Summer Expectations: Student Edition

Expectation is my name. Quite literally. Google loosely translates ‘Apeksha’ to ‘expectation’, ‘future prospects’ and ‘hope’ in Sanskrit and its daughter languages. Expectation is a very important game changing variable in our life. What we expect, we look out for; what we look out for, we find; and what we find, we have in our life. This happens regardless of whether the object of our expectation is positive or negative.

It’s summer now, and expectation is in the air. Students in particular all go into summer with the expectation of change – we make summer resolutions of reading more, working out more, staying healthy, and basically just becoming more productive in general. We want to become a better version of ourselves by the time the next academic year rolls by.

But, often, we find ourselves snoozing our alarm clock, scrolling through Facebook with our phones in an open book and binge-watching Game of Thrones in bed. And that’s okay. Because if you don’t care enough to change something, it means you’re okay with it. And if you’re okay with it, then nobody else’s opinion matters. If you don’t want to wake up before the sun does to go out for a jog and see your life flashing in front of your eyes within the first five minutes, then cuddle in your warm blankets and sleep for those heavenly five more minutes. If you want to eat a whole carton of ice-cream while binge-watching your favourite TV show, then eat your ice cream and throw in a few frozen Gems or M&Ms in there because trust me, it’s heaven.

You do you. No pressure.

But with a sister and a cousin who have just passed their 12th and 10th grades respectively in the house, I’m a spectator to a different kind of expectations – the external kind. Summer for these students is hell. Every conversation starts with ‘So, how have you done your exams?’. And once the results are out, everybody from the vegetable vendor to their great-aunt-from-the-back-arse-of-nowhere demands, as is their fundamental social right, to know their percentage. Hint: if you haven’t scored 90+ percent, get ready to deal with the condescending that’s okays and that’s not bads. Then comes the million-dollar question – ‘what do you want to do in your future?’ If you don’t know the answer to that question, don’t worry, they’ll have plenty of suggestions.

Thinking back to a year ago when I was in those very same shoes, I remember seeing DJs and dancers become engineers, photographers and pastry chefs become lawyers, and artists and musicians become doctors. They had many reasons to change their dreams – to make their parents happy, to have a secure future, and some even to make enough money with their secure jobs so that they can pursue their passions later.

It’s sadly very common to see all those exciting future prospects be replaced by the ‘engineering-medicine-law’ trifecta. This usually happens because of external expectations. In these situations, you can’t do you. And there is pressure.

Now, the only way to escape this is to prioritize your self-expectation over the external expectations. What you expect from yourself is more important that what other people expect from you.

Breaking away from the mainstream is hard, scary and risky. And yes, it is absolutely true that you must proceed with caution. But often, when the mainstream breakaways look for a second opinion, they are given fear, not caution. Usually, people who try to instigate fear use extreme words like useless, pointless, impractical, no value, and no future at all. They underestimate your talent, your worth and commitment, and your ability to achieve excellence. These people must be avoided at all costs. Don’t internalize external criticism into self-doubt.

Personally, I have dealt with external expectations and underestimations too. When I started going to karate classes, people expected it to be just something of leisure. I turned around and became an international karate medallist. When I started learning music, people expected it to again be a hobby. But I turned around and gave a group concert in PESIT. When I finished my 10th grade, people expected me to take up science. Me, a literature enthusiast, took up arts; and two years later, I chose Psychology, English Literature and Journalism as my majors. Everybody assumes that I’ll pursue psychology or journalism in the future as they ‘have more value’. But in two years, I’m going to turn around and choose English literature for my postgraduate studies. Because that is what I expect from myself. I demand and assume the right to do what I’m good at and passionate about.

It is so very important to do what we want to do, and not what other people want us to do because at the end of the day, the unchangeable absolute truth is that our life is lived by us; only us and nobody else. You are in the driver’s seat; your passion is your GPS and your destination is your happiness. You drive your Lamborghini to where you want to go. Don’t let the backseat noise distract you.

And if you don’t know where you want to go yet, that is completely normal. You are still young. You don’t need to have your whole life figured out.

Life is always going to be on-the-job training, so choose the job that you enjoy. People may call you selfish or stupid for catering to your self-expectations. Kindly correct them and tell them that it isn’t selfishness or foolishness, but ‘ethical hedonism’ which is the idea that all people have the right to do everything in their power to achieve the greatest amount of pleasure and happiness possible to them.

There is no game plan in life. So, stop trying to create one because despite your best efforts, life is going to whack you in the face and pull the rug from underneath your feet. So, don’t waste your time worrying about the future. The future is going to happen anyway. Live in the present. Do what you like. Work hard. Raise your standards and your hard work will take you there.

Summers are always life-changing for students. So, what are you going to do with yours? Tell me what you think and join the conversation!

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