I woke up in a haze. “Why is my iPhone screen cracked? Did I break it while I was sleeping?” Half awake, I looked closer. No, not broken, just a deceptive-looking black-and-white album cover. I was simply groggy, confused, and slightly stupid from the few hours of sleep I had gotten.
I opened the window shade and looked out. The sky was changing from black to a rainbow of colors as the sun ushered in a new day… one more welcomed from 35,000 feet.
As breakfast came, I emerged from my airline blanket cocoon, and the realization hit me: in less than a day, I’ll be in Africa, a continent I had put off going to for long time.
Since I made the announcement about my trip, the first question everyone asks me is “Are you excited?”
”No, not yet,” I would say.
Seeing the disappointment in their eyes at an answer that didn’t convey overflowing exuberance, I would always add a caveat:
“Yes, of course I am excited. I’m going on safari! But with so much to do beforehand, I just haven’t had time to wallow in that feeling.”
I remember when I first went away in 2006. Before I left, my trip was the only thing I would talk about: where I was going, what I was going to do, and the adventures I would have. Back then, my exuberance was overflowing.
And then I left.
Days went by, and I felt no different.
In my mind, this trip was going to be life altering. It was going to change everything — inside and out. And it did, but not right away. And while I wouldn’t change the path I’ve taken to this moment in my life, I still remember that disappointment… disappointment born of expectations created by naïveté.
We all carry the scars of the past. Each memory is like a weight we knowingly, or sometimes unknowingly, drag with us throughout life.
And as I sat huddled in my airline blanket eating another cardboard-tasting airline breakfast, I couldn’t think about how I still carry that scar from my past.
Now, before trips, instead of jumping up and down, I shut them out of my mind. Yes, I’m excited for Africa. Yes, I was super excited for Japan. But as the Buddha said, with no expectations come no disappointments.
Maybe it’s all those movies I watch or just an overactive imagination, but I build up trips in my mind to the point where what I think will happen never matches what actually does. And while what does happen is always amazing, it becomes less amazing when measured against the expectations in my mind.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve coincidentally learned a lot about expectations. Buddha was right: they lead to nothing but disappointment. Often when we have the highest expectations, we suffer the greatest disappointments.
To many, it seems weird that I would remain so stoic and nonchalant about such an epic trip. “Yeah, I’m going to Africa,” I would say, as if it was no big deal.
But it is a big deal, and while Toto’s “Africa” has been on repeat on my iPod, I knew giving too much thought to this trip would simply allow my imagination to get the best of me and create a false set of expectations.
I will take it as it comes to me, unfiltered and raw.
Because there’s only the moment you’re in, and when you just enjoy it for what it is, not what you expect it to be, it can never disappoint you.