Because journeys trump dashed expectations

Sometimes our hopes that turn into expectations don’t quite live up to the hype we give them.

And that’s actually not always a bad thing.

It’s been such a joy to see their love story unfold.

I spent the holiday weekend in Northern California for a wedding and was able to explore San Francisco for a bit before I went up to Wine Country. While I lived in Orange County for more than a year and a half, I never made it up to the Bay Area during that time. I had always heard about how fascinating it is, so I was excited to experience it.

My sweet friend Tara had given me a few ideas of things to do, one of which was to visit Coit Tower, where you’re able to see the entire city in a 360-view from up top. I made the trek up there and was enjoying seeing all of the different people on the streets as my made my way to my destination. One thing I kept thinking was that people who live there must have really great quads—those hills are no joke.

When I finally made it to Coit Tower, I wasn’t exactly expecting there to be a line or a fee. Clearly I was living in some type of fantasy land—the line wrapped around three different corners, and I learned it was going to cost me $9 to step into the elevator. I decided to go ahead and pay and wait because I was really curious to see how amazing the views were. I kept thinking about this quote from the Hannah Montana movie: “Life’s a climb, but the view is great.”

I had been standing in line for a while and was probably still about 15 or 20 minutes away from being able to go on the elevator when an employee began walking down the line asking for a single rider. FINALLY, ANOTHER PERK OF BEING SINGLE! I quickly let him know I was riding solo, so he took me to the front of the line to squeeze on the elevator with a group of three people and a few other couples. The man controlling the elevator began telling us a little about Coit Tower and expectations for when we got to the top. If I ever need a hype man, he’ll be one of my top candidates. He made everything sound amazing.

When the elevator opened, I began climbing the last set of stairs to get to the top. My heart filled with anticipation that I can’t really explain—I think that there had been so much build up that I was expecting something more magnificent than I could even imagine. I took the last step to the top, and I tried not to let the disappointment take over.

This is it?

It was only $9 and time you’ll never get back, Nat. It’s fine. You’re fine. Everything’s fine.

Nice $9 views

Sure, the views were beautiful, but the whole experience wasn’t as glorious as I thought it would be. I walked around the tiny loop, snapped some pics, stared out into the water we were overlooking, and then moseyed back down the stairs to the elevator.

As I began the trek back to my car, I gave myself a pep talk to try to make sure that I didn’t spend my whole walk disappointed with what had just happened. I know that I have high expectations for many things in life, and it’s certainly a letdown when one of them doesn’t pan out as I originally hoped, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth the work to get there.

I thought about how much I had enjoyed the walk there—the sights, the people, the brief conversations I had with strangers, the artwork along the walls and sidewalks, the hills (it’s a love-hate thing), the weather, the ability to walk in the beautiful sunshine without sweating like a haus, the stories behind each unique door I passed. All of it.

No, not everything is going to be as we expect it to be, but that doesn’t mean that the journeys we take to get to those desires we have are wasted. I didn’t waste time in that line—I invested in conversations with other people and gave my mind and body some time to escape from all of the pressures and worries I’ve been dealing with lately (I have a lot on my plate right now). I didn’t waste money to ride an elevator and see a city from above—I invested in other people’s careers and in a city that provides a number of amenities for a countless amount of people every single day (I actually have no idea where the money goes, but that’s what I’m choosing to believe).

This is where people were taking couple pics together, so I figured I needed one, too. Of me.

Even though I’ve been as single as a dollar bill for basically my entire life, I have high expectations for what I’m looking for in my lobster. And I truly believe that it won’t end up being like my Coit Tower experience. At the same time, I want to make sure that I’m appreciating this journey along the way. I don’t want to waste my singleness by wishing that I weren’t single. I mean, I got to cut in line in front of a bunch of people because they’re all in relationships or traveling with other people, and I’m not. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

We all walk different paths and are able to go through different experiences in life. They don’t happen by accident, and we are where we are on purpose and with purpose—I fully believe that. So why not try to enjoy the moments we’re given without constantly focusing on what’s ahead? It’s great to have hopes and expectations and to imagine what those fulfilled hopes will be like, but it’s even better to be fully present and to let yourself enjoy every breath that you’re given.

