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What to expect when you're expecting

This is the first in a series of columns Halie will be writing about her experiences in Tanzania

By Halie Putorek
On June 18, 2014

First, I should warn readers that this is not an advice column for expecting mothers. Instead, it is somewhat of an analysis of the importance and meanings of expectations.
The Merriam–Webster dictionary defines an expectation as  “a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen; a feeling or belief about how successful, good, etc. something will be.”
Every aspect of life, whether you’re planning your freshman year of college, planning a wedding, or just planning a nice dinner with your family, yields expectations. Quite frankly, expectations set an undertone for whatever it is you make the expectations about, and can affect the way you perceive the event that you have planned.
The longer you wait for something, the more emotionally invested you become. That emotional investment, I believe, is what determines the strength of expectations, as well as their effect on perception. The stronger the expectation, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, indicates a probable success or disappointment. Normally, reality cannot live up to months of planning and hoping.  
As I get ready to embark on a month long service trip to Tanzania, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed with different expectations. Tanzania is a large country on Africa’s east coast and is home to Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will actually be stationed in the mountain’s enormous shadow, in a city called Moshi.
While having no expectations would be desirable, it is nearly impossible to have no feelings or hopes about how an experience will play out. Because I will be in Tanzania for an entire month, I will have time to adjust to the culture in one way or another. I believe that the time spent adjusting will be detrimental to my experience and will help determine whether or not the trip “lives up to my expectations.”
While I was trying to decide what to write about, I came across an article that described expectations and how they lead to certain perceptual events. What does this mean for us in everyday life, you may ask? The expectations we develop can ultimately lead to certain outcomes. For instance, if you have the expectation that you will trip and fall on your way to receive your diploma, the fear and dread that grabs ahold of you as you walk - due to that negative expectation - may actually make you trip and fall.
If this article is accurate, I am quite worried about some of my future life events. I may actually end up with 100 cats and no husband, as I currently expect. However, if you take the main idea of that article with a grain of salt, you might conclude that while every expectation may not play out exactly as it does in your mind, having a positive outlook may enhance an event. Heck, a positive attitude and positive expectations might just make a trip or a dinner date even better than you could have imagined.
I am trying very hard to take my own advice. As my departure date draws closer, I become more and more excited. I hope to learn. I hope to serve others in a way that positively represents this state and the amazingly supportive community I grew up in. But mostly, I have the great expectation of gaining valuable life experience, whatever that may be, that will in some way shape me, thus influencing those I come in contact with later. I guess for now, you could say, I am just expecting the unexpected.  
Halie Putorek can be contacted at putorek@live.marshall.edu or visit her blog at haliewanders.wordpress.com.

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