Managing Expectations

After almost two years of thinking and over-thinking about the future I’ve decided it’s time to start focusing on the present and stop weighing myself down with unmet expectations.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that much of the last two years before I moved to Dubai were spent going around in circles about the future, thinking, and over-thinking, about where I am in life, where I’m going and where I’m supposed to be in five, ten, twenty years’ time. It was the reason I left Korea, at 27, after three and a half wonderful years teaching there. To start making “life” decisions, build for the future, get on the so-called career ladder yada yada ya. Life was happening around me; people were getting engaged, building houses, getting jobs promotions and so on. All the normal things that one often aspires to. So it felt about time I considered my own future too.

Thinking and Over-thinking

Sometimes a thought or idea lasted a week, two weeks, maybe even a month. But always, at one point or another, I would conclude that I had more reasons to not do something, whether it was to pursue a career in teaching, move abroad again or something entirely different. With a background in journalism and three years travelling and teaching behind me, I was unsure where to go next. Thinking about it sometimes kept me awake at night and often I would spend hours at a time staring at my laptop, oblivious to the sights, smells and sounds around me, hoping some divine inspiration would magically jump out from the small screen in front of me.

It was exhausting and draining. All-consuming and constant. Little progress was being made on the job front despite all the sent emails and CV’s, and in any case, most positions I applied for held no special appeal. What was more frustrating was not knowing where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do and feeling somehow like I was underachieving. I was weighing myself down with unmet expectations too often focusing on what I did not have than what I had.

Amongst it all, however, I found my way to a language school in Dublin teaching English to some of the most inspiring, determined people I have met and although it was barely enough to pay rent each month, I loved the job. I loved seeing my students gain in confidence and ability as the weeks passed by. I loved the freedom I had in planning lessons and the stories my students brought with them from their own life experiences in their homelands of Brazil, Spain, Italy, France and so on. I continued to spend time on the side however looking for something long term and sustainable. Or waiting for that Eureka moment when everything just clicked. It never came. More than once I came away from my laptop feeling frustrated; feeling like I had done or accomplished nothing.

Focusing on the present

Of course, in life, some planning is necessary. Goals are good. And I set goals regularly whether it be in fitness and sport or just in daily life. But my thinking was flawed. I was wrong to gaze into my crystal ball each time I examined a new possibility. Wondering if this was something I could see myself doing in ‘X’ years’ time. In truth, it wasn’t something I could possibly answer. I spent far too much time caught up in the future, forgetting to live the present and instead trying to build towards something I didn’t even know existed.

It’s no coincidence then that since I made the decision to move to UAE I have become a lot more at ease with myself and with life. Not because it’s the right decision, but simply because it’s a decision. I’ve tried to stop overthinking things and have been able to better appreciate my surroundings and environment. Where I will be in five years’ time, who knows. But my time now is far too valuable to waste worrying about it. Or worrying about whether my decision is the right one.

Not searching too hard

Everyone has their own story and is at a different stage in that story. And that’s fine. Right now I feel incredibly lucky to be able to travel and work in new places. I also feel lucky to be able to get up each morning and breathe. Over here people live quite comfortably. And one doesn’t have to go far to see nice cars and big houses. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like all of that too.

But as we continue with each of our stories, or when we start to feel the weight of expectation either from ourselves or society, I think it helps to remember the wise words of a dear family member. Jacinta, my cousin’s late wife, was just 35 when she passed away earlier this year. Writing in her blog ‘Living in Cancerland’ she made the observation that true happiness is within.

“When I was younger I wish I hadn’t been so miserable in the pursuit of happiness.  Happiness just is. It will be if you stop searching for long”

With that in mind I hope to focus more on what I have and worry less about that which I do not have. I hope to remind myself of what I have accomplished as I look forward to what I can accomplish.

As much as anything this blog gives me the chance to reflect and just enjoy writing again. To give an insight into life living and teaching abroad. And to talk about some of my goals and challenges in fitness and well-being.

For now, at least, the searching has stopped.

What will be, will be.

Author: Gaelic Guy Abroad

Mark is an ESL teacher currently living and teaching in Dubai. He spends his time trying to make good life decisions, keep fit and battle his cheesecake addiction.

4 thoughts on “Managing Expectations”

  1. Hi Mark!
    I found your post on First Friday and had to check it out. This one is very inspiring. I really enjoy your writing. I’m following and look forward to hearing more about your journey! Have a great day and a wonderful weekend.

  2. Hey. I loved reading your post. I just wanna say that I struggle with the same expectations of “building a future” the way society says we should be building. Like you I’ve had many wonderful experiences but still feel like I am underachieving. This post inspired me to take a step back and just live now. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Great! I’m trying to do the same and just appreciate what I have rather than think about what I haven’t. It’s good hearing from other people who have struggled with the same kind of things too though so thank you for getting in touch.

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