- the act of anticipating or the state of being anticipated
- realization in advance; foretaste
- expectation or hope
* * *
In the most general of senses, anticipation, is a wonderful thing. After all, who doesn’t enjoy that tingle of looking forward to something fun that has been planned or something that has been long awaited?
I experience anticipation when I think of my education. I hold an expectation that I shall complete my MA this December. This is a long-burning anticipation, four years in the making, and as this journey winds to a close, that anticipation elevates to a nearly euphoric level. I can count down the weeks or days to each impending deadline as this my final semester progresses. Each of these moments serving to further build the anticipation of the assuredly momentous conclusion to this adventure.
Sometimes, though, anticipation tears at you. With a knot in your stomach, you wait. And you wait. And then, you wait some more. The knot grows, and you find your mind wandering down the winding paths of a thousand what if questions. You wonder if literally tearing out your hair would be preferable to this damnable waiting. But you don’t tear out your hair; you like your hair and tearing it out won’t serve to help anything, not really.
So you continue to wait. And you hope that what occurs at the end of this turmoil was worth that agony of anticipation. Because you don’t know how this one will turn out.
This anticipation is not looking forward to the simple, expected joys of completing a lengthy endeavor, or to an event scheduled with the known variables of close friends and repeated activities. This anticipation is of an event with an unknown, unpredictable outcome. Until it has come to pass, anything could happen. And that mystery eats away at you like rust chewing on old iron.
<end melodramatic exposition>
Note that the third definition cited lists both expectation and hope. I find this to be of particular interest because expectations and hopes are so very different, particularly when you are dealing with people. To hope for something with a person is one thing; to expect something from a person… well, that just opens up a can of worms.
I have found, in my own experience, that it is far too easy to allow a hope, a dream, or even a feeling to evolve into an expectation, and, once it crosses that threshold, it is very difficult to turn it back. I have further found that the expectations we lay upon others are often an undue, unfair, and unknown burden, and those who carry our expectations often suffer unreasonably for it.
This is not to say that all expectations are bad, no, rather that unspoken expectations are the problem. When a hope runs away and becomes an expectation it is rarely communicated to the person on whom it relies. “I hope this happens” becomes “This should happen” without ever a comment of “Hey – I’m expecting this to happen” aimed at whomever ‘should’ be causing this happening.
I dislike weighing expectations upon people. I especially dislike when expectations leap, half-formed, from my hopes and feelings and attach themselves like parasites to the object of these hopes, these feels. And I work very, very hard to prevent this from happening. Sometimes I even succeed.
Few things prompt such unfettered an outpouring of emotions as that dreaded state of anticipation. This is what causes anticipation to be, sometimes, so excruciating – just how long can one temper these volatile feelings before they burst forth of their own accord?
With a little bit of practice and a can-do attitude, well, quite a long while actually. Rein in that anticipation and build a little self-awareness. The worst case scenario is probably not as bad as your lizard-brain is making it out to be, and even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as you hope (full of rainbows and sunshine and unicorns and so on), it’s probably going to be just fine.
All those feels you’re feeling? Well, they’re yours. So knock ’em back into line and remind ’em who’s in charge here (Hint: You are).
Me? I’ll be here, grounding myself and waiting in anxious anticipation, feeling all my feels, hoping all my hopes, and curtailing all those expectations as they try to rear their squirrelly little heads.