The greatest weapon anyone can use against us is our own mind. By preying upon the doubts and uncertainities that already lurk there. Are we true to ourselves or do we live to the expectations of others? And if we are open and honest, can we ever truly be loved? Can we find the courage to release our deepest secrets? Or in the end are we all unknowable even to ourselves.

I finally made friends with my father when I entered my twenties. We had so little in common when I was a boy, and I am certain I had been a disappointment to him. He did not ask for a child with a book of its own world. He wanted a son who did what he had done: swam and boxed and played rugby, and drove cars at speed with abandon and joy, but that was not what he had wound up with.

The lesson here is that high expectations can be counter-productive. We probably can do more to affect the quality of our lives by controlling our expectations than we can by doing virtually anything else. The blessing of modest expectations is that they leave room for many experiences to be a pleasant surprise, a hedonic plus. The challenge is to find a way to keep expectations modest, even as actual experiences keep getting better.

And just because you turn out differently than everyone’s imagined you would doesn’t mean that you’ve failed in some way. A kid who gets teased in one school might move to a different one, and be the most poplar girl there, just because no one has any other expectations of her. Or a person who goes to med school because his entire family is full of doctors might find out that what he really wants to be is an artist instead.

What I mean is that those thoughts, they’re human. And just because you turn out differently than everyone’s imagined you would doesn’t mean that you’ve failed in some way. A kid who gets teased in one school might move to a different one, and be the most popular girl there, just because no one has any other expectations of her. Or a person who goes to med school because his entire family is full of doctors might find out that what he really wants to be is an artist instead.

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