Great Expectations

In my last year as an undergraduate at the University of Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune sent a reporter to do a "boy wonder" piece. I tried not to take it seriously, and never said much about it to anyone (except my parents), but it stayed with me, just under the skin, like a faded tattoo. For better or worse, this article stamped me for life as a boy with great expectations.

A wise teacher of mine warned me about this as far back as junior high. In a speech at an award ceremony she said something like this: academic success is usually regarded as a blessing, and so it is. But it comes at a price. As you set forth in life you will be measured against your great expectations. If you fall below this mark, you may be seen as a failure, even if your accomplishments exceed those of the average person. Yet if you meet those expectations, no one will be surprised.

What she was trying to tell us, and what I have tried to take to heart ever since, is that in order to find any happiness in this life, we have to learn not to measure ourselves against the expectations of others. That can be just as hard to do when those expectations are high as it is when they are low.

Almost a quarter century has now passed, and the paper on which that article was written has yellowed with age. I am a tad embarrassed by some of the quotations attributed to me (did I really say those things?), but I am proud of it as well, even if I have not yet made many "contributions to mankind." I include it here as part of my family history, because it is a small but telling part of who I was then, and who I am now. You can read it if you like, but take it with a grain of salt. I always did.