Google+ Followers

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What do you expect?

Today I heard someone say what crystallized for me what exactly irks me about the popularization of the meme pictured at right. 

The initials after the quote stand for Erin Hanson, a twenty-year-old Australian who penned these lines while still in her teens:

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?

On that site, the picture used to illustrate the poem shows a drawing of a girl sitting with her legs dangling over a cliff and a pair of colorful wings on her back. 

The theme is a twist on "nothing ventured, nothing gained." You have to assume some risk to gain the potential benefit of advancing and changing. That's quite true, but I'm still bothered by the way this is set up because we all know what will happen to anyone who tries to jump off a cliff with just a pair of costume wings. 

A life devoid of hope and dreams is pretty gloomy. However, a life based on false hope and irrational expectations is pathetic and sad. So what do you do? You keep your expectations within the realm of possibility and keep the risks within check.

Perhaps that's my own parental bias, but I see it this way. You don't do your children any favors by encouraging them to try things that are not only beyond them but would cause them injury. In other words, you don't tell your kid to go ahead and climb a mountain until s/he has completed training for such a feat. 

What you can do is tell a kid to try to ride a bicycle even if there is a risk of falling and injury (I broke my ankle twice by falling off a bike) because it is a rational expectation that the kid will pick up on the balancing skills and the risk of a broken limb along the way is a manageable one. 

Aspiration is a good thing, but an expectation that one will achieve actual flight is dangeorusly delusional. Before anyone says I'm being too literal, I assure you, I'm very adept at abstract thinking. My point is  not just about defying the laws of physics but about the larger idea of setting up expectations.  

What's attainable, and what's worth the risk? That's something that everyone has to answer for him/herself. Would I venture into woods near dark? No. But I would venture on trails with plenty of hours of sunlight and adequate water. 

From my perspective, venturing out, say to go for an interview, meet friends, or see a new place is worth the risk of hitting traffic or getting somewhat lost, so long as you have a way to get back on track without getting into seriously dangerous areas.  But if I wanted to fly, I'd take a plane. 

Related post: