Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Weight of Expectations

At various times in our lives, in fact most of our lives, people carry the weight of expectations of others. Major assumptions are made about how one should behave, or whether or not we have done right or wrong by others.

There was a little boy once who on becoming a man thought that he shouldered burdens placed upon him by others. Burdens that he carried unwaveringly all his life until he began to stagger under the weight of expectations. And the stupid thing was that while some of them were the expectations of others, most of them were the expectations he had of himself.

Once, a long time ago, he was told he was the man of the house, for a long long time he thought that he had assumed that burden and placed his recollections about how he grew up and what sort of man he had become on that belief. The truth was that he actually rejected that burden and turned inward. He didn’t want to be the man of the house at 8 years old, but he could hardly refuse, could he. An absent father, two younger sisters and a mother, no question, he was the man of the house.

So you shrug your shoulders and refuse to cry, and when you are frightened you don’t reach out and tell people of your fears, you construct a mask of calmness and rationality. You square your shoulders and carry yourself upright. You don’t let your temper show itself. And when things do get a little shaky and you find that fear or anger are coming to the surface, you clamp down even harder.

The little boy grew up alone, not in the sense of being on his own or homeless, but in the sense that he didn’t really engage socially with others. His world for much of his journey from childhood to teenager and into young adulthood was his bedroom. Things were safe there, he could read his comics and his books, listen to music and play with his toy soldiers. That was his world and he could control that, a private space where the music or the Saturday afternoon football games could drown out the outside world. And when on occasions he had to venture out into the wider world, he made sure that one or several of the masks came with him, so that little boy could hide his fears and anger from anyone who might try to place the burden of expectations upon him.

As the boy became a man it became harder to shed the masks and with that happening the little boy inside retreated behind more and more doors. Sure at times he could peek out, but he never really stepped outside since that time as an 8 year old that he was told he was the man of the house.

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