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2.11.2009

High Standards

For a lot of my life, I've felt I was held to higher and different standards than most people. For a lot of my life, those higher and different standards have frustrated me beyond belief.

I first realized how upsetting it was around the age of 16. At the time, I was a familiar and reliable face in a particular organization. The adults in the organization often trusted me with tall-orders when it came to leadership and mentoring other youth in the program and I welcomed the responsibility. At some point, I started having those existential crises teenagers have and I needed a break. This organization stressed how important it was for us to always be there as much as possible. Anyway, one week I decided to skip a regular meeting and planned to chalk it up to needing to study for a test. I was the only one who went to a private school and figured that would be a safe excuse. The truth was, I had a test coming up and did need to study, but wasn't actually using that time for that. I just wanted some space to think.

One of the adults I had a close relationship with subsequently reprimanded me for missing out. She told me what I already knew: I was a role model for the younger ones and had much responsibility and blah blah blah. I was taken aback. I responded that in light of a peer of mine having done the same thing the week before with no problem, I didn't understand what the big issue was. Her response? I was smarter than that particular person and she implied that as a result I didn't need the extra time to study that she did.

Even at that time I knew what this was really about: They had come to expect more of me and didn't expect the same of my peer. In turn when I made one misstep it was seen as much bigger than it really was and the reality of what it meant to be held to a higher standard hit me like a ton of bricks.

I often joke with my friends that I'm going to tell my kids that if they're smart, they'll play stupid until high school. Otherwise, people will always expect the best and never settle for less.

Expectations are, when used correctly, great rearing tools. They work when you expect high yet realistic levels, but they backfire when your expectations are too high or unrealistic.

As I was walking home yesterday and reviewing over and over in my mind the events that transpired yesterday, I got more and more upset with my friend because I felt that ultimately she was holding me to some ridiculous standard. Then I thought about how all my friends, just about, have been guilty of expecting things from me that they don't expect from others. What's worse is that I have some sort of complex that makes reaching those standards important, but today I'm deciding I've gotta cut that out if only for my own mental stability.

One anecdote in particular comes to mind:

Sometime during my junior year of college, I needed a "break" from reality. I literally woke up one morning and decided I didn't want the world to be able to find me. So I called my mother (who, at the time, had mini heart-attacks if 24 hrs passed and she didn't hear from me) told her what I was doing and then turned the phone off and planned not to turn it back on until I woke up the following day. I thought it would be a hard task, but it wasn't. The day passed by and it was freeing to have my own thoughts and not have a whole lot of people to answer to.

When I woke up the next morning and turned my phone back on, I had 10 text messages and 8 voicemails. Some of them were repeat voicemails, but they were ALL angry. "Where the hell are you?" "Why is your phone turned off?!" "Please call me back!"

None of these people e-mailed me, none of them tried to find me on campus. I just wasn't there in a way most convenient for them and it was like the sky fell through. Unrealistic expectations.

I draw the "needy" out of people and have yet to figure out how to stop doing that, but I'm working on it...

2 comments:

glennishamorgan said...

Hmmm, it's crazy how other people can look at us or expect certain things from us. I think if people continue to always depend on you or do that to you then you can and will get burnt out.

A.Smith said...

You're right, Glennisha...and I have done the burned out thing. It's not fun, for sure...

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