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Dear 2020…

Yesterday I listened to the On Purpose podcast episode titled, 3 Ways to Let Go Of Society’s Expectations & Connect With Your Authentic Self. Before the episode starts, Jay Shetty shares a personal letter he wrote to 2020. It was great, it really made me think, and it was so profound that I just had to share it. Have a read:

In 2020 the world was hit by a deadly pandemic.
Difficult to understand by any academic,
It could make you cough, lose smell and taste,
Gave trouble breathing, blueish lips, or face.
People felt heaviness and pain in their chest.
Human resilience and response were put to the test.

First there was anxiety and then there was confusion.
We couldn’t hug, handshake, or fist bump until a solution.
Schools were closed. Leagues were canceled. And no one could meet.
Social distancing became the new norm we had to be apart by six feet.
We couldn’t stand in line outside concerts, but we stood outside stores.
Billions were stuck indoors finishing Netflix and getting bored.

People had to work from home. It was the new normal.
We wore sweatpants to work. Only the upper half was formal.
People couldn’t travel abroad so they pursued the journey within.
People danced on their roofs and bedrooms without any rhythm.
People lost their jobs and started to pursue their passions.
People used their passions to serve others and make things happen.

We started celebrating heroes like nurses, doctors, and those on the front line.
Everyone would clap and cheer for them all at one time.
It affected people’s wealth and their mental health,
But then people started taking more care of themselves.

They practiced yoga, music, and meditation.
They started to support each other all across the nation.
People raised money for those in need and gave up their salaries.
They danced online with the world and sang on their balconies.
No one saw it coming, and no one could see it leaving.
But people became much more grateful to be breathing.

Hundreds of thousands of people died, may they rest in peace.
Let’s send love to all their loved ones to hope their pain will ease.
We deeply understood that our choices affect others.
Strangers, brothers, sisters, lovers, fathers, and mothers,
Old and young, the virus didn’t discriminate.
Rich and poor, the virus did infiltrate.

It showed us we weren’t in control and had to be more prepared.
We needed to care more for each other, and the planet, we had to be aware.

It was a warning like no other.
Being apart brought us closer together.
We finally found ways to use technology for the better.
We became more mindful and started to judge less.
We developed kindness and tools for less stress.
We led with more love, compassion, and empathy.
We gave up FOMO, comparison, and jealousy.

The choices we make now will affect future generations.
Our togetherness will be celebrated.
Our sacrifice will be recognized.
We can choose to show them what we do at tough times.

And ask yourself, when your child or grandchild asks you in 2030, 2040, or 2050,
What did you do in 2020?
Do the answer that you want to share with them.

Jay Shetty

“Wow,” I thought after hearing that for the first time. And wow is right. I think we can all agree that it’s been a hectic year so far, and as Jay said, no one saw it coming. “But 2020 wasn’t supposed to be this way! This wasn’t supposed to happen, ughh, I was planning to do this and that and travel there…” But let me ask you something.

When did anything ever happen the way we expected it to go? Never. The future hasn’t happened yet, and even our best predictions of how things might turn out will go sour more often than not. It’s like the weather. Your local meteorologist says it’s going to be a great day tomorrow with a 99.999% chance of sunshine and a 0.0001% chance of showers, hail, thunder, earthquakes, and typhoons. “It’s going to be so nice out tomorrow!” You’re so optimistic of the day to come: you pack for a beach day, make sandwiches, and fall asleep listening to a soundtrack of waves crashing on a beach. The next morning you wake up to the sound of the roof of your house ripping off and your local meteorologist now says to put on a coat because hurricanes are the new normal.

Nothing is ever final, yet we hijack how we view our current situation for worse or better than it really is because of the (unrealistic) expectations we place on something we can’t control. Why do we do this to ourselves? Or better, do you do this yourself?

We’re not fortune-tellers, people—those guys are wrong plenty too—we don’t have a magical orb we can just look into and know everything, but we think we do, and so we play that game. There’s a meteorologist inside every one of us, expecting the best and feeling bad when things get cold (literally, Winter is coming 👀 lol).

I’m not saying to not have any expectations, no, that would be unrealistic…but hear me out and you might very well change your mind.

The outcome of any situation is the outcome because it was destined to be that way. And all I’m saying is that if you leave the outcome—our expectations, future, hopes, and dreams—in an air of mystery, peace may find you in ways you never expected. The suspension of expectation brings the promise of surprise.

Maybe you’ve never been blessed with all your family, friends, and loved ones throwing you a surprise birthday party (or anxiety attack from everyone cheering your name), but I’m sure you’d be surprised if someone sent you a message telling you how much they appreciate you being in their lives. Why? because we would never expect something like that to happen in our oh so ordinary days. In fact, why don’t you check your messages right now? Of course, I don’t expect you to because chances are, I just waste twenty seconds of your life that you will never get back.

But let me challenge you. If you’re reading this (or future Milton is), send off a thoughtful message to someone in your life just to remind them how amazing they are and how grateful you are to have them. Chances are, you’ll surprise them, bring them delight, and give them twenty seconds of their lives they’ll never want to forget.

In the words of Ralph Marston: “Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.”

Throughout the past couple of months, I’ve had so many days where I just felt tired and beat down. Some days I didn’t want to live, and continuing just meant enduring suffering. But I continued. I attended my club’s book club, I chess-n’-chilled with my friends, I ate food, I went for walks with music, and many others. Now I say I continued, but more often than not I continued with an attitude of “YYyyyy I don’t wanna be here, I don’t wanna do this, please I wish I could just go to sleep right now.” Looking back, though however spiteful I may have been, I’m glad I went forward.

Because though there’s nothing special on paper about say, playing some games of bughouse chess, the actual experience of being present and playing with my best friend was so FUN. Having been through the cycle of denial (“should I?”) but still going through with things has taught me that the experience of something—anything— trumps the thought of future projecting how a certain thing will go. And at the end of the night, I guiltily eek myself at why I even questioned doing what I just did, because of how much joy that one experience brought to my day.

Or maybe I was just sleep-deprived, or just tired, which might’ve made me think “how can going through with this possibly make my day better?” Either way, it was the suspension of the belief that something could possibly make me happier that ultimately made that something the thing that would make my day.

Don’t ever let your expectation ruin what could be.

Thrift shopping is all about going into the thrift shop and having no expectation of what you might find.


P.S. I didn’t expect to write this whole spiel on expectation. I just started with the poem and now I’m here. Neither did I expect the topic of expectation to just happen to be the point of discussion the podcast episode. Who knew? Not me.