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expectations.

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply… And the people began to think differently. And the people healed…”
Kitty O’Meara

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the start of 2020. The welcome of the new decade that brought so much hope. I had the strongest sense that this was going to be “my year” as I celebrated that hope, independence, and most of all, freedom.

The determination to let go of the struggles of 2019 was so dominant. I was determined to let go of things that had caused me anxiety, to let go of uncertainty. I was determined to walk into 2020 more confident and stronger than ever.

Here’s the thing about expectations, they often lead to disappointment.

I’m actually a very positive person. And that statement seems far to pessimistic to come out of my mouth. But the more I experience of life, the more I realise how true it is.

Life is just far to unpredictable to have expectations.

You can hope for the best and enjoy life as it takes it’s course. However, if you expect the “best”, then something is bound to disappoint you along the way. This is something that often catches me out.

When I was having the time of my life celebrating the new year, I had just moved back to Christchurch to save money, secured an epic temp role, and had a one way ticket booked to Europe on the 31st of July. Life was about to get exciting, and I expected this year to be the best yet.

Fast-forward to March, and now there is a global pandemic, borders are closed, New Zealand is in a state of emergency, and no one is allowed to leave their home unless it’s essential.

My naive, highly optimistic self in January could never have imagined that something so devastating would happen. Especially not in 2020 – the year of great expectations. And, of course, I’m disappointed.

It’s a tough lesson to learn and I can sense my perspectives changing. What does “living life to the fullest” mean to me? What should my priorities be? What are my unshakeable values? I have an opportunity to reflect deeper than ever – without a multitude of distractions.

This time in isolation has the potential to change my life completely.

“And the people began to think differently. And the people healed.”

Joining an important conversation

It’s hard to know the right words to say. I’m scared that I’m going to get it wrong. Because the fact of the matter is, I will never truly understand what it means to walk in the shoes of those who have faced discrimination based on their race. There is nothing I can do to change that.

However, there are some actions I can take.

I can reflect on whether I have added to the pain in any way.
I can reflect on whether there have been times when I’ve been silent, when I should’ve spoken up.
I can reflect on whether I have not been a positive role model to the younger generation when I should have.

Once I have reflected on myself, I can change for the better.

I can ensure I never add pain by being intentional in showing love and understanding to those who deserve it more than ever.
I can ensure I speak up when I see injustice and discrimination as I live my life.
I can ensure I positively role model acceptance, understanding and love to the younger generation so that they can be even better than any of us could imagine.

Speaking up is the beginning. And then it is everything that we do from now on that will make an impact. Even the tiniest of actions – the moments of acceptance, understanding and love – will change the path that humanity has found itself in.

So many wrongs have been done, and there is nothing that will ever undo them. We can’t change the past. But we can fix our hearts and change our future – humanity’s future.

Black lives matter.

grief.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear”
C.S. Lewis

Today I read a journal entry of mine from back in April 2018.

At that time I was living in Auckland, I was working hard – laying foundations to eventually make something of myself. I was pretty naive, but having so much fun living the fast paced life of a young professional, and experiencing all the excitement (and challenges) of living in the big smoke.

In my journal entry, I had set some goals. My goal for 2020 was to travel. Specifically, Europe and South America. The dream has always been to quit whatever job I was doing after getting 2 years of work experience and book a one way ticket for an adventure of a lifetime.

Last year I did just that. After quitting my cool PR job I moved home to Christchurch and booked a one way ticket to the UK for August 2020.

I imagine you can see where this story is heading. Fast forward to today – I have flight credit, but no longer a plane ticket. My goal of experiencing the adventure I’d dreamed of for almost my whole life is no more.

And now I am grieving.

Along with the rest of the world, I’ve been experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all have something to grieve in this time. Plans to let go of. Dreams to put on hold.

Grieving over a dream is an interesting experience. The rollercoaster for me has gone from feeling disappointed, to excited about not leaving my friends, to sadness over the things I was looking forward to, and then to fear over what my future holds for me now.

I’ve been thinking about what this travel experience actually meant to me. It represented independence. Courage. Adventure. It was going to be a huge risk, and I had huge expectations that it would be significant in shaping my life.

I’ve also thought about how I’ve always perceived living in Christchurch. To me, it’s safe. Homely. Settled. Familiar.

That terrifies me. The fear of settling in my early 20’s is at the front of my mind right now. The thought of settling into a comfortable routine that I may never want to leave, is frightening. On top of that, who knows when travel will be a realistic option again.

The future is uncertain. And more than ever, we need community. Together we can support one another as we grieve our losses. We can comfort each other. We can hold each other accountable to make our dreams a reality against all odds. We can remind each other that uncertainty can be exciting.

And most of all, we can encourage each other not to lose hope.

Dreams will come true, and while it’s important to work through the grief process for all that will be lost this year, it’s crucial that we don’t let that grief consume us and take away our hope.

joy.

“Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living.”
Rachel Marie Martin

When reading a good book, what keeps you from getting bored as you turn the pages? What about that story keeps you hooked and wanting more?

It’s the twists, the turns, the intrigue.

Before starting a new book, you may have read the blurb on the back. It may have been recommended to you by a friend, or you might have found a few reviews before really committing to page 1.

You cannot tell the story before you’ve read it. And even with the best research, you don’t always get a story you expect.

We make decisions, some are highly researched, others recommended by friends. Even with the best plan, sometimes we end up in stories we never imagined ourselves living. Unforeseen events occur and circumstances change. Distractions happen. People let us down.

In fact, I doubt there is a single person on earth who has ended up living the exact story they’ve always imagined. Where’s the excitement in that anyway?

There are definitely moments when life presents you with something you’ve always hoped and dreamed of. I have had the pleasure of experiencing some of these already, and it was certainly worth fighting the battles to savour those moments.

However, there have also been times when the story I imagined once did not come to fruition.

Some of these times I’ve had to watch someone else enjoy the story I once wished for. But then I grew and changed, good things came out of story I did experience, and that original one was no longer important to me anymore.

Other times, I’ve had to learn to let it go and trust that if that story is meant for me, it will happen in the time that it is meant to happen. And that the time for this story is just not right now.

For example, my dream story of backpacking overseas.

The thing that all of these situations have in common is this: they provide an opportunity to build resilience.

By learning to find joy in the present story that I’m living in, even if it’s not what I pictured, I am able to let go of the disappointment that came from my own expectations. I can trust that my deepest dreams will happen when the time is right, and hope that the stories I will experience throughout my life will be better than I could ever imagine.

I am able to continue on another day, joyously embracing live’s twists and turns. I am able to keep reading my life’s story, ready with a sense of anticipation for another surprise.