1 Year Later: Expectations vs. Reality

Coming into college, I didn’t have many expectations. I guessed I would make friends somehow, and I did. But college has a way of making you feel lonely when you know there are thousands of people around you. I know I did make friends, but since I don’t see them every day, did I? The realistic me is like, duh. Of course you did. But the other me… she’s not so sure of herself.

I expected dorm life and being away from home would be miserable and something I could never get used to. However, I find myself aimlessly walking back to my dorm multiple times a day and everything feels the same. Looks the same. I still take a left from my floor’s bathroom and walk all the way down the hall, passing by the same dull, yellow walls and unlocking my (similarly dull) green door. Everything is so routine – it took me four bathroom visits today to actually bring myself to read the memo posted on mirror over the sink counter.

I didn’t expect to be so numb about all of the routine. I think that’s what fucks with you. Waking up at the same time every morning, walking to the bathroom, getting dressed, maybe eating something, going to class… and the week (and semester) just keeps rolling on. Multiple times spring semester, I just took a minute and thought about how meaningless a lot of my actions were. What was the point of it all? What was I striving towards, week after week? What does getting a higher education even mean?

I didn’t expect to think about my future the way I do now. I came into college with a game plan for whatever career I want to pursue, but now all I want to pursue are meaningful relationships and ways to make impacts on the world. I wanna care for people, and I think that’s my main priority. Money has never been really a “priority” for me, but I think a year of college made me realize that any nice, stable job will be just fine; it won’t be satisfying though. How do you make your life satisfying?

I expected to enjoy Colleges Against Cancer, and I did. I didn’t expect to tell my own story in front of roughly 80 people during the Luminaria ceremony at Relay for Life this year. But being around people – people my age and just a little bit older – who’ve lost people due to cancer made me feel much less alone. If they could share their stories countless times throughout the semester, it was okay to take a leap of faith and tell mine.

I half-expected to feel comfortable on campus, but now I walk around and feel at home on (mostly) every inch of it. I wouldn’t trade my college campus for any place else. Sometimes I make sure to look out the window before I go to sleep just to catch a glimpse of the Campanile, to make sure any of this wasn’t a dream (after all this time).

I half-expected to miss my mom less. That was a stupid expectation. Being around people (new people) who have such amazing relationships with their families – relationships that I didn’t grow to know about over the course of two of three years but in fact learned about in a rush (because you learn things about others so quickly in college) – makes me miss my mom so much more. It makes me wonder how she would’ve acted when I visited home, how she would’ve enjoyed eating dinner with my dad, my sister, and me once a week, how proud she would’ve been of me to be going to the place we always talked about.

I didn’t expect to miss her this much more. I didn’t expect to continue to forget things about her because that’s what happens when you grow up. You forget little things that once meant the world to you. I didn’t expect to do any of that. Sometimes I feel like I’m just making stuff up about her in my head because I can only remember so many little details.

I half-expected that talking about my mom would be easier, that I could tell people about my experiences easier. I was wrong. It’s still really hard, but my tattoo for her gives me a reason to tell people my story (of course, only when they ask).

I didn’t expect to change at college, and I still don’t think I did. I didn’t expect my life at home to change, but I’m pretty sure it did. I (stupidly) expected to be able to come back home and have everything just as I left it, but this past weekend I realized that’s not reality. While I was gone, my dad and sister lived their own lives and I know it shouldn’t feel depressing but it kind of is to me. It makes me feel really alone, even though I know I have them.

Finally (because I really should be studying for my final tomorrow), I expected to still be sick of hearing about Mother’s Day. I still am. I hate the emails from every store I’m subscribed to trying to get me to buy shit for my mom who doesn’t exist anymore. Fuck corporate greed. I’m fed up with the emails.

Until next time.

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4 thoughts on “1 Year Later: Expectations vs. Reality

  1. Raw and honest as always. I am delighted to read about impressions of your first year at Cal. Made me feel like a school of fish in Finding Nemo, one of my favorite Disney movies.

    Thirty plus years post Berkeley still resonate the same message in my heart:”what makes life meaningful for me is helping people and making impact on someone’s life by my smallest action. Without reciprocity, without expectation.”
    That is what I took away from six years of autopilot life in Berkeley.
    I remember six years ago, while sitting in the family waiting room, at Kaiser Redwood City, with my sister thinking about our mom in cancer surgery.
    While sister and I clung nervously to each other and wept on and off for six hours, I was orchestrating a fund transfer between my bank, a Danish bank and an exchange bureau in Dubai to help finance a lung surgery in Tehran. The patient was the wife of a distant cousin of my father. We had never met. Six monthe before she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune lung disease, I had friended her 20 year old don on Facebook, and helped him to write his English paper for a university course he was taking.
    The young man’s mother had become ill because of an environmental chemical waste that she was exposed to while working as a nurse in rural Mazanderan, near the Caspian. She was 52 when her left lung developed pleurisy and she could not breathe. Rushed to a local hospital, rejected because the family had no money or insurance to pay for treatment. None of the rich family members stepped forward to help her. Her brother and sister were wealthy but there was no family ties between them.
    Reaching out the northern cousins and seeing the help through, brought out a strong sense of kinship and help while My own family was going through cancer and possible death.
    That story is only one of the few that I can tell you about. Each time I have been through a hardship or difficult circumstance it has only been through reaching to someone else needier than myself.
    Now what I believe makes my life meaningful is through doing service for people. Doing it selflessly, not questioning the outcome, and having a conviction to do the right thing.
    Peace
    Maryam

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I have 5 things to tell you:
    1 – You are a great writer. Never give up your dreams.
    2 – You have grown up really fast. You are a wonderful, selfless and kind woman. Your kindness is admirable.
    3 – Armita and I are emotionally dependent on you and that’s forever. Well, physically too.
    4 – I know your friends. Having them in your life already made you a rich person.
    5 – Your emotions expressed in this writing made me cry. I am fine. I miss mom enormously.
    Love you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

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