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Great Expectations (or living life on the side)


“I’ll have what she’s having.”

For those of you hoping for a lively review of the Dickens classic or an examination of cinematic treatments of the female sexual response (see graphic above) – my apologies. Yes, I may have lured you in with that nice graphic above but this is about me and my “great expectations”. However, not unlike the protagonist, Pip, in the literary classic, who wanted something so opposite of his orphaned beginnings – to be a “gentleman” – I, too, had aspirations greater than that of my humble beginnings. (Or I hope that that sounds interesting enough to read on, anyway.)

I spent most of my life living ‘on the side’. Much like the famous character of Sally played by Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”, ‘on the side’ was a very big thing in my family. This wasn’t a food thing either. It was a life thing.

It seems like almost anything and everything I was interested in really didn’t fit into the norm growing up and due to lack of money, lack of comfort, or both, I was often relegated to pursue things ‘on the side’. What I have realized since, however, is that I never stopped categorizing things between the main course and the side dish. As an adult, I neutralized any excitement to pursue things ‘on the side’ due to the mismatch with my great expectations.

If you’ve ever been passionate about something, you may recognize how difficult it is to scale back and have that thing take 2nd or 3rd fiddle to anything else – in other words, work on your passion ‘on the side’.

The older I grew, the more responsibilities I encountered that not only mandated that anything that I was personally excited about – music, comedy, writing – would have to be ‘on the side’, but that the ‘side’ kept getting farther and farther away.

As some of you may have read from previous blogs, I have been learning a lot about the complex web that impacts a person’s happiness. It turns out that expectations have a lot to do with it. If our expectations are too great, it is almost impossible to achieve them and even if that does occur, the process and self-talk is so tortuous that it makes the entire thing worthless. What is the point doing the thing you love if you don’t enjoy it anymore?

It has occurred to me that I let my great (and completely unrealistic) expectation of being the best I can be in anything I pursue get in the way of me actually just doing it. Having “great expectations” of yourself is a wonderfully cowardly way of simply masking fear. “I would love to try (fill in the blank) but I won’t be very good at it and don’t have the time…etc.”

My kids are older now and that definitely has freed up some time for me to pursue things that I hadn’t pursued in well over 10 years. But, more than that, as I start to just type that first word or play that first note or throw that first punch, I am learning that my ‘on the side’ doesn’t have to be that small. Maybe one day, it will even be the main course and then as the infamous scene in “When Harry Met Sally” notoriously proclaimed, you might even have what I’m having!

Until next time, Marc

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