Today I learned a lesson that all of my college professors, my parents, and any old wise man on top of a mountain could tell me.
Don’t expect anything. Don’t expect anything good to happen or anything bad to happen. Just don’t expect anything. It’s easier that way.
Take today. I am one of the million cheerful people who take public transportation. Ah yes, the dank stairwells, the finicky ticket machines, and don’t forget, the other 999,999 people traveling with me. If anything, it is an experience. And we’ll leave it at that.
And speaking to that last point (because I couldn’t leave it at that) about all of those people, it can definitely be tough. They don’t always move out of your way, and they don’t always slide across the seat to let you sit. My strategy is to find someone who is pretty much doing what I will be doing (reading, listening to music, etc.) so that I won’t bother them by sitting next to them. We’re sort of like two friends hanging out, doing the same activity.
But as soon as I sat down today, I saw an older couple looking around for a seat. The woman sat directly in front of me, while the man was unable to find a seat near her. It was an easy choice. I quickly got up and told him to sat down. He might have muttered something, but I didn’t hear it.
And do you know what else I didn’t hear? A thank you! Seriously? I know it’s common courtesy to let someone sit down that should have a seat over you, but you couldn’t say thank you? It’s like when people don’t give that little wave while driving when you let them out into traffic. It takes two seconds and it makes the world of difference!
So, I got up fuming, a little. I knew my heart was in the right place, but I felt all wrong. And then it dawned on me: I was doing something for the results. I was expecting something very specific to happen. I genuinely thought that the man should be sitting down, but I was also waiting for him to acknowledge me, to thank me, when I should have just moved out of my seat with no expectations of receiving anything for having manners.
But this story has a twist ending. The guy that was sitting next to me actually got up when I got up to let the elderly couple sit next to each other. He then came over to me and asked if I wanted to sit down in another seat. I certainly wasn’t expecting him to do that, but I was incredibly touched by the gesture. Anybody else might have watched the exchange and let it happen. And this time? I hadn’t expected him to do that. I hadn’t expected anything.
So, in the end, expectations are really just pleas and wishes for the world to work like we want it to. And when life doesn’t work out how we want to, sometimes, it is just preparing you for something better. When you don’t have expectations, you may find that you’ll be pleasantly surprised anyway.