Yes and amen.

Sure, “life’s a climb, but the view is great,” but it’s that climb and all that you endure through it that help you become the person you were always meant to be.

Just ask Hannah Montana.

Because life can be chaotic and peaceful all at once

Life can get chaotic and doesn’t always pan out the way we thought it would, which can sometimes feel downright disappointing.

But the changes of plans are often for our own good and lead to much more than we could have imagined.

One day last week, my coworker Martin told my friend Megan and me that there were cookies downstairs in the lobby of our building. Because of my deep love for cookies (I might be my own special version of the Cookie Monster), I wasted no time in making Megan and Martin rush down there with me so that we could all enjoy some sweet treats together. I was really excited about those cookies. I even grabbed a paper towel to bring back some extra loot.

When we reached the first level and exited the elevator, though, we found a completely empty lobby. Martin swore that there had just been an entire tray full of cookies, but there were zilch in sight—not even a single human was in the area. As we turned to go back upstairs with empty stomachs (well, except for Martin, since he had already gotten to devour his fair share of cookies), we spotted it sitting on top of the concierge stand: an empty tray with nothing but scattered cookie crumbs so tiny that they would probably even be passed up by ants.

That paper towel is too empty.

Needless to say, Megan and I were highly disappointed. Martin had gotten our hopes pretty sky high, but we walked away from the situation with unsatisfied cravings and sullen hearts.

Later on, I began thinking about how expectations can sometimes turn out differently than what we originally hoped, but it doesn’t always end with us holding empty paper towels and staring at cookie-less trays. There are so many areas of life that we can’t control, but we can control how we react to the situations we encounter and how we adapt to the adversities and unexpected path diversions on which we find ourselves.

I recently went to one of my favorite spots in Orange County: The Wedge. It’s a place in Newport Beach that’s on the far end of Balboa Peninsula where the waves are typically more ginormous than most other areas. I love walking a nice distance out onto the jetty and staring out into the ocean as the waves come crashing against the rocks and the shore.

It’s chaotic and peaceful all at once.

As I was walking out onto the jetty, I had to be very cautious of where my feet were landing and on which rock I was choosing to step next. It’s a jaggedy surface, and slipping and falling would be a very disastrous and painful situation. After I sat out there for a while and then made my way back toward the shoreline, I realized that I probably wasn’t taking the exact same path I took out there—I hadn’t memorized which rocks had been my go-tos, and I didn’t have a plan of any sort. I was simply jumping from one rock to the next with the hope that it was the right decision. There was no overanalysis or great deal of thought put into any of it. But I liked it that way.

Because it was chaotic and peaceful all at once.

Since I’ve been out in California, my life—in particularly, my heart—has changed in tremendous ways. The path I took to get out here and the reasons I was led out here aren’t necessarily the same path and reasons that are taking me back home. But, just like when I moved out here more than a year and a half ago, I don’t know what God has in store for me. I just know that He’s calling me to do something, and I want to follow His calling. At times, that looks and feels like jumping to different rocks without knowing exactly which one is the next one but simply leaping to it as I get there. My life feels like it’s all over the place right now, and half of the time I have no idea what day of the week it is, but that’s OK.

Because life can be chaotic and peaceful all at once.

This is the face of a girl who has no idea what’s next.

There are many unanswered questions that I have and that other people have asked me. I’ve let go of the anxiety, though, because I know that this isn’t a cookies-all-gone situation. Yes, I have some pretty lofty expectations for my future and goals and dreams I want to achieve, but I believe with all of my heart that the same God who has never let me down won’t fail me now. That doesn’t mean that I’ll always get everything I want to go my way, but it does mean that He has a plan for me that I’m going to trust and follow—I want my dreams to align with what He has in store for me.

We’re going to face major letdowns and dashed hopes that hurt the heart. We’re going to experience failures. We’re going to go on journeys that we might have never seen ourselves taking and encounter unknowns that make us uncomfortable. But one thing I’ve learned over the last year or so is that sometimes the only way to grow and achieve great things is to become completely uncomfortable.

Don’t be afraid to take chances and let your heart make the decision to leap to the next rock without overthinking it. Don’t be afraid to love in big ways and take risks on people—people are worth love and worth risks. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and do the things that you know in your heart are right for you to do.

