Last month, we moved back into our hometown, after spending 12 years away from the place that, despite its sweltering heat, is close to our hearts. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to get back home and live among my family and friends once more. The thoughts of haggling with the vendors in my mother tongue, visiting the beach every weekend, and watching movies in the language that I was born into, warmed my insides.
What happened instead was that the city’s heat has become unbearable and neither I nor my family and friends have been able to make time for each other. The vendors have established unhaggable department stores, the beach has remained un-visited, and the one movie experience so far was disturbed by screaming babies.
I wanted to rush back to the place that had grown to become my comfort zone over the last 12 years. All this was quite depressing and I whined about my condition to every person I could speak to.
Well, that was yours truly experiencing the harshness of reality as against the dream of expectation.
What are expectations and realities?
Expectations are what we think might happen, and reality is what actually happens.
There are times when expectations match reality. Then, there are the times when reality beats expectations. And there are the times when reality falls terribly short of our expectations. And as is the bane of humankind, the last part is the most experienced one.
What we think is there, is not what is really there.
Why is that so?
Expectations are based on memories of experiences – things that we have seen, heard of, or done. Let us take a look at my own expectation from the first para. I was expecting a rosy picture based on the memories of a childhood and young adulthood. During these times, I had spent a lot of happy time in the company of my friends, brother and cousins.
It is no wonder that the pictures that my brain retrieved from its storage unit, organized under the “hometown” section in some unknown part of its neural connections, was “rosy.” Simply put, my expectations of a fresh start in my hometown were based on my childhood experiences. But I am an adult now, and in the throes of middle age. While I connected with my memories, I failed to account for the passage of time that included climate change.
And the passage of time is what accounts for reality.
But, despite the mismatch between my expectation and reality, I count myself lucky.
Why and how?
I know a child who does not like visiting new places and experiencing new sights and sounds. All that he wants to do is stay at home and play his PS4. What is happening here is that he is setting up his brain to make strong connections with virtual reality. During all this time, the brain, the organ that functions based on habits, is also losing its connection with reality. There is very little memory for him to even make an expectation, and that is the saddest place to be.
It is horrifying that we are being accosted by an entire generation that is experiencing very little of anything but virtual reality. Which means, that their neural connections and resulting memories would be based on the things that they see and do in the virtual space. In other words, their expectations will never meet or match reality.
So, I definitely consider myself lucky that I am not a part of the increasing size of population that bases its expectations on virtual reality. At least, I have my real experiences to count on.
So how can we make expectations match reality?
Imagine you are planning a vacation to a place like Bali. Among the many things that you would do is check out pictures of this place. If the pictures that you see are from advertisements and promotions, you would probably see pristine beaches which have very less or no people featured in them.
Now, what the brain does when it experiences, is that it puts us in the place. So, when you are checking out the photos, you are also subconsciously fitting yourself into the photo. You are out there, on the beach, breathing in the waves, all by yourself.
But when you get there, is when you realize that you are among the hundreds of people who too have fitted themselves into the photo. You are not as alone as you expected to be, and POP!!! goes your imagination of that dream vacation.
On the other hand…
If you had checked out real traveler pictures, you would have understood the reality of standing among the other hundreds of people like you. And you would have enjoyed your holiday.
The same goes for other things that you want to do. I have always wanted to do a lot of things – dancing, cooking, crafting, public speaking, bashing trouble makers, killing terrorists – you get the idea. But the only place where my expectation has not only matched reality, but also exceeded it, is this place in virtual reality, where I write about alternate reality and reality.
That is why matching expectation with reality is as simple as understanding the ground situation. It lies in understanding what is happening out there now, and working out the probabilities that could happen to us.
This part of life is also called growing up, and accounting for the passage of time. It sucks, but it is also the absolute truth.