Sunday, February 23, 2014

Are we products of our environment or products of other people expectations?

   I decided not to respond directly to his latest protest of his innocence. Instead, I asked a question: "Do you think we're all just products of our environments?" His smile dissolved into a smirk, with the left side of his face resting at ease.
   "I think so, or maybe products of our expectations."
   "Others' expectations of us or our expectations for ourselves?"
   "I mean others' expectations that you take on as your own."
   I realized then how difficult it is to separate the two. The expectations that others place on us form our expectations of ourselves.

   "We all do what others expect of us," Wes said. "If they expect us to graduate, we will graduate. If they expect us to get a job, we will get a job. If they expect us to go to jail, then that's where we will end up too. At some point you lose control."
   I sympathized with him, but I recoiled from his ability to shed responsibility seamlessly and drape it at the feet of others.

   "True, but it's easy to lose control when you were never looking for it in the first place."

   An hour later, our time was up, and he was escorted out as quickly as he entered. I sat in the room alone, collecting my thoughts. I had more questions than I came in with.

-excerpt from The Other Wes Moore

So are we products of environments or of other people's expectations? The better question that begs to be asked is at what point does the responsibility become our own?

It is evident to some extent that we take on the ideal life that others have for us. I've heard so many times, "Make sure you finish up and get your degree, because no one can take that away from you." It had me thinking, is this really something that I am doing for myself. I mean really, is the life I'm living my own, or am I just a vessel that people vicariously live, dream and draw their fantasies through.

But then we have our environment. Are we products of that? Instead, shouldn't our environment be products of what we make of it and not the other way around. Sadly, enough our communities whispers in our ear the commands of destruction that leads us down the road of hopelessness and despair. It leads us to the cemeteries and jails.

Here is my take. Are we a product of our environment? Possibly. But more so we are a victim of our circumstances. But then again, we are not all victims either, because there is really no rule that says that to be a product of your environment has to be negative. Instead, we are products of our actions.

The same rings true with expectations. Whether good or bad, we become subject to expectations placed on us. But again, we are not just a product of our expectations; instead, we are the result of what we do in the wake of these expectations.

Recently, I had a conversation with my cousin who said he wanted to go to the army because he wasn't smart enough for college. He didn't  say he didn't "want" to go to college due to his wants, but because he felt he was inadequate. So, this brings about the bigger problem. Many of us are the products of our own expectations and our own environments that swirls around in our heads and we stop believing.

Eventually, it comes down to do we believe in ourselves? Do we want to fight? Are we going to succumb? As mentioned in Gladwell's David and Goliath is being the underdog really a disadvantage? Coming from a place where we have to fight to get out may be our best weapon; it just might help us reach those great expectations.

God Bless