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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Face reality with sensible expectations but keep dreams alive

Published: November 14, 2014
Section: Opinions

College is a time of idealism and possibility. The cliched image of people staying up late, talking about issues and how they will change the world is present on campuses everywhere. Unfortunately, most of these fantastic dreams of change don’t get very far. The world outside the idealistic bubble of college isn’t an easy one to change. Thus, I find myself questioning what kind of expectations young adults should have nowadays. I would hate to think that people should forget about dreaming before they ever start, but the truth is that these expectations to make impactful change are a little high and sometimes unrealistic.

This is the time of year where those high expectations don’t seem far-fetched.

Last week, elections took place across the country. Voters across the spectrum went out to support candidates who they believed would represent their beliefs. Our elected representatives are a perfect example of people in the world who promise and intend to make change. Once upon a time, they were students in their own idealistic college bubble.

These politicians make speeches about all the great changes they want to make so that our world and community are a better place to live in. Seldom do these politicians deliver on all said promises. This is not a rant about politicians or politics, though. This is a reminder that even for those whose job description includes making the world a better place, it’s difficult. So even if you were disappointed by who won or lost this past election season, remember that their intentions are primarily good, and remember that most of our representatives might not even meet their own expectations.

Even closer to home, course registration for next semester has just past. Students all over campus perused the class schedule, reading descriptions for classes and getting excited for them. Nevertheless, I guarantee that these same students, bright-eyed and excited to learn something they are interested in, will be belly-aching come this spring. This is because of two reasons. One: It is the natural order for students to complain about school work. They stress and whine, and that is just reality. Two (and this is at the heart of what I am trying to get at): Students build these classes up in their heads. Hopes for ground-breaking discussions and epiphany-inducing lectures seep into student brains, creating high expectations. Sure there are really great classes that exist. Nonetheless, sometimes reality just is not as good as the expectation. Something that sounds pretty great now in the fall might not look so good when sitting at a desk in the spring.

Whether it’s peoples’ preferred government representative or a class that sounds great, people are always being disappointed. Maybe it makes sense to lower our expectations. Then again, if people lowered their expectations, if they didn’t bother to try to make a change, and if they didn’t dream, I am pretty sure we would be living in a very different world right about now. So what if people are disappointed from time to time. Isn’t that part of reality? Reality is something everyone has to face in becoming an adult.

As college students, people are transitioning into adulthood. College is not only the time to discuss how the world can be better. It is also the place where some people do their own laundry for the first time. It is where many people have their first taste of independence and learn to not only stand on their own two feet, but also to walk.

With that in mind, college is a place to become an adult and to transition into the real world. It is expected that students start out idealistic, with their minds open to possibilities and dreams for a better world still intact. By senior year, after four years of stressing about a job after school, and all the things that have to be done so that a job after school is possible, some students become cynical and maintain low expectations in order to avoid disappointment. It’s easier to be “realistic” and do what has to be done to make it in the real world, outside the comforts of the college bubble. Fortunately, considering this is Brandeis, a land driven by social justice, those cynical seniors will still graduate with the ideas and capabilities to bring change—despite their expectations.

If keeping expectations low for something like a class helps people avoid that sinking feeling in their stomach, fine. But when it comes to the big picture, I wouldn’t let “unrealistic” expectations stop me from having a dream, from expecting just a little more from life. It’s one thing to let reality keep expectations sensible, but it’s another to let reality kill a dream.