Welcome to my Sophomore Slump. It’s best to lower all expectations now. Let’s face it, my first post was amazing. There is nowhere to go from here except Mind blowin’, the aptly named second album of Caucasian Icon Vanilla Ice (thank goodness he left off the ‘g’ or it never would have sold):
Like so many before me, I am using Rob Van Winkle to soften the blow and lower expectations for this, my second blogpost. So, without further ado, I blerg.
I’ve had a problem with expectations since the 8th grade PE with Coach Rock. Our class was rotating through sports and had just wrapped up softball, where I really shined. I was catching everything. I was pulling Derek Jeter’s into the stands. I was eating onions; I was spotting dimes.
Then came basketball. There were some who felt this was not my strong suit.
But I knew that I was a natural athlete. Just because I was incredibly handsome and witty did not mean I was not more than accomplished on the b-ball court (that’s what we basketballer athletes call basketball). Coach Rock had us running some layup drills. I was on fire. I was delicately, yet deliberately guiding the ball to the hoop. I was so on fire, in fact, that Coach Rock asked me to demonstrate the proper form, as he had just witnessed what I can only assume to be perfection.
I was a little overwhelmed. The whole class was going to be taking notes from me on how to masterfully layup a basketball. I took a deep breath and gathered my thoughts. Focus. Poise. Athleticism. I backed up and released the graceful gazelle inside of me:
As I…strided? strode? strooded? strooded–there is it. As I strooded toward the hoop, I wondered, “What if I am not as athletically amazing as we all know me to be? What if I’m not the person everyone expects me to be? What if instead of looking like this:
I look like this?”:
Suddenly, the weight of expectation hit me. All of the basketball training (all 3 hours of it) I had received previously left me. And instead of looking like this:
I looked like this:
My ball went in, but it was ugly. Since that time, I’ve struggled with expectations. I still try, don’t get me wrong. I don’t shy away from trying to exceed expectations, I just tend to trip and slide eyebrow-first across the finish line. I even do it to myself.
I was running the other morning and set a mental finish line on the street. When I was about 4 feet from my mark, I just stopped and walked. What’s wrong with me? I was 4 feet away. Just run one more step. Maybe it was fatigue from the many, many miles I had run the day before. Maybe it was mental fatigue from willing myself to go faster than before. Maybe it was the second bowl of Marshmallow Maties I had before the run. Regardless, I quit before the finish line. I had set an expectation for myself and failed to live up to it.
But then something occurred to me as I walked heroically past my finish line. I finished. I didn’t run past the line, but I finished. I still crossed the finish line. Sometimes that’s not an easy thing to do. If you’re like me, you tend to beat yourself up from time to time about not doing something as well as you ‘should’ have, or maybe for not doing something as well as someone else did, or as well as someone expected. But you still did it. I ran 3 miles that morning (adjusted for inflation). Who cares if I walked the last two steps?
I’m not saying you should stop trying to improve, or that you should never try to live up to expectations. I’m saying, sometimes all you can do is finish. Not finish first, or finish gracefully, but finish. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by too many things…work, relationship, school, kids, anxiety, depression, addiction. Sometimes just getting the ball in the hoop or walking across the finish line should be applauded. If John Travolta can recover from Stayin’ Alive to bring us cinematic gems like Hairspray and Battlefield Earth, I can recover from walking across the finish line.
Here’s to finishing.
Coach Rock would be proud. Kino Jr. High School Football Rules!
Rob Porter, Ph.D., LMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist, Austin Texas