The weight of expectations and how they never leave you.
I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values – and follow my own moral compass – then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.
– Michelle Obama
I’m not someone who takes things for granted. Yeah, I count my blessings. Everyone should. I know I’m lucky. I’ve grown up with loving, nurturing, caring parents who gave me the tools to get an education, create a career and start my own family. If that’s not lucky I don’t know what is.
Still, something baffles me. My parents. They never made crazy demands on me. Never pushed me or made heated demands that I push myself. They didn’t air any overwhelming disappointment if I failed. So let me ask you this: why is it that I felt their expectations daily? Where does that come from? Is it the same for everyone? Do we create those expectations in our heads? Do I now project unintentional or intentional expectations on my own kids? Is it a good thing? Regardless of the source, it’s there. My parents. For me, these are giant shoulders to stand on. The largest shoes to fill.
I’ve talked about my dad before. He came from humble beginnings, without the warm embrace or guidance of an involved father. He not only survived, he flourished. From growing up in an orphanage, to skipping grades, graduating, becoming a teacher, then a lawyer, and eventually a Canadian parliamentarian. You can probably feel the pride I have radiating from these words. Yes, he’s my dad but living up to this legacy is a stage set for Shakespeare.
Why is this coming up now? Well, my parents are coming to visit Haiti for the first time. And I’m feeling things I don’t usually feel. Nervousness. Anxiety. I mean, they’ve heard my stories, read my blogs, and seen the pictures, but will the real thing live up to their expectations of me? All of sudden I’m ten years old bringing home a report card. Will I make them proud?
Flashback to 2010. Post earthquake. When I first suggested I was going to go to help the medical relief effort, my father tried to talk me out of it. He said I should really think about my young family, maybe the time was not right for me, I should probably wait and do this kind of work when my career was established and my family was grown. To not take the risk, not just for my safety, but for my future. I’m not sure I would have provided different advice to my daughter Rachael if I was in my father’s shoes. He was always right. I always listened. But something in my heart told me this time was different. I took this step untethered and it was terrifying.
Seven years later. Will he see what I see? Will he see the despair and the faces of need? Most importantly, will he see the hope that I see? I’ve seen countless people come here and not see the progress. It’s bad here. But if you didn’t see it when it was hopeless, what are you gauging it against?
Of course they will see the tangible accomplishments: the new building and the ambulance. But will they see how far we have come? They will not get to witness the rubble on the streets or the tent ORs from 2010. They will not get to see the face of the little girl thanking us for helping her grandfather. They will not get to see the first total hip replacement patient, or the first time we fired up the new autoclave. They will not experience the little victories or the defeats that have become simple lines on all our faces.
Mom, dad, I hope I have set the scene. Until now you’ve only had mine and Allison’s stories to reference. But this is real now. What our team has accomplished. How far we still have to go. It’s real and I am nervous that what you’ll see will not reflect what I see, what I have seen. Will this meet your expectations? Will I? Dad, will you think the decision I made to come here in the first place was right?
I guess I am about to find out.