I have started reading the classic Charles Dickens novel, "Great Expectations." I'm only two chapters in and nothing too exciting has happened, but I am sure it will. Not because it's Dickens per se, but because the title of the book is just so confidently promising.
The main character, Pip, has them, but so do I. I am reading with the expectation that something awesome will come from this experience. I may end up feeling let down once I'm done, but in the meantime I'm enjoying the feeling of anticipation.
So many things are like that for me. As I write this, I'm in the backseat of a car bound for New Orleans with my husband and friends. It's my first time going to NOLA and I have great expectations. We are checking out the first weekend of Jazz Fest. Incredible food, art and musicians await, including pop stars John Legend and Lady Gaga. Needless to say, I am practically jittery with excitement.
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The weather forecast says we can expect severe thunderstorms, maybe even hail, during our short stay. And this festival takes place outdoors. Come Monday, I may be complaining about the outcome of the bad weather raining on my New Orleans parade. But for now I am on Cloud 9 just imagining the weekend ahead.
Why is the idea of something expected to be great so often sweeter than the thing itself? Why is it so much more fun to pack for a vacation than unpack after getting home? Why is the drive or flight to an exciting destination so long but the trip back way too short?
One common analysis of Pip's character is that he puts too much stock in what is to come and not enough in what he already has.
The desire for what may be on the horizon is what drives him, but that long perspective can also be a handicap to his progress. I can relate to that personality trait.
My dad mentioned a study he read about impulse control. A group of children were given the "marshmallow test." A marshmallow is put in front of them. They are told they can eat it now or wait a few minutes, then get a second marshmallow. Decades later, those that waited to eat until they had two marshmallows had higher levels of academic success and income and had fewer incidences of drug and alcohol addiction and criminal activity. The ones who were dictated by their impulses fared worse in each area.
Pip would have eaten that first marshmallow. I might have too.
If this New Orleans trip was the first marshmallow, I guess I don't know what the second could have been. Maybe ignorance is bliss? Either way, as we coast along these southbound Alabama highways, all I have is great expectations. Here's hoping it's everything I'm expecting and more.
-- Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org