Not-So-Great Expectations

Isn’t it funny how life never seems to go as we expect it?

For people like me, this is no laughing matter. I'll have a plate of great expectations with no disappointment on the side. Since that's rarely the case, I guess I will have to start chiming in with my laughter.

When I first arrived in Crested Butte in mid-November, I paradoxically had no idea what to expect, and yet had great expectations for the five months to come. I was worried my co-interns would be crazy partiers, out every night until the rooster crowed drinking and taking advantage of the five dispensaries located on my street. I pictured myself hanging out exclusively with my coworkers, and perhaps taking a full-time position once my internship ended. These are only but two of my great expectations. And if you know me, I suffer from expectation-itis, commonly known as: “This girl needs to lower her expectations” (not to be confused with standards).

Five months after my move, and it has become apparent that, once again, my expectations have been foiled again! But in retrospect, my life has been shaped over the course of these past few months in ways consistent with my values and ambitions in life.

Instead of meshing seamlessly with my coworkers like I’d imagined, I found myself fully embraced by a tight-knit community at the church I began attending within the first week of my move. Though I was able to create positive (yet surface level) relationships with the people I worked with, I have found myself most at home within my church community. Without exception, the men (and especially) women I have met on account of Sunday morning church services and Thursday bible studies have been such a huge source of joy during the periods of trials and conflicts at my workplace and intern condo. At Oh Be Joyful, I have a profound sense of belonging, because, just like my peers of all ages and walks of life, I am imperfect, but am worth being loved.

Today I celebrated my friend Palmer’s 24th birthday. As I sat down to write her a birthday letter this morning, I had a flashback to my first few weeks in CB. My own birthday was coming up way too soon after my move, and I was dreading it, because I would be utterly alone, isolated, and unable to celebrate with my friends or family. But three days before that fateful day, my pastor introduced me to Palmer. We hit it off immediately, and grabbed dinner together on my birthday. Even my pastor texted me a nice birthday wish! (Still not sure how he found out that nugget of information…) It was nothing too fancy or exciting compared to previous birthdays, but I had gotten the best birthday present I could have asked for: a new friendship and a sense of belonging in a new environment. Had I only known what those seeds would come to bear in four months’ time!

Even my expectations for my living situation were turned upside down. Thankfully I rarely had to deal with drunken roommates coming home and waking me up in the dead of night or the smell of pot emanating from a nearby room. And thankfully the majority of my co-interns had serious relationships, so I never had to wake up to strangers roaming the apartment the morning after. But, as with any living situation, there was plenty of conflict to make me swear I’ll never live with roommates again.

When I first moved into the apartment, there was a note on the refrigerator from the past winter’s interns with tips for how to get through the season, i.e., make sure you take out the garbage every Thursday, never miss a taco Tuesday, etc. The tip that stood out to me most went along the lines of: remember your first impressions of your co-interns, because those will change by the end of the season. Impossible! I thought. Think again, Leigh…Needless to say, expectations I held of one of my roommates in particular was very much turned on its head. What once seemed like a potentially awesome friendship ended up very much the opposite, for reasons I will never know. As an effect, living with the residual conflict both at work and at home (read: literally 24/7) became extremely exhausting from pretty much my second month into the internship, and it only got worse as time progressed, despite my belief that things couldn’t possibly deteriorate any more. Spoiler alert: they always did.

If I could change anything about this internship, living with the people I work with would be the clear winner. However, the restlessness and discomfort I found in my home did yield a greater awareness of not only my desire for a community of like-minded people, but also my deep desire to develop my faith and relationship with God. Had I gotten sucked into a deeper friendship with any of my roommates, I might not have pursued my women’s bible studies as eagerly or have set aside as much time as I did every day to convene with God in quiet solitude. I don’t know what could have happened if a friendship had developed between that one roommate and me, but I am thoroughly convinced that if things went so wrong, it was for my protection that whatever went wrong transpired from pretty much the beginning.

As a result, my life and heart have turned toward living out my faith in a supportive community of Christians. Though this was certainly on my mind when I moved here five months ago, I didn’t quite expect it to take off with such sustained momentum. For this, I am eternally grateful. Because of this, I am learning not only to laugh at failed expectations, but also to dismantle those expectations from the get-go. If expectations are rarely met, why enter any situation with a rigid picture of what needs to happen?

Now, as I look to my very unclear future, I am encouraged to let whatever happens happen. I've come to realize that I cannot control anything that happens to me, much less the future (no matter how hard I try!), but that I can choose how I react in any given situation. I can also choose the route of wonderment as I faithfully trust that I will be taken care of instead of choosing the road to disappointment when my expectations aren't met (if you haven't caught on yet, that disappointment happens quite frequently). And when I take an objective view, all the threads of life are weaving together a perfect tapestry more beautiful and fit to who I am than I ever could have created on my own (obviously, since I am not a weaving whiz).

I think CB’s vibe is getting to me. Maybe I’m finally getting it: just go with the flow, and see where this river you’re floating on takes you before you start making definitive maps of a place you’ve never been. Besides, the places you'll go on this adventure are wilder and more awesome than anything you could have imagined!