Eden” a little too loud from the speakers of my mom’s Honda. The sunroof is open to expose the setting sky’s fusion of smoldering reds and muted, pastel oranges that only a November evening on the Pacific can portray. Malibu is my destination, specifically the steep, grassy hill at Pepperdine which overlooks the coastline and the world below. My best friend and I discovered it one day last year – not that it was ours to find, but for some reason, we sensed that it was. I love going to the hill for no reason at all (last time I went by myself with a book and a can of Ginger-ale because my mind was particularly loud), but it’s the 45-minute drive from my mom’s house to the ocean that I long for the most. I never feel more inspired and hopeful for more yet appeased and at ease with everything I have than when I’m driving to Malibu and the raw chill of the wind silences my psyche for long enough. 

That memory holds no significance other than reminding me oh how capable I am of feeling satisfied. It’s ironic that such a recollection is now the happy place I inwardly return to again and again, bearing in mind how equipped I was to leave driving behind altogether before I moved to New York. Strangely enough, It’s been exactly one month since I left California and started college here. I’ve sort of figured out how to navigate the subway system and I’m pretty confident in my ability to differentiate a street from an avenue. I finally found a job – a side effect of the unforeseen realization that I am perfectly positioned to drown in student debt. I made the executive decision to trash Project Make More Friends, because…hello, have I met me? Oh, and Gossip Girl, it turns out, destroyed my presumptions in regard to the Upper East side.

I don’t intend to execrate New York City. I feel a deep attachment to this complex city – but it’s different than what I had expected it to be like. After all, I had a lot of time to imagine my life here. The past four weeks have led me to think: what’s with people like us and our crazy expectations for life? Why do we get so disappointed when the plans we had for ourselves don’t go quite right? We are the creators of our own letdowns, I think. I had a dream a few nights ago that I had a tail – like, an animal tail. You’re telling me that I should rely on this brain of mine when it’s fabricating stories like that while I sleep? We are so fond of the versions of our life that we draw up in our heads, as if the human mind can possibly be realistic.

Little kids are good at fending off disappointment. When I was six, I had this book full of Princess things, like fabric for gowns and jewels to be placed on crowns and whatnot. I don’t remember the details, just that I was obsessed with the idea that I was picking out the details of my life as a future Princess. I so believed in it, too! 

The thing is, nobody tells six year-old girls they won’t ever be princesses. You’d be called a monster or a child-hater.

I remember how bad I wanted it, but I don’t remember the day I realized I’d never be a princess. I just remember also wanting to be a Veterinarian, or a Jockey, or the Doctor who finds the cure to Cancer and gets to live on Star Island next to the guy who created Viagra. I remember when I downloaded Pinterest for the first time and wanted to be a homemaker (ew). 

Those dreams were never dangerous because they were never mine in the first place. It’s the real stuff that kills us when it’s out of reach.

I’ll admit it: I am the worst at living in the moment. I live, at all times, somewhere in the unwritten future, a place I’ve invented with the colorfulness of my mind and a lack of realism. If I didn’t write, it would be all too easy for me to pretend my past is nonexistent. When I was in middle school, all I dreamed of was being in high school. When I was trapped in high school, I spent everyday fantasizing about being in college in New York. Now that I’m here, my brain is in search for a new dream to cling onto. 

I’m not a pessimist; at least, I try not to be. I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer. That’s why I am where I am, right?

Dreaming is such a beautiful act of defiance in the face of fate. It is yelling at the future that has already been designed for you, “NO! YOU CANNOT TELL ME WHAT I AM GOING TO BE OR DO! THAT’S MY JOB!” 

Dreaming also means falling, for the future is feared enormously. 

There’s something doubters don’t tell you about, though. There’s a little ledge, somewhere between the fall from success to failure; that’s where I am right now. I know I can do so much more than what I’m currently doing; I also know that I could be doing a whole lot less. I guess I’m struggling to accept, for the first time in my life, that I’m simply on my way toward a different version of my future than the one I had planned out in excruciating detail. I feel that I’m on one of two paths, just like everyone else in this world. 

I’ll decode Robert Frost’s famous poem for you now, if you have yet to figure it out. Because these two roads exist, they do, and they have names. One is named everything. The other? Nothing.

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