And don’t be afraid to live your life with passion and spunk as you walk into the unknown with complete confidence in who you are.

When you have great expectations

One thing I’ve always loved about Michael Jordan is that he had complete confidence in all situations he faced.

He expected to win every single time he stepped out on that court—even when homeboy had the flu.

Last week was the NFL Draft, which is a time when a lot of expectations are put on a lot of young men. Myles Garrett, the top pick out of Texas A&M, was taken by the Browns, and that top spot is full of great expectations. When you’re the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, you’re the No. 1 pick for a reason: People expect great things out of you.

But what if you don’t live up to them?

Sure, there have been some No. 1 picks who have been pretty incredible. You might recognize names like Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson, Troy Aikman, and Peyton Manning—a handful of players who continued to live up to the hype around them. But then there have been some top picks who have been real busts. Does anyone remember Ryan Leaf, who was the No. 2 pick right after Manning in 1998? Not the Chargers’ best decision. Then there’s Alex Smith, who was the top overall pick in 2005 and went to the 49ers, but he did bigger and better things in his college glory days. I could go on, but I’m going to stop here.

The fact of the matter is that draft selections have a lot on their shoulders. I mean, the Cowboys picked a fella named Taco this year with purpose: We expect him to make our defense better.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having great expectations in certain situations. However, you do have to be prepared for the possibility that your expectations don’t pan out—and you have to know that it’s OK if that happens.

When I used to play soccer, I expected to score a goal every game. I know that might sound a little ridiculous, but it was something I believed I could do, and so I expected to score or at least do every possible thing I could to try in every single game. And, for the most part, I did that. Yes, there were games when I didn’t get goals, but I wasn’t super let down by that because I knew I had done what I could and that I would have future opportunities to score other goals.

But not all great expectations are as simple.

I expected to be a great dancer, but I never took any dance classes. Lord only knows where I got that outfit.

When I was a little girl and even a teenager, I fully expected my life as an adult would be like all of the fairy tales and romantic comedies I had seen growing up (darn you, Disney and romcom creators). I guess I never really thought I would find myself in my 30s and still doing the single thing. Yet here I am. And, for some reason, this one is harder to accept than not scoring a goal in every soccer game.

There have been times I’ve had crushes on guys and expected absolutely nothing to happen. Then there have been other times when I’ve actually had some hope and expectations—but zilch happened. In those instances, I felt kind of like Rachel in Friends in the episode when she buys that ridiculously expensive cat that she expects will be just like the one she had when she was a kid, but it turns out to be much more of a painful investment than she thought possible.

And, because of her high expectations, she had a great amount of disappointment when they weren’t met.

I was meeting a friend somewhere recently, and while I was waiting, I started chatting with a woman next to me who was scrolling through a dating app. She told me a funny story about a date she had and then mentioned how it was really difficult to meet the right person. I asked her what type of person she was looking for, and then she asked me the same. After we talked for a little bit, she asked me if maybe I thought my expectations were too high for someone to meet. I told her no—I know nobody is perfect, but I think it’s OK to believe someone out there is perfect for me.

And I do think that. At the same time, though, I have to go back to that young girl on the soccer field who thought that scoring a goal was the determinant of success. But it’s not. You don’t grow as a soccer player by getting a goal every game; you grow by pushing yourself through every moment of every game, regardless of the outcome, and putting forth your best effort for all of the other members of your team. It’s great to expect those goals to happen—but it’s even more wonderful to learn how to respond to the moments when they don’t. So I need to be prepared and alright with the idea that nobody is perfect for me, and this single thing is a forever thing.

We certainly aren’t always going to get what we want in life, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having great expectations, especially when it comes to the desires of our hearts. And maybe doing so can even help us treat others better: If you expect people to love you the way you are, love them for the individuals they are; if you expect people to care about you, care for others; if you expect people to remind you how much they value you, let those around you know just how valuable they are.

I can’t sit here and say everything I hope for will come true, but I can expect that I’ll end up where I’m meant to be, and it will be good.

So maybe we should all “be like Mike” and not be afraid to have great expectations.