Part I (Thinking about expectations, clearing away the underbrush, getting ready to answer your question…)

A very thoughtful response (no surprise there!) More than that: a response that makes me think. When I talked about how much I learn from you, I guess this is what I meant. Except really learning means being surprised, and your post is full of good and important surprises for me. Maybe more about me than you!

Your distillation of your first two years at W&M makes me reflect on just how much I seem to expect from you — and how much you’ve actually achieved. You’ve sure accomplished a whole lot more than I did in the same two years <grin>. But I’ll get to that.

Expectations are weird and powerful things, right? I mean, without expectations of ourselves and each other, nothing happens. We just hang around and let life pass us by. We need — at least I think we need — some voice saying “Let me be my best. Let me see just how great I can be…” (Plus a little “Parable of the Talents“/Book of Matthew — don’t waste what you’ve been given, etc.)

But expectations can often sound like “No matter what I do, I can never measure up.” I hope mine don’t sound that way (too often), and fear they may (too often).

As a card-carrying Dad, I think it’s easy to craft one’s expectations (and lectures) based on one’s own flaws. We’ve talked about this. Maybe it’s partly the “human nature” thing of wanting your kid to learn from your own experiences and mistakes, build on what you think you’ve done right, and go beyond you.

Maybe it would be different if we weren’t so similar in some important ways. But I find I take for granted the things we’re both really good at, and set really high expectations for you about the things that don’t come naturally to either of us.

When I tell you what you ought to be doing, so often I hear myself telling me what I ought to be doing — even now, even at 58. I try my best to at least be honest with both of us about that. But I can imagine it might be tough to be on the other end of that. Maybe it’ll help if I tell you that when you step beyond your comfort zone and take a courageous chance (and you do it often), you inspire me.

So you asked me: “how did your college experience – your classes, your roommates, your friends, your relationships, your jobs, your surroundings, and your causes – help shape you?” A lot, I think. Some people, I think, are shaped more by high school; others by college. For me, it was college — a very intense time in my life. But I think I would answer your question differently than I would have a decade or two ago. Some of that intensity has faded for me now, and I need to summon it back to answer your question.

It was a different time, a different world, a galaxy far, far away…




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