Essay: Anticipation

Mar 23, 2018

I grew up with a father who had some kind of proverb or platitude for every occasion.  One of his favorites was, “Anticipation is always greater than realization.”  Since I was just a kid, I assumed he was right.

He was warning me to not get my hopes up, to be prepared for disappointment.  Maybe he thought this would protect me from getting hurt.  But it’s a rather bleak invitation to the future.

Isn’t being young all about dreaming big and aiming high?  When I told a friend about my father’s advice, she said, ‘You might as well kill yourself.”

Instead, I learned that my father was wrong.  The things I anticipated as a girl—like getting a driver’s license, going away to college, falling in love—sometimes turned out better than I hoped—and sometimes worse—but they were always different.

Because reality is so much more complex than we can imagine—more wonderful and difficult and surprising.  Some of the best things that have happened in my life are those I couldn’t have anticipated.  Some of the worst, too.

Hoping for less might protect me from hurt—but it also robs me of joy.  And anticipation is part of the joy.  Maybe the best part.