What we expect is never what we get
This past week I, along with my more than 500 fellow juniors, forecasted for our final year in high school. For those unfamiliar with the term "forecasting," it's the process of choosing the classes you'll take in the next year. It's an opportunity to check in on your high school career; a chance to hurriedly sign up for any missing required courses or to wonder at the number of electives WLHS has to offer.
When I was in eighth-grade forecasting to be a freshman, the process held some sort of promise-- the idea that I was no longer locked into a specific academic track as I had been in middle school; that I had an element of control over things like the math or social studies class I took. Seeing classes like art, ceramics and ecology all excited me. Talking logistics with my parents, however, dulled my enthusiasm. After some negotiation, I turned in my forecasting form that featured only one elective (out of the more than 10I wanted to take) and walked away only slightly dejected. I was still left with a lingering optimistic expectation, thinking, "In the next three years, I'll definitely be able to get to all the classes I want to take."
I may have been wrong.
Three years proved to be less than enough time to do every single class that I wanted. I barely was able to try out my top five. I learned an important thing about the high school schedule; ultimately controlled by the college system, it's a passively restricting set of "recommended classes," disguised as an unprecedented sense of freedom. Sure, I was still able to choose the specific math, social studies, various courses that I wanted, but it was those vague requirements (minimum three years of math, four years "suggested") that put me in a track unsurprisingly similar to the one I longed to break free from three years ago. In the end, after all the requirements were met in one way or another, I only had room for, on average, one elective a year.
That's the thing about expectations-- what we expect is never really what we get. When we expect something, we get a sort of tunnel vision that distorts our judgment, leading us to feel obligated to receive what we expect. While that lack of fulfillment can leave us with a negative feeling, I think what we're left with is often better for ourselves than what we wanted in the first place. When I expected to be able to take all the electives I wanted, I felt obligated to receive the opportunity to do so. Though my expectation wasn't met, what I actually got-- being placed in a journalism class by chance -- was better than what I hoped for; sustained growth and passion in a subject that I wouldn't have stuck with for so long if I wasn't somewhat forced to.
And no, I don't think the solution to this cycle is to have no expectations. Expectations go hand in hand with goals; if we expect nothing, feel obligated to nothing, to try to be let down by nothing, we miss out on a feeling of drive toward our goals. And more so, without feeling obligated to any sort of achievement, what do we accomplish along the way? If someone was looking for a "solution," they could find one in the idea that we should never rely on our expectations to be what we get out of life. Like I said earlier, what we expect is never what we get. Instead, I think it's important that we reassess how we use our expectations, using them as abstract guides rather than a strict path that we're stuck to.
I want to note that in no way do I blame West Linn specifically for my limited ability to take electives. This expectation that students are "recommended" to take a certain amount and type of courses throughout their high school career is one that we're somewhat forced to follow in the general education system. While my high school experience didn't have the variety I originally thought it would have, I am happy with the way it turned out. In a sense, my expectations were met in a way I could have never foreseen. I'm thankful for my expectations that got me here, but I'm also thankful I wasn't able to fulfill them.
Delaney Callaghan is a junior at West Linn High School.
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