Confusion Corner: The Key to Exceeding Your Expectations Is to Lower Them

I’m a bit late hopping on the cliched address-to-incoming-freshmen train, but I will be the first to confess to my indolent nature. This is definitely low-hanging fruit, but I have no shame. In addition, I have to apologize in advance for the pretentious vocabulary that will be slipping in and out of my writing for the next few weeks, but I have had the fortune of studying for the GRE recently. 

I have the overwhelming urge to violently crush the bubbling enthusiasm of all the eager and unsoiled freshmen. On a Friday evening, I inevitably find myself casting a contentious glare in the direction of a gaggle of dolled-up freshman girls. It’s really hard for me, as I slovenly bumble off to a wine-stained girls’ night, to understand their motivation. It just seems so irrational to don heels that make you more unstable than the foundation of Morton Hall just to cram yourself into a sweaty, loud frat house where the only guarantee is a nice groping from intoxicated strangers. Then I remember that I did that a lot my freshman year. But that was back when I was so full of, well, hope. From my squeaky old rocking-chair, I can hand down only one crumb of advice: lower your expectations.   

This is where you think I will deliver my tired sermon about the less glamorous aspects of college, like having to work hard or the debilitating sense of loneliness that will interrupt your otherwise ebullient collegiate escapades by the middle of the semester. I may be so lazy that I haven’t eaten off one of my real plates since I got here. However, my torpid tendency does not mean I can’t come up with something a bit more original than what every mid-August Buzzfeed article does. No, instead of lowering your expectations of the College of William and Mary or of your experience in general, I need you to lower your expectations of yourself. The College is great, but you are going to disappoint yourself … a lot. You will make mistakes and you will not be as productive or as unique as you thought you would be. You will also be a subpar friend to at least four people and you will probably transgress at least two moral standards. No matter how hard you try not to, you will break some of your promises to yourself. It doesn’t matter if those were promises to stay healthy, to go to class or to go out of your comfort zone more often. Inevitably, you will hold the actions you took your freshmen year up for examination and realize that, at least in some areas, you fell miserably short of the high aspirations you formed in high school for the “adult” you.

I can’t say this is ok, but it is normal. Everyone comes into college, or into any new situation for that matter, with some unrealistic expectations. Even I, your infallible columnist, went through this experience.When my self-image plummeted from my imagined ivory tower, it hurt. So, I beg you to relax about your preconceived notions about who you should be or what your life should look like now before you stray too far from them. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for complete ego-surrender. We do not need a hoard of feckless freshmen stumbling around campus, carried about by any whim or fancy. It’s bad enough you have accepted eating at the Caf. It is really about being gentler with yourself, opening yourself to different lifestyles and accepting that the road to fully enfranchised adulthood includes the bitter process of casting off some of the idealistic ambitions that are formed in the sheltered bubble of high school. Sorry to kill your dreams. One bright spot is that due to the limited perspective of our enduringly shortsighted species, there is also a whole range of positive experiences and accomplishments you will have that you are physically incapable of imagining. For example, the satisfaction of disseminating a fresh batch of wisdom on people you pull seniority over.

Emily Gardner is a Confusion Corner columnist who appreciates when the bar is nice and low so she doesn’t trip over it.


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