Weird Expectations

Going home in invariably weird. Or, at least feels weird.  Inevitably, the conversation, at some point, turns to “how weird is it that …” How weird is it that Brandon is married? How weird is that we all have real jobs (–no, NO ONE has said that yet). How weird is it that so-and-so has bloomed, become successful? How weird is it that so-and-so-else, despite everyone’s great expectations, has fallen off, lost the course of things. How weird is it that certain shared memory happened ten years ago?

Paired down, these questions are essentially “how weird is it that we’re growing older, that we’re changing, and the world is changing around us?”

Going home to Cheyenne draws this into sharp contrast. Without making overt reference to a frog, pot, and heating water–I live with myself every day. I’m myopic. To a lesser or greater extent, I expect we all are. Every morning, when greeting myself in the mirror,  I fail to perceive change. To me–to my mind–I’m the same that I was yesterday–and, by extension, the same as I’ve ever been. And yet that’s so obviously untrue.

Similarly, I fail to perceive changes in my environment, in the city where I live. Businesses may come or go–new houses or roads be constructed. But it’s all at such a pace that it’s indiscernible from what’s actually fixed, unchanging.

And, I fail to perceive changes in my friends–those that I see frequently–for precisely the same reason. All my friends change from one day to the next–but the pace of change is glacial, imperceptible.

But being home throws everything in sharp contrast. The change observed is sudden, abrupt, and sometimes significant. And thus it’s the fact of change that strikes one as weird–as not being familiar, not being expected, not being comfortable or familiar.

Perhaps what makes the change observed at each successive homecoming so poignant is its unpredictability. Something expected is seldom perceived as strange when it occurs.

The ebb and wane of personalities, of interests, values, of personal appearance–there’s no accounting for, and expectations are wrong as often as right.

So what, in fact, is weird is our shared expectation of constancy. What’s weird is that we expect people, places, outcomes to be the same. Or, if it’s not the change itself that is striking, it’s the failure of that change to match a future we’ve expected.

Someone older and wiser would expect change–unfathomable, wild and unpredictable change.

It’s unnerving, unsettling–but oughtn’t be. It’s just that we, as twenty-somethings, lack the experience to expect change. But, in fact, the change we deem as weird is always some delightful of disappointing change we lacked the imagination to foresee as possible.

So, a new resolution for my next trip home: expect to be surprised. And delight in the weirdness of a life that defies expectations.

About Mark Egge

Two truths and a lie: Mark Egge is an outdoor enthusiast, opera singer, and a transportation data scientist. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.
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